Burmese monks issue call for official apology on Saffron Revolution anniversary

Burmese monks leading protests during 2007's Saffron Revolution

In a sign of further emboldening among the people of Burma following recent democratic reforms, more than 100 Buddhist monks gathered this week to mark the sixth anniversary of the military junta’s brutal crackdown on 2007’s monk-led Saffron Revolution and to demand a formal apology from those responsible for the violence.

Burmese monks have refused any interaction with the military since 2007. As Radio Free Asia explains,

“[Burmese] Buddhists have a longstanding practice of donating food and other necessities to monks, but the clergy boycotted alms from the army in 1990 when the government refused to hand over power to Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party despite a decisive victory at the polls.

“They declared a similar boycott in 2007 following the anti-junta Saffron Revolution, which started as a protest in Yangon led by tens of thousands of monks against high fuel prices, but ended in a military crackdown which left at least 31 people dead and saw hundreds of monks arrested.”

While an official apology for these actions was foremost on the monks’ minds, their call for redress and freedom went even further:

“Goals of the anniversary gathering — which was held for only the second year following sweeping reforms enacted by President Thein Sein — also included the promotion of nationality and religion, peace and national reconciliation, and firm democratic progress for Myanmar, religious leaders said.

“The monks…also called on the government to free all remaining political prisoners, grant full access to human rights and democracy for all of Myanmar’s citizens, and make an official overture to the country’s exiles, welcoming their return.”

The monks also addressed the widely publicized ethnic violence by nationalist Buddhists against minority Rohingya Muslims:

“According to a report by Agence France-Presse, [senior monk] Sandar Siri also called on his fellow monks to work together to rein in communal violence that has swept through Myanmar since last year and threatened to reverse democratic reforms made by Thein Sein since he took power from the military regime following elections in 2010.

“’The path to democracy has just appeared. In order not to ruin it, we urge you to avoid ethnic and religious violence,’ AFP quoted the monk as saying.”

For more details and background, read the full Radio Free Asia piece here.