On the Buddhism Beat: Conflicts and questions

dl-entourageThe question of progress on human rights issues in various parts of Buddhist Asia (continue to) dominate much of the news this week. With important new reports, bodies, and findings making headlines, the stage is clearly set for conflict or change in certain areas. Will the ruling military junta bow to international pressure over abuses in Burma? What’s the U.S.’s next step to engage China on the Tibet issue? Will the U.S. State Department put Vietnam on notice again in the wake of the incident at Bat Nha Monastery?

Elsewhere, Taiwanese Buddhists help their neighbors in the Philippines, Buddhist temples celebrate milestone birthdays in the U.S., and a Chinese nun demonstrates her remarkable kindness…by adopting twenty-six children.


  • In a new report, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, said that violations in the country “remained alarming, with a pattern of widespread and systematic violations that prevailing impunity allowed to continue.”
  • Bangladesh, however, has “reinforced its border with [Burma], sending 3,000 extra troops to the area…amid new tensions over a disputed stretch of gas-rich sea.”
  • The Irrawaddy reports that “key US congressional leaders of the opposition Republican Party have expressed open opposition to the Obama administration’s policy of engaging the authoritarian Burmese regime.” As we reported last week, the Obama Administration recently announced that it would pursue engagement with the junta but not ease sanctions just yet.
  • As part of this new engagement, the U.S. will soon send a “fact-finding” delegation to Burma to investigate human rights abuses and other matters.
  • As her house arrest goes into its fourteenth year, the U.S. Campaign for Burma honors Nobel Peace laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and highlights the suffering of ethnic minorities in Burma.
  • At a meeting of foreign ministers representing the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (including Burma) in Thailand this week, the assembled nations “raised pressure on military-ruled [Burma]…to hold ‘free and fair’ elections next year, and urged the junta to free pro-democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi.” Security measures at the gathering were apparently massive.
  • According to a Japanese official, the junta may relax the conditions of Suu Kyi’s detention.
  • Despite her continued imprisonment, analysts are saying that Suu Kyi has “returned to an active political role by initiating dialogue with both [Burma’s] junta and Western nations.”
  • Some Burmese are concerned, however, that Suu Kyi may be being “exploited” in an effort to lift sanctions.
  • The ASEAN meeting included the announcement of a new body: the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. There are questions already about what—if any—effect this commission will have on the situation in Burma.
  • This from Voice of America : “For his regime’s brutalities and failure to apologize the Buddhist monks, the International Burmese Monks Organization (IBMO) states Snr. Gen. Than Shwe and his family members have been dismissed from Buddha Sasana and considers him as a foe of the Buddha Sasana.”
  • The junta is now allowing cell phones to be used in the capital city of Naypyidaw “after previously banning them for security reasons.”
  • Following recent trouble along their border recently, China and Burma have agreed to work together for better “border stability.”
  • In other news, a Burma-born American charged with inciting unrest was brought before the junta’s court this week.


  • A boat “crammed with 30 passengers as it headed to a ceremony at a Buddhist temple, capsizing in midstream Saturday night in northeastern Kratie province.” Ten people died in the tragic accident.


  • CNN reports on a remarkable nun who has “has adopted a total of 26 abandoned children, and over 20 of them are either currently studying or have graduated from Buddhism programs at various colleges in China.”


  • Over at our sister site MahaSangha News this week, it was reported that “Ven. Jaseung, a relatively young and progressive Buddhist priest who chairs a scholarship foundation, was elected as the new head of South Korea’s largest Buddhist order of Jogye on Thursday, garnering over 90 percent of support from his colleagues, according to Yonhap News.” Follow the link for much, much more.


  • For the first time in twenty-six years, the annual Kathina Perahera festival of the Naga Vihara took place on Sri Lanka’s Jaffna peninsula this week. Chief incumbent Ven. Meegahajandure Chanarathana Thero noted that “this was the first major Buddhist event held in Jaffna” since the end of the country’s thirty-three-year civil war a few months ago.This via Human Rights Now – The Amnesty International USA Web Log: this week saw the release of the U.S. Department of State‘s Office of War Crimes Issues investigation into “the final stage of the conflict in Sri Lanka.”


  • Fo Guang Shan monastery has sent over eight tons of provisions to people in the Philippines who were affected by the recent typhoon.


  • As previously reported at this blog, The Guardian writes that “Chinese authorities have carried out their first executions of Tibetans in connection with the deadly riots that swept Lhasa last year, according to exile groups.” (Death sentences have also been handed down to participants in the recent unrest in Xinjiang.)
  • Two other Tibetans involved with the unrest in Lhasa received lengthy prison sentences.
  • The New York Times reports that “despite protests by the Chinese government, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is going ahead with plans to visit a heavily militarized Tibetan Buddhist area in northeast India that is the focus of an intense territorial dispute between China and India.”
  • The latest U.S. Congressional Report on Tibet has been released, and it notes that China is “refusing to engage the Dalai Lama in meaningful talks; amplifying the scope and hostility of the anti-Dalai campaign; increasing the repression and control of religious freedom for Tibetans; [poorly implementing] the PRC Regional Ethnic Autonomy Law; and strengthening economic development initiatives that will increase further the influx of non-Tibetans into the Tibetan autonomous areas of China (and in doing so, [increasing] the pressure on the Tibetan culture and heritage).”
  • Senior Obama Administration advisor Valerie Jarrett “denied on Wednesday the U.S. president snubbed the Dalai Lama or retreated on human rights in China by delaying a meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader earlier this month.”
  • Before leaving the United States during his recent visit, His Holiness spent time in the sukkah at Washington’s Adas Israel Synagogue, saying that he felt he had “a lot to learn from Jews.”
  • A European Union delegate formally lauded His Holiness’ “Middle Way” approach to dealing with the Chinese.
  • It is being reported that police in Inner Mongolia have “detained the head of a Tibetan medical college outside United Nations offices in the capital of the neighboring independent country of Mongolia, sparking calls for greater protection for asylum-seekers in third countries.”
  • Tourism in Tibet continues to boom despite recent unrest.
  • A poor turnout at the 2009 Tibetan Music Awards has left organizers stumped.


  • Two Buddhist temples are celebrating milestones this week: California’s Guadalupe Buddhist Church marks its one-hundredth birthday, and the Zen Temple of Chicago its sixtieth.
  • On a sadder note, Washington, D.C.’s Nichiren Shoshu Myosenji Temple is recovering from a fire.


  • Human Rights Watch this week said that “the forced expulsion of more than 300 followers of one of the world’s most influential Buddhists” from Bat Nha Monastery “highlights Vietnam’s suppression of religious freedom.” The trouble at Bat Nha Monastery has been reported on extensively at this blog.
  • The U.S. Embassy in Hanoi has issued a statement saying it was “deeply disturbed” by the expulsion, as well as the conviction of nine democracy activists and the arrest of writer Tran Khai Thanh Thuy.

Photo (detail) above via AP/NY Times