In a monastery in central Myanmar, a Buddhist monk, Wathawa, rallies his militia with a cry: "What's our spirit like?"

"The spirit of iron!" shout a group of rifle-bearing men, loyalists of the military junta that seized power last year, now fighting to crush fledgling pro-democracy groups.

The scene, from a video posted online by army-linked media, would have seemed unimaginable to previous generations in the overwhelmingly Buddhist nation. Now, it underscores the close alliance the military has forged with the Buddhist hierarchy.