Burmese Buddhist nun detained for religious reasons

DVB, June 29, 2005

Yangon, Myanmar -- A Buddhist nun was arrested on 27 May and has been detained for requesting the highest religious authorities in Burma to recognise her as a ?bikuni?, according to sources from her relatives.

40-year old Daw Thisawati is the daughter of an ex-army officer Hla Win and his wife Mya Thein. Thisawati graduated from the then Rangoon Arts and Science University (RASU) with a Burmese Literature degree in 1984 and won several gold medals at artistic talent shows in the university.

Despite her successes, Thisawati turned her back on the world and joined the religious order in 1986, according to a famous actress.

In 1988, she sat junior theological exams and came first in the whole country and in 1991 she sat senior exams and came first again. In 1993, she passed Damasariya exams with flying colours. She went on to study Buddhist theology in Sri Lanka and gained her Masters. In 2003, she continued to study for a PhD in Philosophy and repeatedly applied for the status of a bikuni in accordance with the religious rites. But the highest religious authorities in Burma, Sangha Mahanayaka rejected her applications, and she was conferred upon the status of bikuni in Sri Lanka, in accordance with the religious rites.

In January 2005, Thisawati returned to Burma and applied for the status again, citing the fact that a Buddhist nun is allowed to become a bikuni by Buddhist religious laws. She was arrested on 27 May by the Ministry for Religion with Acts 295 & 195a, for allegedly attempting to collapse and divide the Burmese Buddhist Sasana.

When DVB contacted an elderly abbot and a member of the Sangha Mahanayaka, he said that he hadn?t heard about the arrest and that the case demands careful considerations, but he also said that Thisawati should not have been detained in the first place either.