CSW today condemns the arrest of at least three Buddhist monks in Burma and calls for their immediate release.
Ashin Ariya Vansa Bivansa, known as “Myawaddy Sayadaw,” and Ashin Sobitha were arrested in Mandalay, while Shwe Nya War was detained in Rangoon, on 1 February, within hours of the military coup in Burma.
On 3 February, it was reported that Ashin Sobitha had been sentenced to two years in prison. Myawaddy Sayadaw, a prominent Buddhist leader and vocal critic of both the military and the extremist Buddhist nationalist movement, has been disrobed as a monk and will appear in court again on 9 February.
Military leaders have reportedly been visiting other religious leaders in the country in an attempt to secure their support for the coup.
On 2 February the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a statement expressing concern about the coup, the arrests of Aung San Suu Kyi and other government officials from the elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government, and the year-long state of emergency declared by the military.
USCIRF’s Vice-Chair Anurima Bhargava said: “Given the history of brutal atrocities by the Burmese military, our fear is that violence could quickly escalate, especially towards religious and ethnic communities, such as the Rohingya and other Muslims. We urge the Burmese military to honor the faith and will of the Burmese people and restore democratic civilian rule as soon as possible."
USCIRF Commissioner Nadine Maenza added: “We fear for the safety of the remaining Rohingya Muslims and Christians in Burma that are indiscriminately targeted by the Tatmadaw.”
Benedict Rogers, CSW’s Senior Analyst for East Asia and author of three books on Burma, said: “We are deeply concerned about the implications of this coup for human rights in Burma, especially freedom of religion or belief. The military has a long history of weaponising religious nationalism and repressing freedom of religion or belief. The arrest of three prominent Buddhist monks is an outrage and we call for their immediate, unconditional release. We urge the international community to follow their cases closely and exercise pressure on the military to release these monks and all detainees following the coup, and we call for tough, targeted sanctions against the military and its enterprises.”