Junta cancels plan to put monks at checkpoints in Mandalay

A plan by Myanmar’s junta to place Buddhist monks at military checkpoints in Mandalay has been cancelled due to opposition from members of the city’s monastic community.

The plan, which had been approved by Mandalay’s Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, the official regulatory body for monastic affairs, would have allocated three monks to each checkpoint set up in the city to enforce Covid-19 restrictions.

When the checkpoints were put in place last Monday, they were manned only by regime forces and civilian administrators because monks refused to take part in the scheme, according to monastic sources.

“Now they know that nothing can be done without the consent of the Buddhist monks,” a member of the Sangha Union, which represents monks opposed to the junta, told Myanmar Now.

The move to place monks at checkpoints was widely seen as an attempt to shield regime troops from attack by urban guerrilla groups resisting the February 1 military takeover.

Critics said that it would endanger the lives of monks and also damage the reputation of the monastic order.  

“If monks cooperate with [the junta], the people will no longer see them as monks,” said a monk from Mandalay’s Mya Taung monastery.

“They are just trying to exploit the religion for their political gains,” he added.

In Mandalay, where anti-coup protests continue despite restrictions, people are only allowed to go out from 4am to 9am and from 3pm to 6pm under a curfew imposed on the pretext of preventing the spread of Covid-19.

Brutal crackdowns on peaceful protests have triggered a series of reprisal attacks on junta forces and regime collaborators, including local civilian administrators. 

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