Burmese monks are known to have played an important role in their nation’s politics throughout its history. While they did not partake in mundane political processes, they traditionally held positions of moral authority, and dispensed wisdom and guidance to past kings, rulers and governments in
Buddhist monks gave council to past monarchs, ranging from the first King Anawrahta of unified
Burmese monks continued to play an important role in national affairs even after
After the 1948 independence, numerous political and social organizations proliferated in
During the nationwide uprising in 1988 when one government faction after another failed to control the county, monks used their authority to prevent anarchy and chaos and provided sanctuary to the public. After the military took back power through another coup on September 18th, 1988, the All Burma Young Monks’ Union was again established, as an Upper Burma branch in
In 1990, the National League for Democracy (NLD) members, student activists, and ordinary citizens made alms donation to the monks marching peacefully on Zay-Cho and 26-B roads in
Led by monks from major monastic academic institutions, the Young Monks Union in
With prompting from U Ahnt Maung, a high ranking member of the government’s religious affairs department, the military junta in panic arrested and sentenced to long prison terms senior monks from renowned monastic academies, members of the Rangoon Young Monks’
Finally, after almost two decades since many monks were arrested and imprisoned, the monks’ resistance against military oppression in
Before the leading monks’ organization the ‘All Burma Monks Alliance’ was founded during the Saffron Revolution, many smaller monks’ coalitions had already been established. As the first step, the All Burma Young Monks Union organized a central working committee with five leading monks from
Monks from upper
Since 2005, there was a growing realization that a mass movement to overthrow the Burmese dictatorship was becoming inevitable, and many activist groups began expanding their underground movements in anticipation.
When the military junta suddenly increased the price of fuel on August 15, 2007, impoverished people in
In order to come to the rescue of frightened and battered citizens suffering under severe economic hardships, the monks took it upon themselves to unite all of the monks’ unions and to create a larger monks’ alliance at a meeting scheduled for September 9, 2007 at a monastery in
But on September 5 when the Pakokku monks came out to chant the peaceful prayers of the ‘Metta Sutta,’ – the sutra of loving kindness to radiate the spirit of love to all beings – in sympathy with the suffering public, the local government militia brutally attacked the monks and tied them to electric poles, beat them with rifle butts, and arrested them. News of these actions spread quickly, and the next day unrest broke out and cars were burnt in Pakokku.
Burmese monks from all over the country felt compelled to respond to such shocking violence against revered Buddhist monks who were marching peacefully. When the monks gathered on September 9 as previously agreed, the meeting was forced to move to a new location for fear of detection by the authorities. Finally, monks at the meeting unanimously decided to boycott the military if the government failed to comply with the following demands by a given deadline.
The monks demanded that the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)
1. Apologize to the Pakokku monks, by midnight of September 17
2. Reduce the prices of fuel oil and basic commodities
3. Unconditionally release Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners
4. Hold dialogue with the democratic political opposition representatives in order to begin a national reconciliation process
The ensuing united monks’ organization was named the ‘All Burma Monks’ Alliance’ (ABMA) and the monks decided to proceed with boycotting the military on September 18, 2007 after the regime failed to meet the demands before the deadline.
Members of All
2. Federation of All
4. Sangha Duta Council of
The executive founding members of ABMA
1. U Pakada (Pannasara )
2. U Medhavi
3. U Kheminda
4. U Aww Ba Tha
6. U Gambira
The announcement of the above formation of the ABMA was handwritten, photographed, and published via email media sent from a handheld camera, since computer communications were disrupted or unavailable.
During the Saffron uprising, generous provisions of food and essential services were donated to the monks by a caring public. There were exemplary unforgettable individuals like one outstanding patron who took diligent care of the monks.
On September 18, 2007 the ABMA effectively began the boycott against the SPDC regime, and the event became known as "the Saffron Revolution." The United Nations and the rest of the world were forced to acknowledge the Burmese people’s struggle for freedom from brutal military dictatorship.
Much of the credit for the Saffron Revolution was since given to famous organizations or people, but the real contribution to the Saffron Revolution was made by the monks and people who genuinely shared the grievances of ordinary citizens, and who took unified and daring actions inside
Many Burmese people were aware of the 2007 Saffron Revolution and people from all over the world had also taken notice and became more interested in Burma, since ‘The Golden Uprising’ – as it was known in Burmese – eventually brought the UN Secretary General’s special envoy, Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, to Burma.
But the Saffron Revolution did not simply emerge without effort. The Saffron Revolution was born of the leadership of the All Burma Monks’
The All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA) was founded on 9 September 2007. Numerically it lines up as 9-9-9, when 2 and 7 from the year 2007 are added and also when all numbers 9+9+2+7=27 are added, including the sum of 27; 2+7=9.
After the thugs hired by the junta government attacked a group of monks marching peacefully in Pakokku, on 5 September 2007, the ABMA made four demands to the Burmese military government, with 17 September 2007 as a deadline to respond. The ABMA announced via local media that if the military failed to accede to its demands, the monks would carry out a boycott against the government officials beginning on 18 September 2007. Numerically digits of the date 09 18 2007 also add up to numeral 9.
September 18, 2007 was the 19th anniversary of the military coup and therefore an important date for
The dramatic event of the 18 September 2007 Saffron Revolution was similar to the ’8-8-88′ uprising in
The most anxious moment on 18 September 2007 was at noon after our daily meal, as we watched the day’s events with anticipation and saw nothing unusual. But after that moment many monks began gathering at Thingan-Kyun, Kyaikasan, and Shwedagon pagodas. The authorities moved to close down the monks’ quarters at Kyaikasan Pagoda, and monks from the Thingan-Kyun monastery began arriving at the Kyauk-sar-daw historic pagoda of the Magin monastery. The government and its violent militia organizations, the USDA (Union Solidarity and Development Association) and Swan Ah Shin (SAS-force of violence) were sent into pandemonium. Meanwhile, the monks began to arrive and seated themselves with great dignity and grace on the ground of the Kyauksardaw Pagoda. And then there was only utter silence.
Until suddenly, when sounds came from the distance, we only listened, listened for the sounds. It was 1:30 PM on 18 September 2007, and the resounding murmurs of the monks’ Metta Sutta prayers could now be heard from afar. The monks were praying and chanting to emphasize their rebukes against the military for violating Buddha’s teaching.
Soon after, the phones began to ring constantly, and the news of monks chanting the Metta Sutta and marching to the Shwedagon Pagoda in
Then phone calls from news media started to come in. And it was recorded that the All Burma Monks’
May freedom come to the people of
The writer is the founding member and Foreign Executive Director of the All Burma Monks’