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Hundreds of Mrauk-U residents were joined today by supporters from out of town in taking to the streets to protest the detention of a local Buddhist abbot who stands accused of organising a football match involving the outlawed Arakan Army (AA).
Rally organiser Mya Tha Htun told DVB that townsfolk want the police to release Abbot Nanda Thara, as well as a civilian, Khine Ni Min, who was also arrested, as soon as possible.
“The venerable abbot and Khine Ni Min were arrested for allegedly supporting the Arakan Army.” he said, speaking from the rally. “All they did was arrange a football match, and have ‘Arakan Army’ printed on the shirts. They have no relation with the AA.”
Another protest leader, Zaw Win, said the arrests were an abuse of power.
“We all saw the incident as a kick in the teeth for ethnic people in Burma,” he said. “Everybody has a right to freedom of religion. In this case, the abbot and the match organisers arranged for children’s entertainment, as well as educational speeches. It was not a show of support for the AA.”
Abbot Nanda Thara and Khine Ni Min were arrested on 10 April and charged with “having connections to an unlawful organisation” [Article 17(1) of the Penal Code].
Today’s protestors, which included schoolchildren in uniform, held placards and shouted slogans, calling for the release of the two detainees.
The abbot and Khine Ni Min are currently being held in Sittwe prison and are due to appear before a court on 24 April.