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Junta Asks Police the Monks

                                 AP Worldstream

                  April  10, 1997; Thursday 05:42 Eastern Time

HEADLINE: Burmese military asks Buddhist clergy to police monks


    Apparently referring to bands of Buddhist monks who have ransacked mosques, 
Rangoon's military commander has asked senior Buddhist clergy to take action
against monks who are violating the law, a state-run newspaper said Thursday.

   ''Authorities believed that the monks organization would take action against 
the offenders, while the monks organization assumed the authorities would take
action,'' the New Light of Myanmar quoted Gen. Khin Maung Than as telling the
third meeting of the Rangoon Division Sangha, the clerical body that


   In March and early April, Buddhist monks attacked mosques in several cities
following reports that Muslim men had raped a Buddhist girl in Mandalay, 560
kilometers (360 miles) north of Rangoon. A curfew is still in effect there.

    Burma  is more than 80 percent Buddhist, and most Muslims in the country are
of South Asian origin.

   ''Both sides have ignored the matter,'' Khin Maung Than said.  ''Taking
advantage of the misunderstanding, violators stepped up their acts of breaking
the law.''

   Although some South Asian diplomats credited the government with responding
swiftly to the disturbances, photographs published Sunday in the Bangkok
newspaper The Nation showed soldiers standing idly by while monks wrecked a
mosque in Pegu, 65 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Rangoon.

   The government has said the religious unrest was stirred up by
''anti-government groups bent on sabotaging  Burma's  ASEAN bid.''

    Burma  is expecting to be admitted in July to the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations, a regional economic group. Indonesia and Malaysia, two
predominantly Muslim countries, have been the strongest advocates of admitting
 Burma  to the bloc.

   But reports also have surfaced in Bangkok that the monks in Mandalay were
angry with the Burmese army over the repair of a highly-revered Buddha image in 
the Mahamuni temple.

   Several jewels from the image were reportedly stolen during the repairs,
Burmese exiles in Bangkok said. They said the monks vented their anger against
the Muslim community rather than stage a confrontation with the army.

   Buddhist monks participated in the 1988 democracy uprising and

   ave been at the forefront of several other uprisings in  Burma.