Myanmar Buddhists hold all-sects meeting

AP News
Posted: May 12, 2014 12:15 PM

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar's state-sponsored governing body for Buddhist monks hosted its first conference in 19 years on Monday, bringing together the religion's nine main local sects at a time when there are rising concerns about Buddhist extremists targeting other religions.

The two-day meeting called by the State Central Sangha Organization brings together more than 2,500 monks from around the country.

Religious Affairs Minister Hsan Sint said the meeting is being held to discuss how to prevent extremists from infiltrating into monks' organizations and to reform basic rules to cope with an increase in the number of monks to more than half a million. Myanmar is overwhelmingly Buddhist, but violent conflicts have arisen in the past two years with its Muslim minority.

The minister did not elaborate about extremists but some ultra-nationalist movements led by Buddhist monks have been active since sectarian violence involving Muslims erupted in 2012.

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Several radical monks have proposed bills concerning interfaith marriage aimed at protecting the Buddhist religion which human rights groups and women activists have condemned as discriminatory and an infringement of individual rights. It was not clear if the bills would be discussed at the meeting.

Buddhist monks in Myanmar have historically played a crucial role in politics and in some protests against the previous military regime.