Rights group highlights persecution of Burma monks

Sept 22, 2009 (DVB), A US-based rights group has condemned the ongoing persecution of Buddhist monks in Burma on the second anniversary of the September 2007 monk-led uprising.

With as many as 240 monks serving "tough sentences", a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report details via testimonies the continued oppression, intimidation and surveillance of the monks over the past two years.

The report, 'The Resistance of Monks', claims that at least seven of the detained monks are in poor health as a result of their ongoing detention, with many being subjected to torture.

The reverence of monks in Burma was illustrated during the 2007 uprising, which came to be known as the Saffron Revolution after footage was released of thousands of saffron-robed monks marching through the streets.

The report suggests that the ongoing repression of monks is an attempt by the junta to stem their influence, given their position "at the forefront of social movements", according to the report's author, Bertil Lintner.

Furthermore, the number of monks "has decreased drastically since 2007" with many "young monks taking off the robe and going back to the village", Lintner said, adding that "many are scared".

Today's report goes on to say that a repeat of the 2007 protests is a "very real" prospect with little credible political reform having been enacted in the run-up to controversial elections next year.

Earlier this month a number of monks reported being intimidated by authorities, with at least four arrested. Many said that they had been warned not to take part in potential protests this year.

A previous HRW report released last week on political prisoners preempted the release of around 100 detained activists, journalists and politicians.

Critics of the junta, such as opposition National League for Democracy member Win Tin, said it was done for cosmetic purposes, "like putting make-up on a dead person's face".

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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