Leading monk flees Burma for Thailand

Feb 12, 2008 (DVB), U Pyinya Zawta, a monk from Rangoon's Maggin monastery and a leader of the All-Burmese Monks Alliance, arrived at the Thai-Burma border recently after more than four months in hiding.

U Pyinya Zawta, who is 48 years old, said that he stayed constantly on the move to evade government authorities seeking to arrest him.

"I stayed hidden inside Burma by moving from place to place every four or five days with the assistance of my lay followers," U Pyinya Zawta explained.

"All the other monks in my group were in the same situation as I was. I finally decided to come out after realizing I was putting my followers in more and more danger by hiding at their places."

U Pyinya Zawta criticised the government's decision to close down Maggin monastery on 29 November last year.

"Maggin monastery is a lecturing monastery which was teaching Buddhist wisdom to a lot of Sangha," he said.

"It also provided food and shelter for HIV/AIDS victims from across the country. It was a great loss for both the Sasana and HIV patients when the government decided to close it down."

Maggin monastery had been targeted for raids and arrests prior to its closure due to the involvement of its monks in the September protests last year.

U Pyinya Zawta highlighted the regime's harassment of monks in the aftermath of the demonstrations, and said that the National Head Monks Association had failed in its responsibility to solve the dispute with the government and protect fellow monks.

"A lot of monks were arrested after the 2007 September protests, and some were even sent to remote prison work camps in various locations afterwards," he said.

"That makes the monks feel like the government is trying to wipe them out."

U Pyinya Zawta was sceptical about the government's recently-stated plans for a referendum on the proposed constitution in May this year.

"In 1974, general Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party wrote a new constitution and forced a national referendum on it, resulting in the country sinking deep into poverty," he said.

"Now the SPDC government is doing the same thing again and this is going to push the nation to rock bottom. All the people of Burma should play their part in opposing this referendum."

Reporting by Than Win Htut

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