Two monasteries barricaded by Burmese authorities during the September 2007 monk-led uprisings have been allowed to reopen, despite apparent lingering concerns by the government that such sites remain hubs for political organising by the opposition.
One of the two is Maggin Monastery in Rangoon, where hundreds of monks found shelter during the bloody crackdown. Prominent monk leader Ashin Gambira was briefly detained by authorities last week for allegedly forcing the lock on the door to the monastery, but officials have now declared it open.
The Maggin abbot, U Eindaka, said the decision to unseal the building on 10 February was done with “no strings attached – it went all peacefully”.
On the same day the Shwetaung monastery in Rangoon’s Pazundaung township was also reopened. Abbot U Pyi Kyaw said it appeared the head of Burma’s powerful government-backed monastic committee, the Sangha Maha Nayaka, had urged the government to drop the blockade on both sites.
That decision comes only weeks after the committee demanded that Ashin Pyinya Thiha, abbot at the Thardu monastery in Rangoon, be evicted. Head monks had described him as “disobedient” after he spoke at the National League for Democracy’s headquarters in Mandalay last September, despite a ban on him giving public speeches.
He also met with visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November last year.
Two other monasteries shut after the 2007 uprising and forced open by monks have also been resealed indefinitely. Monks who had squatted the Sasana Theikpan and Sasana Gonyi monasteries for the past month have been relocated.
Much of the activity has taken place since the 13 January release of political prisoners, which include dissident monks like U Gambira. The 32-year-old had spent more than four years in jail for his pivotal role in the uprising, and suffered severe torture.
The Sangha Maha Nayaka also last week blocked a ceremony for the reordination of around 40 monks released in January on the grounds that it had a “political agenda”.