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Maggin abbot pressured to leave Rangoon

Dec 3, 2007 (DVB), Amid widespread condemnation of the closure of Maggin monastery last week by government officials, the acting head monk of the monastery is under pressure to return to his home town.

U Nandiya, who had been the temporary head monk at Maggin monastery since the arrest of his son, the previous abbot, is currently staying at an agricultural monastery in Yankin township, Rangoon.

The monastery has been under close watch by government security officials.

The authorities have been putting pressure on the 80-year-old monk to return to his hometown in Myothit, Magwe division, and have said that three young novices and one monastery student will be sent to accompany him.

Government officials had first planned to send him back home on the express bus, but cancelled these plans when they found that people were planning to greet the monk when he arrived at the bus station.

As of 2 December, U Nandiya remained in Rangoon.

The closure of Maggin monastery, which also housed HIV/AIDS patients, has been widely criticised by monks, activists and international groups.

In Bangkok yesterday at 10am, about 30 Burmese monks, university students and Muslims held a protest against the closure.

United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari denounced the government's closure of the monastery at a press conference in Cambodia, where he is hoping to gain the government's support for UN efforts in Burma.

"[A]ny action that runs counter to the spirit of national reconciliation in an all-inclusive manner, any action that will inflame passions, any actions that will undermine the dialogue between the Government and those who disagree with the policies of the Government should be avoided," said Gambari.

The decision was also criticised by prominent HIV/AIDS activist Phyu Phyu Tin, the International Burmese Monks Organisation, and Burmese monks in India.

The National Council of the Union of Burma said in a statement issued 30 November that it "strongly condemns these pressures on the religious community" and demanded that the government stop immediately.

Maggin monastery has been targeted for raids and arrests on previous occasions since the September protests, including on 3 October when U Nandiya was arrested along with seven others.

The former head monk of the monastery in 1988 was later imprisoned for eight years for writing an article criticising the regime's suppression.

From the time of his release until his death a few years ago, he travelled the world promoting Buddhism.

Reporting by Maung Too, Yee May Aung and Khin Maung Soe Min

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