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Dec 15, 2009 (DVB), A large group of monks protesting against the arrest of a fellow monk in central Burma have reportedly vandalized government property and encouraged attacks on police, an eye-witness said.
The clash was triggered after police at a pagoda festival in Bago division's Shwe Thalyaung town yesterday arrested a young monk who had climbed aboard a stage. The exact reason for the arrest is unclear.
An eye-witness said that around 60 monks then gathered at the police station and demanded his release.
"They came out and shouted, 'If you see the police beat them up'," he said. "They smashed signboards and offices of local authorities, and they also smashed a police security post. They were looking for the police that night [but] there were no police there."
A local police officer confirmed the incident but refused to give further details, saying only that the station commander had attended a meeting "in connection with that incident".
Police stopped the festivities as soon as the incident occurred but yesterday allowed it to resume for another week.
It is not known which monastery the detained monk is from. Locals in the town said that a number of monks from rural areas are staying in Shwe Thalyaung to prepare for religious examinations.
Monks are widely revered in the predominantly Buddhist country, but have come under increase intimidation from the ruling junta following their role in the September 2007 uprising.
More than 250 monks are currently detained in Burmese prisons, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP).
Human Rights Watch reported in September, on the anniversary of the 2007 uprising, that at least nine imprisoned monks were in poor health, and many were being subjected to torture.
Despite monks normally being an apolitical community, their prominence in the 2007 uprising led to it being referred to as the 'Saffron Revolution'.
Reporting by Naw Noreen