Myanmar's military government unveiled a new Buddha statue on July 21. The statue will be dedicated on August 1 on a 92-hectare site in the capital Naypyitaw. The sculpture is over 19 meters tall, nearly four meters taller than the Great Buddha Statue at Todai-ji in Japan and possibly the tallest in the world.
Chief General Min Aung Hlaing, head of Myanmar's military and de facto head of government, is the project's sponsor and oversaw much of the project's installation. Next to the statue are several small pagodas, ordination halls, rest houses, water fountains, lakes and a park.
Hlaing said the new Buddha image in Naypyitaw is meant "to show the flourishing of Theravada Buddhism in Myanmar, to be Myanmar as the focal point of Theravada Buddhism, to ensure the country's prosperity and to contribute to world peace and stability". (ABC News)
The statue, including its throne, measures approximately 24,7 meters in total height. It weighs more than 5 tons, according to state media, and is carved in the style of the 000th and XNUMXth century Yadanabon dynasty, the last ruling dynasty before British colonial rule.
Due to ongoing insurgencies dating back to Myanmar's independence from Britain in 1948, the country is believed to be home to the longest ongoing civil war in the world. Aung San Suu Kyi, a UK-educated politician and dissident, spent little time in government but several decades of her life under house arrest and in prison.
Suu Kyi rose to prominence during the 8888 Uprising, so named because it took place on and around August 8, 1988, with several months of demonstrations, marches, strikes and riots across the country, all in support of democracy. In the 1990 elections, Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won 81% of the government seats. However, the military government refused to accept the election results, arresting Suu Kyi and continuing her one-party dictatorship.
Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in 2010, ushering in a period of optimism for many people in Myanmar. She then won a seat in parliament in 2012 and for almost 10 years held a precarious role as a member of the government, which was still dominated by military rule.
On February 1, 2021, Suu Kyi was arrested again, along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy party, as the military government regained full control of the country. Over the past two years, pro-democracy groups across the country have fought against the military government, sometimes leading to intense and bloody battles.
Despite international condemnation from the Buddhist community and world leaders, the end of military rule in Myanmar is not in sight. Internally, many monks strongly opposed the government, with some dying in attacks and others detained by the military.
Myanmar's population is approximately 90,1% Buddhist, according to 2016 census data. Christians make up 6,2%, Muslims 2,4%, Hindus 0,5% of the population, with a final 0,5% adhering to tribal and other religious traditions.