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Buddhist Delegation Finds Burma Cloaked in Fear
The Buddhist Channel, December 16, 2007
San Francisco, CA (USA) -- A delegation organized by the U.S.-based Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF) has returned from a eight-day visit with Burmese activists, monks, students, orphans, and citizens in Rangoon, Burma, and along the Thai-Burma border.
Members of the delegation, who posed as tourists to be able to enter the country, collected a wealth of first-hand evidence that the situation in Burma has become even worse since the September peace marches undertaken by Buddhist monks. In particular, delegates gathered information indicating that at least 70 people have been killed in the government crackdown over the past two months, more than double the number given in a United Nations report released earlier this week.
Delegation members were: Alan Senauke (a Zen Buddhist priest and associate director of BPF), Jill Jameson, (member of the BPF Australia chapter), Phra Paisan Visalo (a Thai monk from the Buddhika network), and Nupphanat Anuphongphat (also from the Buddhika network in Thailand).
The purpose of the delegation was to observe the aftermath of the recent pro-democracy uprising and to communicate international solidarity with the people of Burma.
Delegation member Alan Senauke of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship said, “Wherever we went, people were very happy to meet with us, and welcomed the news that the world was still watching Burma, despite propaganda that things had returned to ‘normal.’ They asked us to carry the message that the crackdown is active and ongoing; that ‘normal’ for Burma under the military regime is a state of fear and repression.”
Australian delegate Jill Jameson spoke with a number of members of the Burmese Buddhist community and observed severely deteriorated conditions in the military-run country. Rampant disease, starvation, and incarceration and torture of civilians are commonplace. Based on conversations with reliable sources inside the country, Jameson believes the figure of 31 people killed provided by UN representative Paulo Sergio Pinheiro (Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar) is understated.
The delegation learned that thousands of monks, nuns, and ordinary citizens have been imprisoned or driven out of the cities. Delegates recorded examples of those detained in the wake of the peace marches. Those who applauded the monks, offered them water in the blistering heat, or simply stood by and watched were arrested and held, often without family members knowledge, for up to one month. Many of the monks who participated in the peace marches are still missing and feared dead.
Hundreds of Burma’s monasteries have been emptied and continue to be locked tight. And no one is able to account for thousands of children who were being cared for at the 3,000 Buddhist monasteries. Some may be in orphanages around the country, but this is not clear.
The delegation identified numerous places where support—humanitarian and educational—was greatly needed, and is working to develop secure channels by which to offer this support. This will be a collaborative effort among Buddhist supporters in the U.S. and Australia, and activists in dedicated networks in Southeast Asia.
Now that they have returned from Burma, delegation members intend to be a voice for Burma’s voiceless by sharing the story of this journey with their communities. They also plan to offer financial support for monks, nuns, and others in distress and explore channels for future support.
Delegates Alan Senauke (U.S.) and Jill Jameson (Australia) are available as media sources and interview subjects.
For Jill Jameson: 61 3 9844 2289 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For Alan Senauke: 510-845-2215 or email email@example.com
ABOUT THE BUDDHIST PEACE FELLOWSHIP
The mission of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF), founded in 1978, is to serve as a catalyst for socially engaged Buddhism. BPF's programs, publications, and chapters link teachings of wisdom and compassion with progressive social change. The organization is comprised of more than 4,000 members and 30 chapters. BPF is an affiliate of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the International Network of Engaged Buddhists. For more info, visit: www.bpf.org.