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1st anniversary of the beginning of the Saffron Revolution

September 17, 2008

From Now Publlic
By Ashin Mettacara

The Saffron Revolution consisted of a series of massive demonstrations led by Buddhist monks demanding democratic reforms in Burma. The demonstrations began on September 18th and ended on September 30th 2007. The Saffron Revolution was named after the saffron colored robe worn by demonstrating monks.

Before the Saffron Revolution, the military regime doubled the price of petrol and diesel on 15 August. In response to the increase in fuel prices, citizens protested in demonstrations beginning on August 19th. Thirteen prominent Burmese dissidents including Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Min Zeyar, Ko Jimmy, Ko Pyone Cho, Arnt Bwe Kywaw and Ko Mya Aye were arrested.

The military regime’s decision to double the fuel prices worsened the economic crisis in the country. People were suffering more and more because of this price hike. Buddhist monks in Burma are dependent on vast numbers of people for alms food and clothing. Because of this interdependent relationship they could not ignore the plight of the people facing this economic crisis.

For this reason Buddhist monks in Pokokku protested on September 5th, 2007. As a result of the military’s response, three monks were injured. Officials arrived at the monastery in the town of Pakokku to apologise for injures caused during the protest on September 5th.

The monks set fire to their vehicles and held about 20 officials captive for several hours to to make a statement about their treatment. The officials were freed after the intervention of a senior chief monk. Subsequently Buddhist monks have threatened to hold more demonstrations unless the top military leader apologises for beating monks.

They have further demanded the regime to reduce fuel prices, and to release political prisoners. The deadline which has been set is 17 September, 2008. However the military have refused to meet the monks demands. When the military failed to meet these requests, Buddhist monks urged their followers to boycott the military.

Monks have been requested to refuse alms and offerings from anyone connected to the military. Buddhist monks in Burma are highly revered by the civilian population and also the military. Therefore, the military government’s greatest fear is monks’ refusal of their alms and offerings.

After these events, about 600 Buddhist monks went to streets chanting the “metta sutta” (the Buddha’s words on loving-kindness) in Yangon on September 18th. These peaceful demonstrations in the streets of Yangon spread to other states’ capitals over the next few days.

The monks were quickly joined by Burmese citizens from all walks of life, and they were protected and supported by film stars, musicians, teachers and students. But the military opened fire on demonstrators on 26 September and many monks and laypeople were killed.

After this bloody crackdown, many temples were raided during the night and many monks were captured and interrogated. To this day Buddhist monks in Burma are still being arrested and jailed. Today is 18 September the 1st anniversary of the beginning of the Saffron revolution. The Saffron Revolution was the largest Burmese anti-government protest in the last twenty years.

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