Mon, Feb 20, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Activist monk faces trial in Myanmar

POLITICAL ACTIVITY?Gambira has broken regulations by breaking into monasteries that were closed by the government after the 2007 monk-led ‘Saffron Revolution’

AFP, YANGON, MYANAMR

A leading dissident Buddhist monk who was among hundreds of political prisoners released last month is to face trial in Myanmar, state media said yesterday.

Gambira “will have to face the charges of squatting” in one monastery in Yangon and breaking into two others, which led to him being detained briefly by police earlier this month, according to the state-run New Light of Myanmar.

The newspaper said authorities “are taking legal steps to bring [him] to trial.”

Gambira was one of scores of political prisoners freed last month, cutting short a 68-year jail term imposed for his key role in 2007 mass protests known as the “Saffron Revolution,” which were brutally crushed by the former junta.

The monk was taken away by authorities early on Feb. 10 and released that night.

His detention drew sharp criticism from the US.

Myanmar’s release of about 500 political prisoners since October last year has been hailed by Western countries, which have long demanded the freeing of such detainees before they would consider lifting sanctions.

Since being let out of prison last month, Gambira has breached regulations by breaking into monasteries closed by the government after the monk-led demonstrations, a government official said on the day he was detained.

The New Light said that after questioning Gambira was taken to senior monks who reprimanded him for his behavior and “wished for legal actions” against him after he admonished them for not helping jailed monks.

Myanmar ostensibly civilian government, which came to power in March last year after almost half a century of outright military rule, has surprised critics with its apparent desire to reform and open up to the outside world.

A key sign of change has been the acceptance of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party into the political mainstream after more than two decades of marginalization.

The opposition leader, released from house arrest soon after a 2010 election, has been allowed to run for parliament in April 1 by-elections.

Observers and the international community are set to closely watch the polls after widespread criticism and accusations of cheating in 2010, and have called on the government to ensure they are free and fair.

The 2007 protests that landed Gambira in jail began as small rallies against the rising cost of living, but escalated into massive anti-government demonstrations led by crowds of monks.

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