Monk brings solace in coup-torn Myanmar

Revered figure: Sayadaw walking past devotees at the Nyeyadham monastery in Kantbulu township in Sagaing region. — AFP

When dawn arrives in normal times, 80-year-old Buddhist monk Maha Bodhi Myaing Sayadaw emerges from his meditation on the plains of northern Myanmar to silently receive food offerings from a handful of followers.

Now each morning, crowds of pilgrims line his path, hoping for a glimpse of the monk who has become an unwitting embodiment of hope and solace for thousands in the coup-wracked country.

Myanmar has endured eight months of crisis since the military seized power in February, upending a short-lived experiment with democratic rule.

For crowds of the faithful, Sayadaw’s presence provides an antidote to the “three catastrophes”: the military’s ousting of the government, the ravages of the pandemic and an economy ruined by nearly nine months of unrest.

Some claim his re-emergence has brought calm to the surrounding area even as fighting escalates elsewhere in Sagaing between the military and anti-coup resisters.

In Myanmar, monks are seen as a supreme moral authority. They often play a role in organising communities and at times have even mobilised opposition to the military regimes that have ruled the country for over 60 years. — AFP

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