- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Exiled Burmese Monk Lambastes Junta

New America Media, Q&A, Viji Sundaram Posted: Jun 06, 2008

Editor's Note: Chairman of the International Burmese Monks Organization - 81-year-old U Pannya Vamsa - speaks to New America Media about the way Burmese monks are organizing to give aid to cyclone victims in Burma. Viji Sundaram is an editor for New America Media.

The world community has been watching in shock and amazement as Burmas military government continues to watch the victims of Cyclone Nargis starve while relief just waits offshore. The May 2 cyclone left some 133,000 dead or missing and 2.4 million survivors. Latest reports from the United Nations indicate that about 60 percent of the survivors have still not received any food, water or shelter.

On June 1st, U Pannya Vamsa the co-founder and chairman of the International Burmese Monks Organization a group of exiled monks who came together last October following the brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in Burma, was in the San Francisco Bay Area to raise awareness about Burmas tragic situation. In the three days the group spent here, they raised $100,000 to help the cyclone victims.

The 81-year-old Vamsa, who has been living in exile in different parts of the world for almost 50 years, talked to New America Media about what he thinks Burmas neighbors especially India, which has strong economic ties to Burma should do, to force the junta to end human rights violations against its own people.

You say you are here in the United States to point out the failings of your government and raise awareness of whats happening in Burma. Do you think that some good will eventually come out of this tragedy that has struck your country?

Not until neighbors like China and India end their economic relations with Burma. Burmas economic ties with India and with so many (ASEAN) countries is helping the generals become very rich. But all the money that the Burmese junta gets from those ties is kept in the hands of the top leaders, and no money reaches the people, not even the soldiers. The soldiers stay on in the military because they are uneducated and have nowhere else to go.

The people of India and the people of Burma have been brothers and sisters since colonial times. India should be supporting Burmese democracy, not helping the junta, through trade deals. (That aside), how can India forget that the roots of Buddhism are in India? It should take a leadership role in this crisis. It should promote democracy in Burma.

After the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon s visit to Burma last week, did the junta not relax at least to some extent its ban on foreign aid and allow foreign relief workers into the country?

A German NGO told me that all the foreign aid (given in kind) is being sold by the government and what the victims, especially those in rural areas, are getting are biscuits made in Burma.

The U.N. has failed us. They support the junta.

Within hours after the cyclone hit, the monks swung into action and began distributing relief supplies to the victims. Where did they get these supplies from?

We have our own methods. The $100,000 we have collected during this visit to the Bay Area we will deposit in a bank in Singapore and then get the money across the border.

The junta has been doing its utmost to gag all news sources and isolate the country from the rest of the world. How are you able to stay on top of what is happening back home?

(Firstly), the borders are very porous. That aside, the monks have their own way of communicating with each other, and its not through cell phones or the internet.

What then?

(Laughs) We have our own technology. Its beyond your imagination.

Are the junta leaders Buddhists?

Yes, all the generals are Buddhists. In fact, 80 percent of the Burmese population is Buddhist. The Burmese people respect the monks so much that wherever the monks go, the people will follow. We have moral authority.

Since belief in the law of karma is such an integral part of Buddhism, you would think the junta leaders would be more careful in how they conduct themselves. Allowing men, women and children to die without food, when it can easily be avoided, is criminal.

Ahh, but you see the generals are Buddhists only in name. And remember what the Buddha said: Foolish people are never afraid of the law of karma. Killing a Buddhist monk is an unthinkable crime in Buddhist culture. These generals, they have no human feelings.

There have been two uprisings by the monks, one in 1988 and the other last September. It seems like neither one was successful. It must be discouraging for you. What is your next plan of action?

You know, after the last crackdown on the monks, some of them left Burma. Hundreds have gone missing and we dont know if they left the country or were killed. Before September, there were 30,000 monks in Yangon (formerly Rangoon). Today, there are only 6,000.

We know that thousands are in labor camps, forced to give up their (maroon) robes and wear civilian clothes.

The military government is a mighty force controlling our monasteries. But its difficult to control our souls and our determination. The monks will continue to speak out.

Related Articles:

Burmese Leaders Refuse Aid in Fear of U.S.-Backed Uprising

After Cyclone, Burmese Face Man-Made Disaster

Myanmar's Junta Gets a Pass from Neighbors

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage

Civil Liberties

Why There Are Words

Aug 10, 2011