Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Myanmar monk in suicide bid at famous temple

AP News:

YANGON, Myanmar: A Buddhist monk tried to kill himself this week at Myanmar's most sacred temple in an apparent protest against economic hardship, witnesses said Wednesday.

The monk, who appeared to be in his fifties, was taken to Yangon General Hospital after slashing his own throat Tuesday afternoon at the hilltop Shwedagon Pagoda, said the witnesses, who asked not to be named so as not to draw the attention of the country's military authorities.

"The monk said he tried to kill himself because he was desperate. He said he came to Yangon to take medical treatment and he ran out of money," said one of the trustees of the pagoda, who also asked for anonymity.

The trustee said the monk, whose name has not been released, was in stable condition.

It was the second suicide bid by a monk at the pagoda this year.

In March, 26-year-old Kyaw Zin Naing set himself on fire at the temple after shouting anti-government slogans, according to witnesses. He died later of burn injuries.

Witnesses to Tuesday's suicide bid did not hear the monk shout any anti-government slogans.

The Shwedagon temple has a history as a center for mass political gatherings, and was a focus for Buddhist monks and pro-democracy protesters last September.

Tuesday's incident occurred at a time when the authorities have tightened security in Yangon and other cities to try to prevent any protests this month marking the first anniversary of last year's mass anti-government demonstrations.

Those protests began as small demonstrations complaining that the military government had failed to ease the economic burdens of the people. They later turned into broader anti-government protests, spearheaded by militant monks and bringing as many as 100,000 people out into the streets on Yangon, the country's biggest city.

The army eventually stepped in to quash the peaceful protests by force, killing at least 31 people and detaining hundreds.

Another political significant anniversary is being marked this week. On Sept. 18, 1988, the army intervened to smash massive pro-democracy demonstrations and grab absolute power from a weak interim government, suspending the constitution.

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