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Myanmar Monks Face Food Shortage

October 25, 1999

MAE SOT, Thailand (AP) _ Hundreds of Buddhist monks and nuns have illegally sneaked into Thailand from Myanmar to seek offerings because of food shortages.

Their plight stems from the Myanmar military regime’s closure of the frontier Oct. 2 in response to Thailand’s handling of the takeover of Myanmar’s embassy in Bangkok by armed student activists.

The monks and nuns, who normally eat only what they are given by devotees, are not getting enough from their own people after the suspension of cross-border trade sent food prices soaring.

Somchai Issaman, secretary of the Wat Luang temple at this border town, told The Associated Press on Monday that at least 320 monks and 30 nuns have sought shelter at the temple, seeking food.

The temple received a good supply of rice, dried food, and other necessities from worshippers during the past three months of Buddhist Lent, which ended Sunday, Somchai said.

The monks and nuns come from as many as 80 temples inside Myanmar, also known as Burma, Somchai said. Their entry into Thailand under the current circumstances would be illegal on both sides of the border, but police on the Thai side have looked the other way.

Myanmar has been incensed that Thailand allowed a group of student activists, who held 38 people hostage in a two-day siege, to fly to the border and disappear. Thailand has said that letting them go was necessary to resolve the crisis without bloodshed.

Some 3,000 students from Myanmar have sought refuge in Thailand since street protests against military rule were crushed by the army a decade ago.

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