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Burmese monk Ashin Gambira again detained, released

(Mizzima) – The Burmese activist monk Ashin Gambira was detained by Rangoon authorities again on Tuesday, according to his brother.

Activist monk Ashin Gambira  Photo: MizzimaHis older brother, Aung Kyaw Kyaw, told Voice of America’s Burmese service on Thursday that Ashin Gambira told him he was released late Wednesday after being questioned overnight by authorities.

He said the monk was questioned about a recent visit to Kachin State in northern Burma and whether he had been in contact with members of the Kachin Independence Army. His brother's purpose in visiting the north was to call attention to the plight of ethnic refugees, he said.

Ashin Gambira was picked up by members of Burma's military intelligence department late Tuesday at his sister's home in a Rangoon township. His brother said Ashin Gambira was scheduled to meet with the British ambassador on Wednesday.

Gambira, who was sentenced to 68 years in prison for leading pro-democracy protests in 2007,  played a leading role in the All Burma Monks Alliance. He was released in an amnestty in January.

The monk had returned to Rangoon on Tuesday from a trip to Kachin State and a visit to his family’s home in Meithila near Mandalay, a friend told the website. Ashin Gambira was staying at the home of his elder sister in Eastern Dagong Township in Rangoon when a car with four policemen arrived and took him away on Tuesday, the friend said.

On February 9, Ashin Gambira was detained for several hours by security police for allegedly breaking into monasteries that had been closed and locked up after the 2007 mass demonstrations.

Observes note that the current government seems to be especially sensitive to two areas of Burmese society: the sangha and the media. Ashin Gambira said after his release from prison that he was skeptical of the democratic reforms made by the newly elected government.

A biographical sketch on Wikipedia says: “U Gambira first became well known in August 2007, when high fuel and commodity prices in Yangon, Burma sparked a series of city-wide protests. The city's Buddhist monks took on a leadership role in these demonstrations, forming the All-Burma Monks' Alliance and lending the uprising its nickname of “the Saffron Revolution”, after the color of the monks' robes. U Gambira, a 29-year-old monk, became one of the new organization's leaders.”

“Following the protests, he went into hiding. His brother Aung Kyaw Kyaw was arrested on what the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners believes to be an attempt by the government to force U Gambira out of hiding. On 4 November, he published editorials in the Washington Post and The Guardian calling for the international community to continue sanctions against Burma's leadership, for Russia and China to cease supporting the military government on the United Nations Security Council, and for Burma's people to continue to peacefully protest against the military rulers.”

“The regime's use of mass arrests, murder, torture and imprisonment has failed to extinguish our desire for the freedom that was stolen from us so many years ago. We have taken their best punch”, he wrote in the Post.

“The same day, he was arrested in Sagaing Region; his father was arrested as well and held for one month in Mandalay prison. Human Rights Watch reported that U Gambira was stripped of his robes and "badly tortured" following his arrest.”
Last Updated ( Thursday, 08 March 2012 17:10 )  
The Kachin’s last stand
Since October this year, Burma has been in a state of civil war, with fighting between Burmese military and armed ethnic rebels. The ruling junta started a crackdown on these armed groups.

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