A senior monk has been accused of desecrating and stealing the heads of three Buddha images near the ancient city of Inwa in Mandalay Region.
The heads of three images, each about 1.5 metres high, were stolen from the compound of Mahamuni Pagoda compound in Hanthawati village at about 8:30pm on Tuesday, December 11, said U Nay Chi from Inwa’s Yon Tan village.
Villagers in the area have accused the head of a nearby monastery of the act, alleging that a severed head from one of the images was found in the monastery compound, and have called on the police to investigate.
“Villagers tried to enter the monastery on that night to find the monk … as soon as the case occurred and they found a statue’s head in the compound. However, the villagers left when police officers from Tada Oo township arrived and promised to solve the problem,” said U Nay Chi.
On Wednesday, December 12, hundreds of villagers again congregated before the monastery and urged the police to take action.
“Villagers did this because they feel anger towards that monk but we are still trying to catch the culprit. We think the culprit passed through the monastery compound. We found the head of an image and some other objects in the compound,” Police Officer Than Lwin from Tada Oo Township said on December 12.
The case has brought to light numerous accusations of impropriety against the monk, who The Myanmar Times has decided not to name.
“The villagers ignored that monk for a long time on social occasions because of his bad past and his hatred for the people in the area. He won’t even let a dog enter his compound. He can’t offer food in villages in Inwa and needs to go to Tada Oo to do that,” U Nay Chi said on Wednesday, December 12.
He said the desecration and theft of Buddha images was not unusual in the Inwa area, which was once home to the royal capital.
U Ba Thein from Yon Tan village alleged that the same monk took a wooden statue carved from a precious wood named thitkanat to his monastery from Mingalar Pagoda about six years ago.
“He [the monk] also used to treat his young novices cruelly. He also runs a monastic post-primary school for ethnic youths and would extort money from parents who wanted their young monks to return home,” U Ba Thein said.