Nepal monks march to save Myanmar brethren’s lives

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu : Hundreds of Buddhist monks clad in saffron robes have begun protest marches in Nepal demanding that the junta stop killing and imprisoning their brethren and civilians in violence-hit Myanmar.

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Led by Buddha Vihar, a monastery in Kathmandu, and Amnesty International, monks holding placards of protest went to the Myanmar Embassy Monday to submit a memorandum to the ambassador.

Myanmar’s Ambassador to Nepal, U. Aung Khin Soe, however, refused to meet the marching monks. Neither did he depute any other Myanmarese official to accept the memorandum.

Finally, a Nepali staffer employed in the Kathmandu embassy took it from the protesters.

“Stop! Stop! Stop killing monks and people in Myanmar,” said a placard held by a tonsured, red robed monk.

“Release the homes sealed in Myanmar immediately,” urged another banner.

“Release the monks jailed in Myanmar immediately,” said a third.

Human rights activists also took part in the rally in the capital Monday that, Amnesty said, is the beginning of a series of demonstrations in Nepal and worldwide.

Last week too, monks in Nepal had marched in protest against the military crackdown in Myanmar, where unrest over gas prices triggered widespread demonstrations against the junta with Buddhist monks taking the lead.

The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners estimates that up to 1,500 protesters were arrested in Myanmar last week alone while the death toll is believed to be considerably higher than the 13 known killings.

“We are asking for an immediate stop to weapon sales to Burma,” said Bhola Bhattarai of Amnesty International.

“In Asia, China and India are the biggest exporters of weapons to the junta, while Ukraine is the biggest seller in Europe.

“China is also part of the UN Security Council. We are asking for China and India not to sell arms to Burma till the junta stops its attacks on civilians, frees prisoners and begins negotiations for the restoration of democracy.”

Demonstrators in Nepal are also asking Asean countries to mount pressure on Myanmar to stop the attacks on unarmed demonstrators and free prisoners.

On Tuesday, the protests will spread outside Nepal’s capital to Biratnagar town on the Indo-Nepal border.

Besides Nepal’s monks, who feel a special responsibility in getting the crackdown stopped since Nepal is the birthplace of the Buddha — the founder of Buddhism that is the state religion in Myanmar — youth organisations and trade unions have also begun protests in Nepal.

Last week, Nepal Students Union, that is affiliated to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress party, was part of a march to the Myanmar Embassy to submit yet another protest memorandum.

Youth Parliament Nepal, another youth group that Monday called a meet to condemn the repression in Myanmar, said it would lead a protest rally to the Myanmar Embassy in Kathmandu Tuesday.

Nepal’s trade unions, who played a decisive role in the pro-democracy movement in Nepal last year, have been supporting anti-junta organisations and Myanmar’s exiled and underground trade unions.

In April, they hosted the fourth international trade union meet on Myanmar in Kathmandu where trade unions from across the globe pledged to step up campaigns in their respective countries to stop business deals with the military regime of Myanmar.