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Buddhadharma : Summer 2008
58 Rangoon River, and this image was broadcast around the world. Visiting Burma after the crackdown, the UN’s Special Rapporteur, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, made an effort to investi- gate Rangoon’s Ye Way crematorium, where, he explains, ...credible sources report a large number of bodies (wrapped in plastic and rice bags) were burned during the night, between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m., on 27–30 September. Sources indicate...that normal employees were instructed to keep away, and that the facility was operated on those nights by State security personnel or State-supported groups. At least one report indicates that some of the deceased being cremated had shaved heads and some had signs of serious injuries. In the days that followed in the wake of murder, beat- ings, and confusion, monasteries were emptied, locked, and barricaded. Some monks were arrested, some were forcibly disrobed, some were dismissed to their home villages, and some fled. This was not the first time in Burma’s history that monks had led protests, nor was it the first time they had been attacked by the military junta. But the junta’s system- atic violence against the Burmese sangha—revered as sons of the Buddha—was unprecedented. The whole world could see it at last. By early December the rains had passed and an uneasy silence fell across Burma. I flew into Yangon Interna- tional Airport on December 4, as part of a witness delegation sponsored by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF). Four of us had come to see firsthand how things were, to listen to the stories of monks and laypeople and to convey the inter- national Buddhist community’s solidarity with the people of Burma. We also wanted to open lines of communication and support for future work. Our group included Phra Paisan Visalo, a Thai forest monk and founder of Buddhika, Thai- land’s engaged Buddhist network; Nupphanat Anuphong- phat (aka Top), also from Buddhika; Jill Jameson, a human rights activist and trainer from Melbourne’s BPF chapter in Australia; and myself, from BPF’s U.S. national office. I’d been involved with Burma since 1991, when I began working at BPF. That year I traveled with a delegation from the International Network of Engaged Buddhists to Maner- plaw, a large encampment of opposition armed forces and refugees on the Burmese side of the Moie River, across from Thailand. Manerplaw was later overrun by Burmese troops, but in the years since, I had visited the border areas numer- ous times, sleeping with monks in jungle monasteries, visiting refugee camps down long, muddy roads, bringing food and medicine to clinics and schools. I’d walked through the smok- ing ashes of settlements, sat with monks shivering from ma- laria in the midst of an April heat wave, and wept to see the swollen bellies of hungry children in Burma’s ethnic areas. (Above) An elderly monk walks through an outdoor market in Rangoon. (Opposite top) Delegation members, from left: Jill Jameson, Nupphanat Anuphonphat, Alan Senauke, and Phra Paisan Visalo. (Opposite bottom) Burmese monks on alms rounds. They continue to show their opposition to the military regime by refusing to accept alms from members of the military. ericlafforge Hozan alan Senauke is vice-abbot of Berkeley zen Center and founder of the Clear View Project, offering Buddhist-based resources for relief and social change. He also serves as an advisor to Buddhist Peace Fellowship, where he has worked since 1991. For more information about Burma and the Clear View Project, write to email@example.com. Development Association blockaded the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon and began beating hundreds of people trapped on the temple grounds. Meanwhile, monks and nuns continued to march through Rangoon’s downtown, where they were attacked with bamboo canes. The following day troops fired on nearly fifty thousand people protesting in Rangoon. How many were killed in this crackdown? We will never know. The beaten body of a monk was found floating in the ericlafforge