Monks protest in Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar — Nearly 1,000 Buddhist monks, joined by thousands of their countrymen, marched in Myanmar’s largest city Thursday in the biggest challenge in at least a decade to the iron-fisted junta, a show of strength rare under military rule.

Authorities normally quick to crack down hard on dissent left the marchers alone, apparently wary of stirring up further problems. The monks said they would march again next week.

Processions of monks converged from various monasteries around Yangon in the early afternoon at the golden hilltop Shwedagon pagoda, the country’s most revered shrine. They prayed there before embarking on a more than three-hour march through Yangon in steady rain, gathering supporters as they went.

Monks at the head of the procession carried religious flags and an upside-down alms bowl, a symbol of protest.

Some monks are refusing alms from the military and their families — a religious boycott deeply embarrassing to the junta. In the Myanmar language, the term for “boycott” comes from the words for holding an alms bowl upside down.

As the monks marched calmly through the streets, some onlookers offered refreshments while others kept the streets clean by picking up water bottles.

The government appeared to be handling the situation gingerly, aware that any action seen as mistreating the monks could ignite public outrage. They are aware that restraining monks poses a dilemma, because monks are highly respected in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar, and abusing them in any manner could cause public outrage.

A member of one of the junta’s neighborhood councils said it had been given instructions by authorities not to interfere with the protesting monks.

“We’ve been instructed to be patient and to even protect the monks,” said the official.

No uniformed security personnel were in sight, although dozens in plainclothes stood by without interfering. Car and motorbikes carrying junta supporters — present at most previous protests — were also absent.

Witnesses said the number of marchers swelled to as many as 5,000 by the end, many of them linking arms in a human chain to protect the monks from outside agitators.

It was the third straight day that monks have marched in Yangon. Their activities have given new life to a protest movement that began a month ago after a huge government-ordered increase in fuel prices.

The protests express long pent-up opposition to the repressive regime and have become the most sustained challenge to the junta since a wave of student demonstrations that were forcibly suppressed in December 1996.

As the monks marched, they chanted sermons, avoiding explicit anti-government gestures. But their message of protest was unmistakable to fellow citizens as monks normally leave their monasteries only for morning rounds with bowls seeking alms.

Talk to us

More in Local News

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

A fatal accident the afternoon of Dec. 18 near Clinton ended with one of the cars involved bursting into flames. The driver of the fully engulfed car was outside of the vehicle by the time first responders arrived at the scene. (Whidbey News-Times/Submitted photo)
Driver sentenced in 2021 crash that killed Everett couple

Danielle Cruz, formerly of Lynnwood, gets 17½ years in prison. She was impaired by drugs when she caused the crash that killed Sharon Gamble and Kenneth Weikle.

A person walks out of the Everett Clinic on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The Everett Clinic changing name to parent company Optum in 2024

The parent company says the name change will not affect quality of care for patients in Snohomish County.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
Lynnwood settles for $1.7 million after 2021 suicide at city jail

Jail staff reportedly committed 16 safety check violations before they found Tirhas Tesfatsion, 47, unresponsive in her cell.

Clinton man, 61, dies in motorcycle crash Friday

Washington State Patrol lists speed as the cause. No other people or vehicles were involved.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Lake Stevens in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Separate road rage incident ends with fatal shooting in Lake Stevens

A man, 41, died at the scene in the 15300 block of 84th Street NE. No arrests have been made.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and law enforcement partners advise the public of of colorful fentanyl.  (Photo provided by the Drug Enforcement Administration)
After rainbow fentanyl pills found in Tulalip, police sound alarms

Investigators are concerned the pastel-colored pills may end up in the hands of children.

Nursing Administration Supervisor Susan Williams points at a list of current COVID patients at Providence Regional Medical Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dozens of Providence patients in medical limbo for months, even years

About 100 people are stuck in Everett hospital beds without an urgent medical reason. New laws aim for a solution.

Most Read