Dissident Monk Ashin Gambira Disrobes

By Zarni Mann 20 April 2012

Prominent Buddhist monk Ashin Gambira, one of the main leaders of the crushed Saffron Revolution anti-government demonstrations, has disrobed and returns to layman status after he was refused sanctuary by several monasteries.

“He has to live back at home as no other monasteries will allow him to stay there,” his mother, Daw Yay, told The Irrawaddy. “As the Buddhist lent of Waso is drawing near, it is impossible for him to spend this time at home. So, he decided to renounce the monkhood and disrobed on April 17.”

Gambira was sentenced to 63 years imprisonment after the brutal junta crackdown against the monk-led popular uprising of September 2007. He was released during the presidential amnesty in January but has continued to be a thorn in the side of the Burmese authorities.

In February, Gambira was briefly detained once again on allegations that he broke into three Rangoon monasteries which were sealed by the government for being hotbeds of the dissident movement within the Buddhist clergy.

He was also apprehended and interrogated by police in March after returning from a visit to refugees in Kachin State. Gambira has also clashed with the Buddhist hierarchy in Burma for refusing to toe the line and dampen his fierce anti-government rhetoric.

Shortly after his release from a 24-hour detention, state-run newspapers described him as being “under a complete political spell” and the authorities announced fresh legal charges against him were under way.

Since then, as monasteries no longer welcomed him because of his outspoken views, he has had to stay at the homes of relatives and later moved back to live with his parents in Meikhtila, Mandalay Division.

“Although the new government says that the country is now a democracy, the way they treat monks who have been released from prison is unreasonable,” said his mother. “So we would like to request that monasteries, the senior abbots of country and the authorities accept those monks who have been released from jail.”

There are widespread reports of Buddhist monks and nuns who were released from prison during the recent amnesty and have disrobed, while others stay with relatives due to the unwelcoming nature of monasteries.