World Buddhist Summit: appeals to boycott Myanmar?s military regime

AsiaNews/AFP, Nov 18, 2004

Only 12 delegations have confirmed their presence at the summit. More than 300 Buddhist monks are in prison in Myanmar for ?supporting democracy?.

Yangon, Myanmar -- The upcoming World Buddhist Summit scheduled for December 9-13 might be boycotted. Currently, only 12 of the 40 delegations registered have confirmed their presence.

On November 12, Japan's Nenbutsushu sect announced that it was withdrawing from the event after Myanmar?s ruling junta arrested prime minister General Khin Nyunt for negotiating with the pro-democracy opposition. The Japanese group organised the first World Buddhist Summit eight years ago.

An official from the Myanmar?s Religious Affairs Department said about 2,500 delegates had been expected from 40 countries but the numbers were now expected to be much lower. Recently, a Thai NGO?the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)?released a report detailing cases of mistreatment of Myanmar Buddhist monks. Overall, it says that about 300 Buddhist monks as well as some nuns are political prisoners in Myanmar prisons. The report, titled Burma: A Land where Buddhist Monks Are Disrobed and Detained in Dungeons?, deplores the arrest of religious people, the interrogations they are subjected to and their segregation in labour camps.

According to the AAPP report, Myanmar?s military regime systematically targets Buddhist monks because of their alleged collaboration with country?s pro-democracy movement.

Since 1998 when the regime?s crackdown started, arresting monks has become routine. In 2003 alone about 100 of them were incarcerated. The AAPP has called on the Myanmar government to free the 300 monks.

Altogether there are about 1350 political prisoners in the country.

Myanmar authorities helped the World Buddhist Summit organisers by building a new convention hall. They have not failed sprucing up temples and financing Buddhist monasteries. They also hope that the Summit might jumpstart the country?s tourism industry. For this purpose, they have launched an advertising campaign portraying Myanmar as the ?Land of Pagodas?.

Its population now stands at 46,298,000, 72.2 per cent Buddhist, 8.3 per cent Christian and 2.4 per cent Muslim.