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Monks, Activists Mark World Peace Day in Mae Sot

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The Irrawaddy

Monks, Activists Mark World Peace Day in Mae Sot

By ALEX ELLGEE

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MAE SOT— Buddhist monks and more than 200 activists from human rights organizations marked International World Peace Day and the second anniversary of the Saffron Revolution on Monday with a “peace walk” through the Thai border town of Mae Sot.

“Today is a very special occasion. It is International Peace Day and also the second anniversary of the Saffron Revolution, so we want to create awareness—especially about Burma—and highlight the violence and suffering that the Burmese people have had to endure because they have no peace,” said event organizer Ashin Sopaka, a Buddhist monk and member of the International Burmese Monks Organization (IBMO).

A Thai activist dressed as an angel leads the peace march into Mae Sot. (Photo: Alex Ellgee / The Irrawaddy)

The peace march was jointly organized by IBMO, the Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB), the International Network of Engaged Buddhists and the Women’s League of Burma.

The event began with prayers at a ceremonial shrine outside Mae Sot. Then the group marched along the highway supervised by Thai traffic police.

A Thai woman dressed as an angel walked at the front of the march, followed by 11 monks and more than 200 activists holding placards of doves—the bird of peace.

Many activists wore yellow t-shirts emblazoned with “Peace for Burma” and carried banners with slogans such as “Peace,” “Freedom,” and “No War.”

Having marched for an hour, the procession stopped for lunch at a pagoda opposite the administrative building in Mae Sot. Then, all the participants formed a circle and meditated for peace in Burma and around the world.

The emphasis of the event was for international peace and there were no political chants as they marched in silence down the highway to the Myanmar Friendship Bridge, which crosses the Moei River to Burma.

The monks rang a bell and recited the “Metta Sutta”—the Lord Buddha’s sermon on loving-kindness—just as monks had done two years earlier when they took to the streets of Rangoon to protest fuel price hikes and other policies of the military government.

When they completed the eight-kilometer [five-mile] march to the bridge they were met by Thai intelligence officials and a 25-man column of riot police.

Thai intelligence officers photographed the march but did not otherwise interfere. The organizers had agreed a half-hour permit with the authorities to hold the rally, and Ashin Sopaka thanked them for allowing it to take place.

More than 100 Thai people joined the event from human rights organizations, such as TACDB, the Student Federation of Thailand and the People’s Empowerment Foundation.

“It’s very important that Thai people have come here today,” said Chalida Tajaroensuk, the director of the People’s Empowerment Foundation. “We need to show our solidarity with the monks and the people of Burma who now have no peace. The [Burmese] government has forced them to flee into our country where they have many problems as migrant workers and refugees.”

Similar sentiments were echoed by event organizer Panithida Phongphaew, a campaign officer for TACDB.

The march ended after speeches by various participants and an inter-faith prayer service. The monks were joined by various religious leaders, including a leader of the Muslim community in Mae Sot and a Christian pastor.

World Peace Day was first established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the UN General Assembly. In 2002, the General Assembly officially declared September 21 the permanent date for individuals and organizations to create acts of peace on a shared date.

The date for World Peace Day coincides with the Saffron Revolution, which saw thousands of Buddhist monks take to the streets, inspiring a national uprising. The Burmese regime responded by sending in troops to violently quell the protests—killing hundreds of protestors, including at least 10 monks.

http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=16832

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Written by Lwin Aung Soe

September 23, 2009 at 1:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

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