Eight monks among prisoners released

Feb 23, 2009 (DVB), Eight monks were among 16 political prisoners released from Insein prison on Saturday, according to a monk who was arrested and imprisoned after the September 2007 monk-led protests.

Thirty-year-old monk U Thumana (also known as Zaw Min Latt) from Ananpin Shwe Umin monastery in north Okkalapa was sentenced to two years' imprisonment in November 2007.

U Thumana, a native of Chaungtha, said he is planning to ask the International Committee of the Red Cross to help him return home on Monday.

"I was in jail for 17 months. It’s not worth it. I was due to be released in four months' time. They (authorities) are mixing up our lives with political issues," U Thumana said.

"When they beat us up [during the September protests] I was wounded but escaped," he said.

"I was arrested in November when the situation was normal, when I was on my way to see my ailing mother."

U Thamana said the monks were interrogated inside the stationmaster's office in Rangoon railway station.

"They asked two head monks in Taungnyunt township to disrobe us but they refused," the monk said.

"They kept us in an interrogation centre for six days and sentenced us on 12 November 2007," he said.

"Some monks were sent to labour camps and some still remain in Insein prison."

U Thumana said he was sent to a plantation camp in Kyaikto township after six weeks in the police detention centre.

"Although we wore longyi, we continued to live the life of monks as we had not been [officially] disrobed," he said.

"The prison department used thugs armed with sticks to supervise us and beat us up. They said we were not real monks and that we had to work or they would beat us."

Nineteen political prisoners were among the 6313 granted amnesty by the military regime on Friday, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Despite the latest prisoner releases, monks and activists continue to be detained and sentenced.

Despite the latest prisoner releases, monks and activists continue to be detained and sentenced.

On 20 February, two more monks and their four helpers who were arrested in 2007 were sentenced to five years' imprisonment each on charges relating to possession of explosives.

Monks U Khemitta (also known as Ko Ko Thant) and U Wilatha (also known as Wai Min Tun) and lay helpers Kyaw Myo Min, San Toe, Thet Naing and Phyu Toke were from Mingala Taung Nyunt township’s Nan U monastery.

Reporting by Yee May Aung

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