Burma seizes protest leader monk weeks after his release in amnesty

Unrepentant activist behind Saffron uprising 'taken away' from monastery in night raid

A young monk who helped organise the 2007 "Saffron Revolution" has been detained by the Burmese authorities just weeks after he was released in a prisoner amnesty, a move that raises questions over the country's commitment towards reform.

Ashin Gambira, 33, was among hundreds of political prisoners freed last month by the government, cutting short a sentence of more than 60 years. But unlike many of the protesters, the outspoken monk has refused to soften his criticism of the government or his demands for more freedom.

Having been released after being sentenced to 68 years imprisonment, he set about reopening a number of monasteries that had been sealed or even damaged by the authorities following the 2007 uprising. Mr Gambira claimed they had permission to do so, but the authorities apparently disagreed.

According to information posted on the activist's Facebook page and quoting the monk's brother, Ko Aung Kyaw Kyaw, officials arrested him at around 2am, having gone to the Ledi monastery in Rangoon where he and others were staying. Mr Gambira's sister, Ma Lwin, who lives in a refugee camp in Thailand, confirmed that her brother had been taken but had no further details.

An official from the home ministry told the Associated Press that the monk had been "taken away for questioning in relation to incidents that happened after his release". Last night, there were no details about his whereabouts and whether he was to be charged or released.

The detention of Mr Gambira, and its nocturnal nature, will be of deep concern to observers of Burma as the country enters a sensitive period of change.

Since President Thein Sein came to office last year, heading a nominally civilian government, prisoners have been released, restrictions on the media lifted and even small protests allowed. The changes have earned widespread praise and seen a number of high-level diplomatic visitors make their way to Burma, as the West prepares to engage with the once-shunned nation.

Yet a number of commentators have questioned how deep and lasting the developments may be and have pointed out that as of yet there have not been any major legislative reforms.

When he was released from Myaungmya prison on 13 January, Mr Gambira told reporters he had been forced to endure solitary confinement and terrible conditions. "Burma still has a long way to go," he said. "Although they are releasing prisoners now, they still have characteristics of the dictatorship."

Since then, he has been formally readmitted to the monastic community after having his status stripped by the authorities while he was in jail.

According to a report on The Irrawaddy website, having initially moved into the Maggin monastery in Rangoon, known as a hotbed of anti-government activity during the 2007 uprising, the government-approved Buddhist Council subsequently ordered Mr Gambira and four other monks to leave. The council claimed the monastery had not received official permission to reopen.

The monk and his colleagues then moved to the nearby Ledi monastery but the council again disapproved, summoning Mr Gambira three times to make a formal apology. He ignored the calls.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £32,000 Uncapped

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

£7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Officer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It's an exciting time for this ...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones