Legal group calls for an end to forcible disrobing of monks

Sep 3, 2008 (DVB), The Burma Lawyers' Council has demanded that the junta abolish state law 20/90 on religious organisations and stop the practice of forcibly disrobing monks and trying them at civil courts.

The BLC's U Myo said the practice of handcuffing monks and not allowing them to wear their robes in court contravene prison regulations and should be stopped immediately.

The BLC's demand was prompted by the regime's treatment of monks in detention, including high profile monk leader U Gambira, U Myo said.

"In the case of Sayadaw Ashin Gambira, he will not attend court tomorrow [3 September] because the trial of a disrobed monk damages the dignity of the monks and the Sasana [Buddhist congregation]," he said.

U Myo pointed out that U Gambira, one of the leaders of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, had been prevented from observing his religious duties such as wearing robes when he appeared in court recently.

"According to the prison handbook, try monks in this way, disrobed, is not allowed. Articles 64, 65 and 66 of the prison handbook state that the prison must issue robes.

"Now they are not only being prevented from donning robes, they are also being forced to disrobe," he said.

"They have no law that says you can turn someone from a genuine monk into a civilian. You are not allowed to do that, it is an insult to the Sasana."

U Myo criticised the law for making monks accountable to the government instead of to religious authorities.

"As monks are not allowed to handle the affairs of monks and they are still under the mechanism of [state] power, monks are being oppressed," U Myo said.

"That's why we are demanding the abolition of this law."

U Gambira has also raised the issue of the forcible disrobing of monks in a meeting with United Nations special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana in August.

More than 700 monks have been arrested and imprisoned since 1988, 19 of whom have died in prisons and hard labour camps, according to a statement issued by the BLC today.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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