Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Bhutan Vaccinates 85 Percent of Adults in Two Weeks
On April 8, less than two weeks after the nationwide rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine began on March 27, the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan had administered the first shot to 93 percent of its eligible population, according to Bhutan’s Ministry of Health. Of the country’s 770,000 residents, more than 420,000 people between ages 18 to 104 have received their first dose. The small nation’s rapid rollout of the vaccine makes it the third country (behind Israel and Seychelles) to have vaccinated at least 85 percent of its adult population, The Economist reports. Healthcare officials are now focusing on vaccinating those who are older than 70 and residents with disabilities, according to Al Jazeera.
Funds Stolen from Buddhist Temple in North Carolina
The North Carolina Buddhist Temple in the city of Durham recently reported a break-in and the theft of around $1,000 from an emergency fund. Surveillance cameras captured a group of three women and one man attempting to break into a door of the temple, ABC 11 reports. The temple’s resident monk, Bhante Yatiyana Wajirapala, told ABC 11 that he immediately sensed that the group did not have good intentions when he pulled into the driveway. Two of the women approached the monk and asked him to pray for their sick grandmother, but not before he took pictures of their vehicle and called 911. By the time police arrived, the group had already fled with the stolen cash in tow.
This robbery occurred approximately two weeks after a string of thefts targeted several Buddhist temples in Southern California. Many of these robberies shared similar reports of a group of people requesting prayers for their sick grandmother before taking off with stolen donation money. Police have not said if the crimes are connected.
Myanmar Activists Choose Protest Over Celebration
Many people in Myanmar did not participate in traditional new year festivities this week, choosing to show their disapproval of the military junta by holding protests across the country. According to Reuters, protesters were out in the streets on Tuesday, the first day of the five-day New Year holiday, known as Thingyan, which is typically celebrated with prayers, ritual cleaning of Buddha images in temples, and high-spirited water-dousing on the streets. Protestors, wearing the clothes they would normally wear for the festivities, were seen holding traditional Thingyan pots, which contain seven flowers and sprigs and are typically displayed during this time. Others painted slogans such as “Save Myanmar” and the three-finger salute on their Thingyan pots. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Myanmar activist group, said that pro-military security forces have killed 710 protesters since the February 1 ouster of the democratically-elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Thailand Faces Its Worst COVID-19 Outbreak Yet
Thailand is facing its worst coronavirus outbreak just as millions of people head to their home provinces during the country’s biggest travel holiday, according to the New York Times. The country, which was highly successful at fighting the pandemic in its early stages, set a record Monday with 985 reported cases. Officials have ordered the closure of hundreds of bars and nightclubs, but critics say the government has been inconsistent in its efforts to bring the outbreak under control. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha stopped short of banning travel between provinces for the Songkran holiday, which began on Tuesday and marked the start of the Thai New Year.
13 Years Later, a Man Is Charged with the Murder of Zen Monk
Prosecutors in Fauquier County, Virginia, believed they are about to close the case of an unsolved murder of a Zen Buddhist monk. The suspect, Won Yung Jung, 62, is charged with second-degree homicide in the June 2008 stabbing death of the monk, Du Chil Park, at his residence in Marshall, Virginia. The Fauquier Times reports that last week a judge agreed that there is enough evidence against Jung to certify the case to a grand jury, after an FBI agent testified that Jung admitted to being at Park’s home around the time of the murder, getting drunk and spending the night, then finding Park’s dead body the next morning. Park was found dead in the residence—which also served as a Buddhist temple—apparently several days after his death. According to two witnesses who testified last week, Jung had known Park for several years, acting for a time as the director of the temple’s legal entity on Park’s behalf, and helping with the temple’s finances. Although Jung was interviewed by investigators in 2008 and 2010, prosecutors have not said publicly why Jung was not charged with the murder until late last year. Jung was arrested at his Georgia home on November 30, 2020 and extradited to Virginia.