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Myanmar junta allots land for Russian Orthodox Church

The move is seen as growing cooperation between the junta regime and its key arms supplier reaching next level

His Eminence Sergiy, a senior Russian Orthodox cleric and Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing are seen during a meeting in Myanmar capital Naypyidaw in May this year

His Eminence Sergiy, a senior Russian Orthodox cleric and Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing are seen during a meeting in Myanmar capital Naypyidaw in May this year. (Photo: Cincds via Irrawaddy.com)

Published: October 25, 2023 11:30 AM GMT

Updated: October 25, 2023 11:35 AM GMT

Myanmar military junta has allocated land in the commercial capital and largest city, Yangon, to build a Russian Orthodox Church, a move observers see as the further warming up of ties between the regime and its key arms supplier Russia, says a report.

The latest sign of the growing cooperation between the two nations emerged on Oct. 19 when a senior cleric of the church and the junta-appointed mayor of the city met to discuss building a church in North Dagon Township, Irrawaddy.com reported.

The meeting between His Eminence Sergiy, a senior Russian Orthodox cleric who holds the title of Metropolitan of Singapore and South-East Asia, and Mayor Bo Htay at Yangon City Hall has been warm and effective, according to junta media.

The church will be built on 1.25 acres (0.5 hectares) of land, and the regime will provide the necessary assistance to start construction as early as possible, the report stated, citing junta media. The Yangon municipality will also supply water and electricity to the project.

The development comes against the backdrop of the ongoing civil war in Myanmar and the Russia-Ukraine war.

The military junta forces have targeted and destroyed more than a dozen churches in Christian-majority regions besides killing hundreds of civilians as the regime faces strong resistance from rebel groups and newly merged people’s defense forces (PDF).

Russian military have also been accused of attacking and damaging church buildings including the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odessa.

Junta media reports that the latest move is a result of a meeting between Russian cleric Sergiy and junta chief Min Aung Hlaing some five months ago.

During the meeting, they discussed the construction of a Russian Orthodox church in Myanmar and the establishment of a Buddhist center in Russia. As per the plan, a replica of Myanmar’s Shwezigon temple has been constructed in the Russian capital Moscow last July, junta media said.

Min Aung Hlaing was reportedly present during the consecration of the replica of the temple. Influential and controversial Buddhist monk Sitagu Sayadaw Ashin Nyanissara, who expressed support for the 2021 military coup, accompanied the junta chief during the ceremony in Moscow, Irrawaddy.com reported.

Orthodox Christians make up the religious majority in Russia. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of Russian Orthodox, likewise, supports President Vladimir Putin in his invasion of Ukraine.

During his visit to Myanmar in May, Metropolitan Sergiy met former Major-General Aung Thaw who is chairman of Myanmar-Russia Friendship Association.

The former classmate of Min Aung Hlaing now chairs the junta’s Union Civil Services Board.

During the meeting Sergiy said Russian travelers tend to visit Orthodox churches in the countries they travel to, and a church in Myanmar would attract Russian tourists, a proposal welcomed by Myanmar.

Since the 2021 coup, Myanmar’s tourism industry has been in shambles. The recent visit of a group of Chinese travelers was so appreciated that Hotels and Tourism Minister Thet Thet Khine turned up to welcome rare international visitors at Yangon International Airport.

Following the military coup in February 2021, the regime has developed close ties with Russia, which became its key arms supplier the junta battles rebel groups and PDFs in various parts of the country.

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