Burmese Activist Monk Detained

The authorities keep questioning a key Saffron Revolution leader.

2012.03.07
gambira-305 U Gambira is shown as a Buddhist monk in a file photo.
AFP

Burmese authorities have detained prominent dissident monk Shin Gambira for questioning for the second time in a month amid charges that he broke into monasteries sealed by the former military junta, his relatives and colleagues said Wednesday.

Gambira, who led the 2007 Saffron Revolution against the ruling military junta, was among leading political detainees released in January as part of reforms after decades of harsh military rule, but he has continued to criticize the nominally civilian government.

He was briefly picked up by the authorities for questioning in February and detained again on Tuesday night.

Jaung Jaung, a monk who has worked closely with the dissident, said authorities took Gambira away from his sister’s home in Rangoon late Tuesday night.

"I was talking with the monk who was together with Shin Gambira last night at 9:50 pm. When I asked if they heard about the news that Shin Gambira was to be arrested, he replied that they knew about it and that the authorities were already there,” he told RFA.

He said that the next morning, he spoke to Gambira’s older brother Aung Kyaw Kyaw, who said the 33-year-old monk was taken away for questioning by authorities from Burma’s military intelligence department, known as the Special Branch (SB).

“He said … Gambira was taken away at about 10:30 pm by the SB, who said that this is not an arrest but to ask some questions, and that they will bring him back. That's the last thing I know."

Tate Naing, a spokesperson for the Thailand-based Association for Assistance for Political Prisoners-Burma confirmed that Gambira was taken away for questioning and said he is expected to be released Thursday.

Reopening monasteries

Since his release on Jan. 13 as part of a political prisoner amnesty, Gambira had begun unilaterally reopening monasteries locked up by the authorities for more than four years.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper said earlier this month that Gambira is accused of breaking into two monasteries sealed by police and illegally “squatting” at a monastery.

The 33-year-old monk has also “repeatedly broken the Buddhist monks’ code of conduct and the law,” it said, adding that the authorities are taking steps to bring him to trial at the request of the State Sangha Nayaka, the central monks’ council.

Gambira, a monk since age 12, began organizing monks to refuse to provide religious services to members of the military and their families in early 2007.

He was ordered jailed for 69 years for spearheading the 2007 Saffron Revolution that ended in a brutal government crackdown with at least 31 people killed and hundreds of others beaten and detained.

Reported by RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Khin May Zaw. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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