Gambira Moved to Insein Prison to Face Additional Charges

By Zarni Mann 27 June 2016

MANDALAY — Rangoon authorities moved Nyi Nyi Lwin, a former monk better known as U Gambira, from Mandalay’s Obo prison to Rangoon’s Insein prison on Sunday to face additional criminal charges.

Gambira’s family was informed that he now faces charges for allegedly trespassing and breaking into Rangoon monasteries that authorities had sealed after the 2007 Saffron Revolution.

He is currently being held at Insein prison and the court date has not been set, said Daw Yae, his mother.

A court in Mandalay Division’s Maha Aung Myay Township sentenced the former monk in April to six months in prison with hard labor for allegedly crossing the Thai-Burma border without an official visa—charges that human rights groups labeled as politically motivated.

While detained, Gambira petitioned unsuccessfully for bail, citing mental health issues that resulted from severe torture while imprisoned by the former military regime for his involvement in the 2007 pro-democracy uprising led by Buddhist clergy.  He is still receiving medical care for these issues.

“We do not understand why authorities still want to keep him in prison and are unearthing cases from 2012 just days before his release,” his mother added.

His six-month sentence, after time already served while detained and facing charges, would have ended July 1.

During the 2007 uprising, local authorities cracked down on thousands of protestors; hundreds of monks were arrested and several monasteries were raided and sealed off.

In 2012, shortly after a mass pardon leading to his release, U Gambira allegedly broke into some of these sealed monasteries, attempting to stay in them and stating that Buddhist monks should be permitted to live in their monasteries.

“This action defames the image of the new government and affects national tranquility because we have doubts now that the police and Ministry of Home Affairs are changing,” said lawyer Robert San Aung who will assist Gambira during the upcoming trials.

“Resurrecting old, unjust cases from the era of the quasi-civilian government is suspicious. We need to ask if the new government has the authority to govern fully under the rule of law, or if the police and home affairs ministry are creating distrust between the government and the people,” he added.