Pagoda closed to Taunggok NLD members

Feb 12, 2008 (DVB), Several Taunggok National League for Democracy members who went to Phaung Taw Oo pagoda to offer a meal to monks to mark Union Day were denied entry by pagoda officials.

Taunggok NLD deputy chairman U Than Pe said that NLD members and around 50 young people went to the pagoda at 8am this morning to hold a candlelight vigil and offer food to the monks for the 61st anniversary of Union Day.

"Upon arrival at the pagoda we found that pagoda authorities had locked all the entrance gates," Than Pe said.

"There were about 30 government security troops, armed with shields, batons and other lethal weapons, and about 20 people in civilian clothing, led by township police chief Win Aung Ne, waiting at the east entrance gates of the pagoda."

Than Pe said the group stayed there until about 8.30am trying to convince the officials to let them in.

"We kept asking them to open the gates for us as we did not mean any harm and were only trying to go inside to make merit," he said.

"But they said they could not let us pass as they had been given orders by senior authorities."

The group eventually gave up trying to enter the pagoda and instead went back to NLD chairman U Kyaw Khine's house, where they offered a meal to about 50 monks.

But Than Pe said the security forces continued to harass them after they returned to the house.

"Several armed policemen and government officials, led by the deputy police chief Maung San, followed us to the house and started searching everyone’s bags and belongings," he explained.

"We asked them what they were trying to do and they said they were searching for a camera we had used to take photos of the security forces in front of the pagoda earlier, but we did not take any."

Union Day commemorates the signing of the Panglong Agreement in 1947, which united the Burman people with other ethnic groups in their struggle for independence.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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