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Burma: where are the monks?

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When will the monks take to the streets and to defend which camp? Since the military coup of February 1, this is the unknown in the Burmese equation. They could indeed tip the balance in the ongoing confrontation between the military and the Democrats. However, since the beginning of this crisis, they have remained wisely in their monasteries. Normal, one will say: is not the Buddhist clergy supposed to be apolitical (it does not vote)? Should he not stick to advocating peace and dialogue in the name of faith? This is to forget the interweaving of religion (nearly 90% of the population is Buddhist) and power in a country whose majority ethnic group, Burmese, is identified by its belief.

The clergy have manifested themselves regularly since the independence of Burma (renamed Myanmar), most often as a conservative force, alongside the junta. But not always. Thus, in 2007, thousands of monks demonstrated against the increase in the cost of living, taking over from popular anger, to push back the authorities. This confrontation had not strictly speaking taken a political turn, even if one spoke of “revolution of saffron” in reference to the color of the tunics of certain monks. But she was to participate in the junta’s decision to begin a democratic transition a few years later. Thus in 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the democratic camp, recovered his freedom. International pressure had been decisive. But the bad humor of the temples had also weakened the power of the barracks.

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