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Monk Jailed for Anti-Electioneering
by Rohingya Human Rights
2010-10-03 08:53:46
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On the third anniversary of the monk-led mass demonstrations in September 2007 and ahead of the Nov.7 Elections, a special court held in Rangoon's notorious Insein Prison on Monday sentenced a monk to 15 years imprisonment with hard labor for anti-election campaigning.
“Ashin Ukkamsa was sentenced for 10 years under the electronic act, four years under the press registration act, and one more year under act 505-B— so all including, he gets 15 years in jail,” said Khin Htay Kywe, the monk’s defense lawyer who spoke to The Irrawaddy on Monday.
“The court reached the verdict even though prosecutors failed to provide solid evidence or strong testimony during the trial,” she said, adding the monk was forced to disrobe when he was arrested. 

Ukkamsa, an ethnic Mon, was arrested in January in Thanbyuzayat Township carrying anti-election flyers as well documents in a laptop device. Shortly after interrogation, he was transferred to Insein Prison. A man who was arrested with the monk was later released after interrogation.
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma, a Thailand-based Burmese human rights group, said Burma currently keeps 256 monks and six nuns in prison.
To mark the anniversary of the monk-led demonstrations in 2007, which also came to be known as the Saffron Revolution and was the biggest anti-military protest in two decades,  Burmese monks around the world called for the release of all detained monks and reform of the state monastic council.
“The state monastic council should deal with the affairs of the 'Sangha' [monks] and 'Sasana' [Buddhism], but the current council is doing whatever the ruling junta wants and cannot therefore represent monks,” said Ashin Pyanna Jota of the Indian branch of Sasana Moli, the international Burmese monks organization.
Meanwhile, Ashin Pyanna Sara, a monk and keen researcher of Arakan history, is due to be sentenced by the district court in Sittwe, Arakan State, on Wednesday. He was arrested in July for alleged sexual misconduct.
However, local sources refute the accusation, suggesting there were other motivations as the monk was actively engaged in beneficial social programs and ran a school for more than 150 orphans. 
Revered by the public and the strongest institution in Burma after the military, Burma's 400,000 monks represent a potential threat to the military, which has about 350,000 troops.
When monks attempted to compromise in politics, the junta reacted with a brutal crackdown, murdering, beating up,  arresting and forcibly disrobing monks and ransacking monasteries, observers said.
Since the 1988 military coup, the monks have challenged the junta twice, refusing to perform religious rituals for the military and their families in 1990 and 2007. The boycotts were a strong moral shock to the superstitious military officials in the majority Buddhist country.
Under Burmese law, monks are barred from voting and running for office in the country, but observers said monks played a significant role in the 1990 elections favoring pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, which won 82 percent of constituencies.
In 2008, nearly one year after the Saffron Revolution, the junta held a national referendum on the constitution. During the referendum, government security forces deterred monks from approaching polling centers.

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