Anti-election monk sentenced to 15 years

A Burmese court yesterday sentenced a monk to 15 years in prison after he was arrested last year for taking part in an anti-elections campaign.

Monk Okkantha was tried by the prosecution in a closed court inside Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison. His sentencing coincided with the three-year anniversary of the September 2007 monk-led uprising, which has come to be known as the Saffron Revolution on account of the thousands of saffron-robed monks that took to the streets.

His lawyer, Khin Htay Kywe, said that three charges – the Press Law, the Electronics Act, and article 505(b), which is loosely translated as ‘disturbing public tranquillity’ – were levelled at Okkantha, each carrying a sentence of four years, 10 years and one year respectively.

He is accused of involvement in anti-election and anti-constitution campaigns in Moulmein, Mon state, in December 2009.

“He was charged with the article 505(b) and the Press Law after [authorities] claimed that they found some illegal documents at the monastery where he stayed and also charged with the Electronic Act under accusation that he provided information to the Mon News Agency,” said Khin Htay Kywe, adding that she will be seeking an appeal.

His sentencing brings the total number of monks behind bars in Burma to more than 255, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPPB). Many of these were rounded up following the Septeber 2007 uprising, which became the biggest show of defiance against the ruling junta since the 1988 student protests.

Monks are legally banned from voting or competing in the 7 November elections, Burma’s first in two decades. The revered community has long protested military rule in the Southeast Asian pariah, and certain factions continue to boycott religious services for the generals.

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