Monks intimidated close to 2007 anniversary

Sept 3, 2009 (DVB), Several Burmese monks have been arrested and others intimidated by authorities as the two-year anniversary of the September 2007 uprising approaches, according to sources inside Burma.

A monk in central Burma's Mandalay division said recently that a local government-led Monk Adminstration committee had warned monks in the area to avoid political activities.

This follows the arrest last week of several monks in various parts of Burma in what appears to be a campaign by the government to intimidate the normally apolitical community in the run-up to the anniversary of the monk-led uprising.

A monk in Magwe division's Chauk township, U Thumana, was taken by authorities on 29 August. The reason for his arrest and his current whereabouts are unknown.

U Thumana is originally from the town of Pakokku, which became the flashpoint of the 2007 uprising after police broke up a peaceful demonstration on 5 September, injuring three monks.

Two monks in Pakokku were arrested last week by government officials. One of them was identified as U Weithuda from West Monastery in the town, said a local monk.

"Some people came to U Weithuda's monastery and told him there was a girl waiting for him in a teashop near the monastery," said the monk.

"He went with him and they arrested him when he reached the outside [of the monastery compound]."

Two other monks in the division's Yaynanchaung were also briefly took by authorities and questioned.

Monks are widely revered amongst Burma's majority Buddhist population, and were thus heavily influential in the September 2007 uprising.

Although by protocol monks are apolitical, the community withdrew religious services for the country's military generals during the uprising.

Some of the estimated 138 fatalities from September 2007 were monks, with eye-witness accounts of troops beating and smashing the heads of monks against walls.

The government is now on high alert, with residents in Irrawaddy division capital Bassein saying authorities were keeping close watch on monks.

"The other day, about 20 monks from Hantharwaddy monastery came outside of their compound to clean a sewer in front of it," said a Bassein local.

"That alarmed the local authorities [who thought the monks were protesting] who dispatched a lot of police to the monastery."

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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