Buddhist Monk Takes up Arms Against The Myanmar Junta
Monk Kaythara goes from preaching not to kill to learning how to kill.
A Buddhist monk has undergone armed training to fight with the popular resistance against the military junta in Myanmar, giving up his vows against killing in response to the deaths of peaceful protesters.
Former monk Kaythara, who now goes by the name George Michael, left the monkhood and took up arms in response to the arrests and killings of fellow monks who joined protests against the military regime that overthrew the elected government in February.
Kaythara, 33, became a monk when he was 20 years old and had been involved in humanitarian work. He served as head monk of the Dhamma Darna monastery in Hlaingthaya township, an area dominated by garment factories on the outskirts of Yangon, where he oversaw an orphanage.
In the early days of the military coup, Kaythara said he had actively participated in peaceful protest marches.
“We’ve been organizing the protests in Hlaingthaya since Feb. 6,” he told RFA in an interview. “Since then, we marched on the streets to protest every day until Feb. 14 when the authorities begin to crack down on the protests.”
A violent suppression of protesters by security forces that day left more than 60 people dead. Many residents, including thousands of factory workers, fled the area, which authorities placed under martial law.
Kaythara was not among the protestors that day because he went into hiding after authorities issued an arrest warrant for him. During his time in hiding, his mother died, but he wasn’t able to attend her funeral.
Kaythara said he later learned that many fellow protestors had been killed during the crackdown, the event that prompted him to join the popular armed rebellion against the military junta.
“We had resisted the military council’s rule peacefully, without even bearing a single needle, but after I learned about the forces shooting down fellow protestors, I changed my mind,” he said. “I decided to join the armed training when I arrived in this ‘liberated area.’”
Liberated area is a general term used in Myanmar to refer to territory unpenetrated by the Myanmar junta’s rule, including rebel-controlled ethnic areas along the borders of Thailand, India, and China.
“We were required to refrain from killing when we were Buddhist monks, but now we are in training to kill,” he said.