Myanmar monk who led rallies arrested

December 05, 2012 - 6:58:54 am

YANGON: A leader of Myanmar’s 2007 monk rallies has been arrested, an official said yesterday, in his latest brush with the law since being freed from jail along with hundreds of other political prisoners this year.

The 33-year-old, known as Gambira, was detained on Saturday evening according to his mother Daw Yay, who raised concerns over her son’s mental health.

A government official, who asked not to be named, confirmed that Gambira had been sent to Yangon’s notorious Insein prison and held over charges of “breaking into monasteries”. He did not give further details.

Gambira was one of hundreds of political prisoners freed by the regime in January. He was serving a 68-year jail term for his role in the monk-led “Saffron Revolution”, which was crushed by the military.

Daw Yay, who said her son had stopped being a monk since his release from prison, told a reporter that Gambira’s illness was “serious”.

“We are worried about him because he’s not in good health,” she said, adding that the family had heard there would be a trial on December 14.

Gambira, who goes by only one name, was detained briefly in February and March and accused of illegally entering and squatting in monasteries that were shut down after the 2007 protests.

His questioning by authorities drew sharp criticism from the United States and international rights campaigners.

Myanmar has released political prisoners as part of wide-ranging reforms under a new quasi-civilian regime that replaced outright military rule last year.

The sweeping changes have been hailed by Western countries, who have rolled back tough sanctions against the former pariah state while pressing for further efforts on rights.

Daw Yay said she had tried to explain to authorities that her son did not understand the law and had not realised that the monasteries had been closed down during his time in prison.