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Monk held after monastery raid

Nov 16, 2007 (DVB), A monk was beaten and taken from his monastery when government officials and supporters raided a monastery in New Dagon township yesterday, according to a local source.

Around 150 Union Solidarity and Development Association members, township Peace and Development Council officials and police officers raided Aung Dhamma Pala monastery in eastern New Dagon township, according to a local source close to the monastery.

One monk, U Sanda Wara, was beaten up and taken from the monastery, which was then ransacked by the officials.

They took U Sanda Wara, who is an ethnic Arakan, to Kaythara Rama monastery in nearby Lay Daung Kan village.

On their arrival at this monastery, the monks there told the government officials to release U Sanda Wara, who is responsible for looking after 700,000 kyat in funding for full moon day festivals.

But the officials would not release the monk, and instead left him at Kaythara Rama monastery while they went back to collect the money, also taking some other monastery property.

When they returned to Kaythara Rama monastery, they told the monk they had only found 200,000 kyats inside, but the monk insisted there had been 700,000, and he accused USDA and government officials of stealing the money.

Following this argument, the monk was taken away by the authorities.

His current whereabouts are unknown, and it is not clear if he has been charged with any offence.

Thirty-nine local monasteries have been involved in an ongoing dispute with the authorities over land ownership in the area.

The land on which the monasteries are built was sold to them by USDA members, but the land did not actually belong to these members and was not theirs to sell.

Despite the payments made by the monasteries to the USDA members for the land before the monasteries were built, the government is now saying that they must move from the land as it does not belong to them and they were not entitled to build there.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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