Buddhist monks are political force
Rev. Jangmaw Gam Maw, the pastor of Sin Lum Pang Mu Church told the US Commission that soldiers from 33rd Battalion of 88th Infantry Division burned Bibles, destroyed church property, stole a video player, loudspeakers, and cash from donation boxes.
While religious groups are often at odds with the government, not all Buddhist monks support the political opposition. In January of this year, pro-government monks forced Ashin Pyinna Thiha, the abbot of the Sardu Pariyatti Monastery in Rangoon, to leave his monastery due to his speeches calling for the release of political prisoners and the end of civil war in Burma. He was also banned from delivering religious speeches for a period of one year.
Also called Shwe Nya Wah Sayadaw, the abbot was well known for allowing student activists and others to use his monastery as a venue for political events. Due to his prominence in the civil-society community, he was invited to meet with US Secretary of State Clinton during her landmark trip to Burma in December, 2011.
With a religious tradition so ancient and now so invested in Burma's political evolution, it is inevitable that activist monks and reticent government officials will continue to regard each other with suspicion and even hostility. And while Burma is taking steps toward democratic reform, the slow pace of change will not soon eliminate restrictions on religion.
As U Zawana observed, “Politicians, especially dictators, restrict religious leaders simply because the religious leaders have influence on people who believe in them.”