Thursday, 14 November 2019

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Doubts over motives of trio accused in monastery fire plot


Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Monks last week tried to stop police in a northwestern Burmese town from detaining teen boys caught creeping into their monasteries at night so they could conduct their own probe into what police admitted was a motiveless plot to burn down four eminent monasteries involved in anti-junta protests in 2007, according to statements by monks and police.   

Nay Win Aung and Zaw Zaw Aung, both 14, were caught by monks at the adjacent Seikta Thukha and Leti monasteries on June 30 and were reluctantly handed over to police, who later arrested army defector Kan Kaung, aka Thant Zin, the district police chief said. The three were being questioned at No. 2 Police Station in the town of Monywa in Sagaing Division.

The police chief said the trio was accused of planning to use petrol to set fire to Leti, Seikta Thukha, Pebin and East Lay Htap monasteries. “We are investigating the case and have not yet charged the trio in court,” he said.

Doubts however have been raised by monks and observers over the truth of the police claims over the mysterious plot as the monasteries had been under constant surveillance by local authorities since they joined the "Saffron Revolution" protests led by monks after fuel-price increases in August 2007, by chanting prayers in solidarity.

The monasteries then fell victim to the Burmese junta’s brutal crackdown on the protests, a monk said on condition of anonymity.

He also referred to an anonymous tip his monastery had received the day before the attempted arson attack.

“We received a [telephone] call in a boy’s voice at about 10 a.m. on June 29, saying the arson would be committed against our monasteries,” the monk said. “We then kept a vigil that night and saw someone climbing over our five-foot boundary wall and arrested him when he entered the main prayer hall.”

The monks had not telephoned the police but officers arrived soon after the teens were found, as crowds gathered outside the compound.

Local police had such great difficulty taking the suspects out of the hands of monks at the Seikta Thukha monastery that they required the help of local authorities, the district police chief said.

A source said this was because the monks wanted to question the teens themselves.          

Police said their investigations had led them to Kan Kaung, who they claimed had ordered the teens to commit the crime.

“The head [mastermind], Kan Kaung, is an army defector but I have no idea from which unit. He has been living on running errands and petty crime,” the district police chief said. “He was a fake monk but the two kids are unemployed school dropouts.”          

Police had learned that Kan Kaung usually donned a monk’s robe in the daytime, to beg food and cash from tea shops and markets in the city. At night, he changed into layman’s clothes and slept on the streets, the police chief said, adding however that police had no idea why the monasteries were targeted for arson.


 

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