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11/01/2022 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – Burmese Buddhist monk Ashin Ariya Vansa Bivansa, commonly referred to as “Myawaddy Sayadaw,” died at age 71 on October 27 of a heart attack at the Thai border town of Mae Sot, where he sought refuge.

The abbot of Myawaddy Mingyi monastery in Mandalay Region fled his country this year to avoid being rearrested by the Tatmadaw (Burmese Army). He was detained after junta troops raided his monastery during the coup on February 1, 2021, along with other politicians and activists. The Tatmadaw immediately disrobed him and accused the monk of “incitement against state stability.”

He served six months in Obo prison and was released in August. Knowing that he was to be rearrested by the Tatmadaw for criticizing military rule, he escaped to Thailand. He was a strong advocate for democracy and repeatedly criticized the weaponization of religion and the monks who worked closely with the Tatmadaw.

Benedict Rogers of the International human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide said the abbot’s death was “a terrible loss for all who care about interfaith dialogue and harmony, freedom of religion and beliefs and human rights.”

ICC had the privilege of interviewing him in 2019, where Myawaddy Sayadaw shared his belief in freedom of expression and advocated for more interfaith dialogue so religious minorities such as Christians in Myanmar can be better understood. ICC is saddened by the news of the passing of a well-respected religious freedom giant.

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