Nationalist Monk Arrested After a Long Run

By Htet Khaung Lin 12 June 2019

YANGON—Nationalist Buddhist monk U Pyinya Wuntha, who became a fugitive nearly two years ago when cases were opened against him for public mischief, was finally arrested and sent to prison Monday, according to the Yangon Police Force.

The monk was charged under Article 505 (b) of the Penal Code, which prohibits committing an offense against the state or public tranquility, in August 2017, after taking part in a four-day-long anti-government sit-in organized by nationalists near the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon.

He was also prosecuted separately under the same article for instigating communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Yangon’s Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township in May of that year.

On May 15 this year, he appeared with other nationalists to force the shutdown a number of temporary Muslim worship sites in Yangon’s South Dagon Township.

On Monday the monk was seen in downtown Yangon at a prayer rally in support of U Wirathu, another leading nationalist Buddhist monk who is in hiding from government charges of sedition.

Police Lt-Col Hla Yi of the Yangon Police Force told The Irrawaddy that U Pyinya Wuntha was arrested after the rally Monday evening.

“He was arrested on a warrant issued by Bahan Township Court,” Hla Yi said, referencing the township where the 2017 sit-in had taken place. He did not explain why it had taken nearly two years to make the arrest. An on-duty officer at the Bahan Police Station said the monk was remanded and sent to Insein Prison right after the arrest.

If found guilty, the monk’s imprisonment may be extended to two years, he may be fined, or both.

U Pyinya Wuntha is the only nationalist monk to be arrested by Yangon police since U Wirathu’s arrest warrant was issued late last month.

U Wirathu, who is being charged under Article 124 (a) of the Penal Code, remains at large. On Tuesday, Yangon’s Western District Court announced that he will be tried in abstentia.

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