Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.
Thailand National Office of Buddhism Bans Monks from Protesting
On Wednesday, Thailand’s National Office of Buddhism (NOB) ordered Buddhist monks to abstain from participating in anti-government protests, adding to rules prohibiting monks from political activity, Buddhistdoor Global reported. The announcement was prompted by photographs of Buddhist monks at ongoing protests of military influence in Thai classrooms.
— Matthew Tostevin (@TostevinM) November 11, 2020
The peaceful protests began when the progressive Future Forward Party was disbanded by Thai courts in February. Led by mostly high school and college students, protesters are calling for the dissolution of parliament and the resignation of prime minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, further limits to the power of the monarchy, and the drafting of a new constitution.
The NOB threatened monks who continue to participate in the protests with expulsion from monkhood. A 21-year-old monk, Chistnupong Praiparee, said he will continue to protest to let the government know that most monks disagree with its actions.
Tibetan Leaders Congratulate President-Elect Joe Biden
TIbetan leaders around the world congratulated Joe Biden on his electoral victory last weekend. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama wrote to him, “I hope you will be able to contribute to shaping a more peaceful world in which people suffering poverty and injustice find relief.” He also thanked him for his support of Tibetans during his time in Congress and as vice president to Barack Obama, pressed him to address climate change quickly, and commended him for choosing a woman to be his vice president.
The democratically elected leader of Tibetan people, Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, also congratulated Biden and Harris. He thanked Biden for his commitment to penalizing Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses in Tibet and urged him to further strengthen US-Tibet ties.
Strong Turnout in Myanmar’s Election
While Americans debated over the future of their democracy, citizens in Myanmar were voting en masse in one of the most important elections in the country’s recent history. According to the New York Times, the strong turnout underscored voters’ commitment to Myanmar’s budding democracy, which remains in the shadow of a military dictatorship that ruled for fifty years. The results of the election are expected to uphold the governing party, the National League for Democracy led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as the most powerful force in the country’s Parliament. In recent years Aung San Suu Kyi’s refusal to condemn the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims tarnished her reputation as a celebrated human rights icon. Last year, she led Myanmar’s defense against charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice. As extremist Buddhist monks continue to fan sectarian flames, some in the Buddhist community view Suu Kyi as a pawn of oil-rich Sheikhs. The monks fear that an Islamic wave will wash over Buddhist-majority Myanmar, even though only about 5 percent of the country is Muslim, the Times observed. Perhaps to counter those fears, the National League for Democracy fielded only two Muslim candidates in this election and none in the 2015 election. “Aung San Suu Kyi’s government is not protecting the country,” U Raja, a monk who is part of a nationalist Buddhist movement, told the Times. “They are building their power just to show off and have no skill in ruling the country.”
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