Orphanage closed as police take children

Police have arrested a monk in Burma’s western Arakan state and closed the monastery in which he had sheltered around 120 trafficked children, all of whom have now been taken by the government.

The reasons for the arrest, which followed a complaint from a fellow committee member, remain unclear: police and a local child welfare NGO called Martayzar reportedly seized “political papers and documents”, said Khaing Pray Soe, secretary of the Rakhine [Arakan] National Development Party.

Narinjara news agency reported however that charges on Pyinyarsara, who runs the Mahamuni Buddha Wihara monastery in Sittwe, included political involvement, “living with a woman against religious law…and that he buried many children in the orphanage compound without notifying authorities,” although these have not been verified.

Forty-seven of the 120 children, aged between two and eight, were sent to Rangoon on 2 August and the rest to Sittwe Police Station 1. Sittwe is the capital of Arakan state. The station’s deputy police chief said however that he had no details on the monk or the children, and invited the DVB reporter to the station to further the enquiry.

Pyinyarsara, who also worked as an editor on two prominent news journals in Arakan state, had reportedly paid human traffickers for the children, whom he brought to the monastery and provided with education and accommodation. Khaing Pray Soe said that police cleared and shut the monastery on Monday afternoon.

“Now there is no one left there. All the belongings in the monastery, including the furniture, were confiscated by the Martayzar group and the police,” he said. Police also questioned Khaing Pray Soe and a colleague, likely in relation to the seized documents, but he has now been released.

The majority of trafficked Burmese children are thought to be sold to rackets in Thailand and other neighbouring countries to work as child beggars or in commercial sexual exploitation.

Statistics on the number of trafficked Burmese are hard to come by, but the US State Department has said in the past that annual figures could be in the thousands.

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