New Delhi: A celebrity monk from Vietnam revered globally and well known for his stellar role in the Nepal peace process has sought Indian support for his peace outreach in conflict-scarred Myanmar.
Venerable Thay Huyen Dieu, popularly known as Dr Lam, told this writer this week that India should consider sending a high-level team to connect to all stakeholders in Myanmar for starting negotiations to bring back peace in the country.
“I can accompany this team and be its religious adviser so that I can connect to top Burmese Buddhist religious figures who are revered by all including the military,” said Dr Lam in an interview at this writer’s residence.
This appeal for a standalone Indian role comes at a time when a Track 1.5 meeting held in Delhi last week resulted in informal agreements for “all sides” to reduce violence, fight international crime, and accelerate aid delivery in Myanmar.
The host, India, was joined by representatives from Myanmar’s junta, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh and China. Japan was unable to attend because it was given an “extremely short notice”, a Japanese official told the outlet. The next meeting will reportedly be held in Laos, although no timeline was given.
While those attending the conference agreed that the Track 1.5 dialogue would be “complementary” to ASEAN’s approach, India seems to have wrested the initiative away from Indonesia, the current ASEAN chair, which has claimed it’s pursuing “quiet diplomacy”, to little apparent effect so far.
Speaking of controversial meetings, the group of retired global leaders The Elders issued a press release on Tuesday, defending their deputy chair – and former United Nations secretary general – Ban Ki-moon’s recent, and controversial, visit to Myanmar.
The statement claimed that Ban met with “military leaders” and former president Thein Sein “to find a path to an end to violence and establishing a peaceful, democratic, inclusive and legitimate government”. The Elders said that Ban visited the country at the Tatmadaw’s invitation and that he said “the military must take the first steps” to resolving the conflict.
“The religious element will be crucial in resolving the conflict in Myanmar. We don’t have to get into the political issues but focus on bringing back peace. Then India, the land of Gandhi, can take the initiative to settle political issues and restore democracy,” said Dr Lam.
He recalled how his persistent efforts to connect to the Maoists in Nepal, despite the initial reluctance of Nepal Army and some royalists, helped in bringing the Maoists to the table.
“I told Prachanda (Maoist supremo and now PM) that mindless bloodletting cannot go on in the land where the great Buddha was born. The persistence finally helped bring the Maoists to the table,” said Dr Lam, who runs two Vietnamese national Buddhist Temples in Lumbini (Nepal) and Bodh Gaya (India).
Thay Huyen Dieu or Dr Lam is a renowned international spiritual leader born in Ben Tre Province, Vietnam. He embarked on the Buddhist monastic path at a young age. He eventually received a scholarship to study abroad in France and received his Ph.D from the University of Sorbonne (France). After teaching at universities and continuing doing “the Buddha’s work” in France, Venerable Huyen Dieu founded two Viet Nam Buddhist Monasteries in India and Nepal. Through many obstacles and challenges, he established the first Vietnamese temple in Bodhgaya, India, the sacred site where Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree. Under his leadership, he was also instrumental in working with the government of Nepal and Buddhist organisations and societies around the world in revitalizing the city of Lumbini, Nepal, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.
His vision and leadership transformed Lumbini from a once deserted land into a thriving and more developed city of today. Venerable Huyen Dieu established the first Vietnamese temple in Lumbini and mobilized the development of over 20 additional Buddhist temples representing various countries in this sacred site. During the development of the temple in Lumbini, Nepal experienced a bloody civil war that resulted in over 14,000 deaths. Venerable Huyen Dieu was the key person in delivering a peaceful resolution ending this civil war. Venerable Huyen Dieu is currently the chairman of the International Buddhist Federation in Lumbini and the founder of two Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu (Viet Nam Buddhist Monastery) in Bodhgaya, India and Lumbini, Nepal. Venerable Huyen Dieu has contributed immensely to the proliferation of Buddhism on a global scale.
Dr Lam told this writer that “it was India’s destiny to emerge as the nerve centre for global peace diplomacy” which will redefine global politics in years to come.
“Scientific and military muscle that Bigger Powers possess cannot end conflicts like those in Myanmar and Ukraine. You need peace diplomacy for that and only a country with the legacy of Buddha and Gandhi can talk reason to all sides involved in the conflict to put down their guns,” Dr Lam said.
He said he will start his prayers for peace in Myanmar during the Buddha Jayanti in May at his temple in Lumbini.
“I invite all including ambassadors to join the prayers,” he said.