Monks trade punches in Colombo

A peace rally in Sri Lanka has ended in a fight between Buddhist monks and protesters calling for an end to the recent violence between government troops and Tamil Tiger separatists.

    Fighting broke out after hawkish monks got on to the stage

    About 1,000 people had gathered in a park in the capital Colombo on Thursday to hear speeches calling for peace when Buddhist monks who oppose concessions to the Tamil Tigers got on to the stage and erected banners.

    The fight broke out between one of the speakers - a former government minister - and a monk, a Reuters photographer at the scene said.

    Some more moderate monks were on the stage and found themselves dragged into the brawl.

    Madampawe Assagee, a pro-peace monk, said: "They were saying we should go to war.

    "We like to listen to other opinions so we let them do that but then they started fighting and we couldn't control some of our people. They tried to make it a big fight but we settled it in a few minutes."

    Government 'too soft'

    The hawkish monks, who are allies of Mahinda Rajapakse, the president, say the government is too soft on the separatists and want military action.

    "By force, they disrupted the protest," said Jehan Perera, head of the National Peace Council, who took part in a peace march earlier in the day but had gone by the time the fight erupted.

    "We like to listen to other opinions so we let them do that but then they started fighting and we couldn't control some of our people"

    Madampawe Assagee,
    a pro-peace Buddhist monk

    "But I think they're the minority. Most of the people we walked past were very supportive."

    The pro-war monks are opposed to Tiger demands for a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamils in the north of the island.

    Sri Lanka is currently facing some of the worst fighting with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) since a truce in 2002 after two decades of civil war.

    The Buddhist Sinhalese majority dominates the country but it is also home to a significant Muslim population as well as the Tamils.

    SOURCE: Reuters


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.