Monk given two-year sentence

Dec 7, 2009 (DVB), A monk who appeared at the Rangoon courtroom on the day Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced in August has been imprisoned for two years, family sources said.

Nyi Nyi San, also a member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, who had entered temporary monkhood, was arrested whilst walking away from the Insein prison courtroom on the day the verdict was given.

He has been sentenced on charges of defaming the Buddhist religion at the end of a trial held in Bahan township, Rangoon, where the NLD headquarters are based.

Nyi Nyi San was in temporary monkhood under the name of Ashin Sandatika at Daysunpa monastery in Bago division when the opposition leader began her trial.

"He requested permission from the abbot at the monastery where he was ordained [to attend the trial]," said a source. "He was arrested and pulled into a truck while on his way to the NLD office from Insein prison."

The source told DVB that Nyi Nyi San is suffering from a hernia. Prison doctors have reportedly told authorities that he needs medical attention.

The Burmese junta's treatment of monks, widely revered across the majority Buddhist population of Burma, was thrown into the spotlight in September 2007 as police opened fire on crowds of monks protesting in the streets of Rangoon, in what come to be known as the Saffron Revolution.

Video footage later emerged that showed the bodies of monks, still in their robes, who had been shot by police during the protests.

Suu Kyi was sentenced in August to a further 18 months under house arrest after US citizen John Yettaw intruded into her lakeside home-cum-prison. Judges alleged that her "sheltering" of Yettaw contravened the rules of her house arrest.

Scores gathered regularly at the heavily guarded gates of Insein prison throughout the trial. Eyewitnesses said that police had set up road blocks along the main arteries to the prison, and had regularly intimidated NLD supporters.

According to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), more than 250 of Burma's 2173 political prisoners are monks, while 433 are NLD members.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

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