Key Burmese Monk Escapes Arrest

Another key figure in Burma's 2007 uprising eludes capture.
2008-10-23
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Ashin Issariya, photographed in 2007 while organizing the opposition movement in Mandalay.
Ashin Issariya, photographed in 2007 while organizing the opposition movement in Mandalay.
Ashin Sopaka

WASHINGTON—A key leader of Burma’s 2007 uprising against the military government has fled to Thailand after eluding authorities during a year in hiding and a two-week manhunt, saying the Burmese people "are more desperate than ever before."

Ashin Issariya, 33, a monk also known as King Zero, arrived in the Thai border town of Mae Sot at 5 p.m. Oct. 21.

“People are frustrated and feel helpless. They want to escape from the present situation but have no idea how to get away. They don’t see a way out,” he said.

They would definitely have tortured me."

Ashin Issariya

“People are more desperate than ever before, especially after the Saffron Revolution, and there is a palpable anger in the public. It’s a reaction to what they saw and heard of the junta's brutal crackdown."

Military manhunt

Military police had been pursuing him for up to 14 days, after learning where he had been hiding since the junta cracked down on a popular uprising that became known as the Saffron Revolution.

“When members of Generation Wave, a new anti-government underground youth group, were arrested two weeks ago, the junta's agents…traced the places I used for hiding. Agents even came to my village,” he said in an interview. “They would definitely have tortured me."

Ashin Issariya is one of a few founding members of the All Burma Monks Alliance, which spearheaded the 2007 uprising, to have evaded arrest. He declined to give details of his year in hiding or his escape across the Thai border.

“Before you start doing this kind of work, you have to be prepared to face extreme consequences, including the loss of your life. Otherwise you cannot function,” he said. “If people in Burma are united and unanimously oppose the military dictatorship, this time the people will prevail."

"They have been starved and choked of all the opportunities which can improve their lives. We have to liberate ourselves from the military dictatorship to be relieved from our suffering."

Dramatic jailbreak

Earlier this month, another Saffron Revolution leader staged an unprecedented escape from a junta prison camp and fled to safety in India.

Ashin Panna Siri broke out of the Lin Dan prison camp in Burma’s Chin state on Sept. 15. He too was a close associate of U Gambira, leader of the All Burma Monks Alliance, and described torture and backbreaking labor in custody.

U Gambira, 27, has been in custody since Nov. 2007 and is currently on trial for nine separate criminal offenses, including threatening government stability.

Original reporting by Ko Ko Aung for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Ko Ko Aung. Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written in English by Joshua Lipes and edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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