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Second Chance for Burmese Monks
The New York Times, July 3, 2009
Three monks living in exile in Utica, N.Y., continue the campaign for their country’s democracy
Utica, New York (USA) -- In September 2007, thousands of Buddhist monks led the “saffron revolution,” a series of peaceful marches in response to military oppression and a dire economic situation in Myanmar, formerly Burma.
Since then, three monks who escaped Myanmar and settled in Utica, N.Y., have continued campaigning across the United States for democracy and human rights for their country with the All Burma Monks’ Alliance.
During the revolution, U Gawsita was beaten by military soldiers, along with hundreds other protesters. “When our nonviolent protest began to threaten power of authority, the government accused us as terrorists, and started to crack down with guns and sticks,” he said.
But the monks remain dedicated to the cause. U Agga Nya Na, who wants to study political science, said that he was confident that he could contribute to the campaign for Burma’s democracy even while living in the United States.
“We can make many young students inspired for democracy and human rights for Burma,” he said.
The founder of the alliance and one of the leaders of the 2007 revolution, U Pyinya Zawta, said he was tortured and incarcerated by the government in Myanmar for 10 years. He says he believes that the cause demands attention now.
“It is a very critical time in history of Burma,” he said. “Aung San Suu Kyi is being tried now. If the world leaders can come together now to free Aung San Suu Kyi, this will be great opportunity to promote democracy in Burma.”
He also stresses that the saffron revolution has not ended. “My country has not gained democracy yet,” he said. “I will continue to struggle for democracy as long as Burma is not free.”