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Rangoon's military junta wooing Bud

Subject: Rangoon's military junta wooing Buddhust monks now (The Asian Age, 10/12/96.)

Rangoon's military junta wooing Buddhist monks now
The Asian Age, 10/12/96.
Rangoon, Dec. 9:
Widely ostracised by Western governments and opposed by its 
own  people for its human rights violations, Burma's military 
regime is turning to Buddhist in the hope of winning over the 
country's thousands of Buddhist monks.
However, seven years after soldiers killed several dissident 
Buddhist monks and arrested hundreds more while brutally 
putting down a pro-democracy movement, Burma's clergy is 
still wary of the generals.  On the streets of Rangoon, the 
evidence of government tinkering with religion is everywhere.  
An example is the glittering, golden 11 th-century Shwedagon
pagoda the heart of Rangoon which is being renovated at much 
cost  and other spruced up for both local and foreign visitors.  It 
was not too long ago that the same building was desecrated 
beyond the expectations of this predominantly Theravada 
Buddhist nation.  In July 1989, the ruling regime also known as 
the State Law and Order Restoration Council, erected 
barricades in order to search all pilgrims.
The ensuing unrest resulted in the death of 11 monks and 17 
students and the five-day shutdown of the pagoda.  Slorc's more 
recent pampering of the clergy -- through increased donations 
to temples special privileges to monks and other favours -- is 
seen to be part of its "alternative strategy" aimed at weaning 
away the religious order front "wrong" political influences.
Buddhist monks, through Gen.  Ne Win's military rule from the 
late 1960s to 1988, have supported democratic movements, and 
in the 1990 elections, they openly supported the National 
League for Democracy, (the party of Nobel Peace Prize 
laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.  Slorc is now trying to ensure that 
this support base is finally wiped out.
Not only does Slorc hope that offering financial incentives will 
lure the estimated 300,000 to 500,000 monks and nuns in the 
country to their side. It is also, critics, say trying, to convince 
highly-devout Buddhist population that it intends to protect its 
religious institutions and leaders.
Daily, the regime's state controlled television station beams out 
broadcasts of senior and military leaders visiting and praying in 
temples across the country, and meeting religious leaders.
Trying to improve its badly tarnished reputation is another 
reason for this "new gentle face" to an otherwise repressive 
regime which has killed and arrested scores of people since 
taking power in 1988.  "The only purpose of such activities," 
say Zou Win, a university-educated taxi-driver in Rangoon, "is 
to try to show the people that the tatmadaw (armed forces) is 
very religious.  No one believes them.  The people know that 
the main purpose is to stop the monks' political leanings." To 
those who refuse the carrot, there is always the stick.
Since 1988, or two years before the national polls were the 
NLD won an overwhelming majority but could not get Slorc to 
give up power, monks, in Burma have been systematically 
tortured and abused by the regime. (IPS)