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Government’s religious group should work to release jailed monks: ABMA

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – If two Burmese cabinet ministers in a government-backed religious group that promotes Buddhism really want to do their jobs, they should work for the release of all imprisoned monks, Dhama Thiri, a spokesperson of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA), said on Tuesday.

Zaykabar (Zaygabar) Company owner Khin Shwe, center, a leader in the government-back group that promotes Buddhism in Burma. Photo: SnapShot News Journal'If they really wish to propagate religion, they must call for the release of all imprisoned monks', Dhama Thiri told Mizzima. They should also advocate for the preservation of ancient pagodas in Sittwe, where pagodas have been destroyed to build railroad tracks, he said.

According to figures released this month by the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPP-B), there are 225 Buddhist monks behind bars. Among them, the leader of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, Ashin Gambira, is serving a 68-year prison term in Kalay Prison.

Dhama Thiri criticised the government led by President Thein Sein, saying that its failure to release monks despite repeated calls is ‘an insult’ to Buddhism.

Dhama Thiri also criticized the government-backed Sasana Nogghaha organization,  led by Zaykabar (Zaygabar) Company owner Khin Shwe, for failing to make the release of imprisoned monks a priority. Government leaders in the organization are Economic and Commerce Minister Win Myint, Hotel, Tourism and Sports Minister Tint San and well-known businessmen including Yuzana Company owner Htay Myint and Aden Company owner Chit Khaing.

Khin Shwe told Mizzima that the organization has about 7 million members and the objective of the group is to propagate and promote the Buddhist religion and to provide assistance to monastic schools across the country. He said other religions have exploited the poverty of the people, and many people have converted to other religions.

‘We have seen many such conversions to other faiths. So we should control and contain this situation’, he said.

Dhama Thiri criticized the group for not better representing the principles of Buddhism.

‘They say they really promote and propagate our religion, but the government itself cracked down on the Buddhist religion. It is shameful’, he told Mizzima.

The ABMA was established in Mandalay in September 2007. In a statement in April, it urged President Thein Sein to release all political prisoners.

Members of Parliament tried to introduce a motion in the last session to release all political prisoners but it was rejected by the speaker on the grounds that the motion had been leaked to the media before being introduced in Parliament.

According to AAPP-B numbers, there are 2,076 political prisoners in Burma including 225 Buddhist monks.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 June 2011 13:51 )  

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