Abbot denies reports of raid and arrest

Sep 8, 2008 (DVB), An abbot who was reported by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners to have been arrested in a raid on Marlayon monastery has denied the story and told DVB that no raid took place.

AAPP had received information that the a group of around 23 people came to the monastery in the early hours of 5 September in three trucks, ordered the monks to lie face down on the floor while they searched the premises and then left, taking the abbot with them.

But Ashin Thilawuntha, abbot of Marlayon monastery in Bogyoke village, Than Lyin township, categorically denied the reports.

"[A truck] didn't arrive, and they didn't come to see me. We were out collecting food offerings," he said.

U Thilawuntha said that the monks in his monastery did not get involved in politics.

"We have only old men, religious people here. We can't go anywhere," he said.

"I myself am not in good health, I don't go anywhere. I concentrate on spiritual matters," he said.

"There are 14 novices here, all men of 60 to 80 years and over who are concentrating on religious matters."

U Thilawuntha said he did not know where the reports had come from, and said that when he first heard the rumours, he thought they may be referring to a different monastery.

"Nothing like this could happen in our monastery," he said.

"There is no interrogation and so forth from anyone , only my followers come to ask me questions. Some ask me by phone as they are worried."

Ko Tate Naing of the AAPP said that the organisation had been given precise information and had carried out all the necessary checks to confirm its credibility.

"We carried out further investigations based on the news story we received," Tate Naing said.

"We also learned more about the monks. The information was very precise and we we asked the necessary questions," he said.

"We also learned that the monk was someone who lives quietly and we also know that he was venerated by General Khin Nyunt and his wife," he went on.

"And we were told very precisely that there was a DINA truck owned by the township Peace Development Council, and two other pick-up trucks; one white and the other saffron."

Tate Naing said that it was possibly that the AAPP's source had deliberately provided false information.

"If there was some kind of pressure from the SPDC on the person who gave us the information, then that would change the situation.

"If that person deliberately provided us with false news, it could be that that person was under great pressure to do so."

Reporting by Yee May Aung

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