BURMESE PILGRIMS' WOE DUE TO BURMESE JUNTA RELATIVES' PILGRIMAGE TO POSH CITIES OF SOUTH EAST ASIA
Buddhagaya, 15thMarch 02: This year the number of Burmese pilgrims to the holy sites of Buddhism in India have dwindled to a handfuls due to the cancellation of the permits of privately run guided tours to places of Buddhist pilgrimage in India, according to a Buddhist monk from Burma.
Since 1996, Burmese pilgrims had been visiting the Buddhist holy sites of
Previously the junta issued necessary foreign currency at the rate of Kyat 6.50 to the US dollar to each of the pilgrims, though the ' open-market' price of the dollar was more or less kyat 700. The measure also affected the number of Buddhist monks who come to enroll for graduation and postgraduation degrees at the
According to the monk, on return from pilgrimage in
Later on, the leaders of the tour guide operators in collusion with the corrupt Immigration Department officials used to take the passports of renowned monks and abbots, then after six months they would use the same to issue foreign currency illegally by doctoring necessary papers making applications by using the names of the monks for foreign currency required for 'pilgrimage' abroad. After drawing out the necessary foreign currency from the State Bank they would use the same for illegal money-making by travelling abroad.
The SPDC junta without conducting a proper investigation to the matter ordered all private tour guide operators to Buddhagaya and other places of pilgrimage giving reasons that the pilgrimage has drained the junta coffer of precious foreign currency reserve.
Interestingly, though all the tour guide operators have been cancelled of their business licences, a privately run Buddha Missionary Association (Buddha Thathanapyu Aphwe-chouk) based in Rangoon has been permitted to arrange pilgrimage tours to India and Nepal for interested persons who want to take a pilgrimage tour. The Aphwe-chouk collected the passports of the would-be pilgrims consisting of relatives of junta ministers, made contacts with the junta officials to issue foreign currency from the State bank, and then without travelling to India and Nepal,
the ' group of pilgrims' travelled abroad to Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia instead, doing a brisk business by selling precious stones from Burma there and bringing in electronics and computer items that fetch high prices at home. The profit made through the deal was later divided among all the junta officials engaged in the whole affair.
After the incidence came to light, there is much frustration and discontent among the abbots and people who really want to go for pilgrimage to