Meet the Buddhist Monk Who Used to be President of Myanmar

By IwaizumiOikawa HajimeTooru [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

Former Myanmar President Thein Sien joins Buddhist Monkhood.

Just four days after presiding over the historic transition of power to the former opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s former president, Thein Sein, was ordained as a Buddhist monk. The former general had held a five-year long term since 2011 heading a civilian government after the end of a half century long military rule. He transferred power to the new elect president, Htin Kyaw, a personal pick by Aung San Suu Kyi officially kicking off and sealing the country’s civilian rule while in turn permanently putting an end to its military leadership. November saw Myanmar’s first free election in decades in November last year in which The National League for Democracy party won by a great margin showing the great support they command from the country’s citizens.

Under the monk name, U Thandi Dhamma, Thein Sein is bound to spend five days as a monk at the Dhamma Dipati Monastery which is located just outside Pyin Oo Lwin, a scenic hill town in the central of Myanmar near Mandalay.  According to reports from his close allies, the former president is set to mostly practice meditation in his temporary monkhood stint. According to photographs circulating on social media pages such as twitter, he appears to have shaved his head and is dressed in the official monkhood robe. He is also seen to be standing next to a fellow monk in what looks like a ceremony.

Despite the fact that Thein is yet to issue an official statement on his path into monkhood, a public statement issued by Myanmar’s Ministry of Information on its Facebook page confirms that the ex-president is expected to spend five days at the monastery. It also states that this has been part of his plan since attending the World Buddhist Conference in January this year where he was supposedly urged by the Myanmar’s most respected monk, Sitagu to join Buddhist monkhood. At the time Thein claimed to be busy with presidential duties, but promised Sitagu and other Buddhist elders to be ordained on completion of his term as president.

This practice is not uncommon in Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country. A temporary stint at a monastery is a normal occurrence where young boys are expected to spend at least three days as novice monks in monasteries during their childhood before later returning to a non-monastic life in adulthood. Moreover, according to AFP, Myanmar's state newspaper, it is also common for adult Buddhist men in Myanmar to spend periods of time in monkhood.


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