Saffron Revolution Leader Gambira Re-Arrested on Immigration Charge

By Zarni Mann 20 January 2016

MANDALAY — U Gambira, a former monk and leading figure of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, was arrested in Mandalay on Tuesday on a charge of illegal border crossing.

Police said Gambira, also known as Nyi Nyi Lwin, will appear in court on Wednesday for an immediate hearing.

“The immigration officers are questioning him and will present to the Maha Aung Myay Courthouse today,” a police officer from the township told The Irrawaddy, adding that the charge does not allow for release on bail.

Gambira’s wife, Australian citizen Marie Siochana, said the couple traveled to Mandalay to apply for a passport, and that police apprehended him from their hotel room. Gambira has lived primarily in Thailand since he was released from prison in a 2012 amnesty.

“I think the immigration officials think he went to Thailand illegally. Actually, he has the official permit and a non-Thai immigration card,” Siochana said.

Gambira is one of Burma’s most prominent political prisoners; he was arrested shortly after the Saffron Revolution for his role in organizing monks to participate in the uprising. He was forcibly disrobed upon his detention.

Since his release in 2012, he has struggled with mental health issues and sought treatment in Thailand. While traveling back and forth between Thailand and Burma, he has been re-arrested at least four times on various charges largely viewed as spurious.

“I’m worried about him because he can’t get bail,” Siochana said. “He is mentally ill and needs to take medicine regularly. He needs to look after his health, and I wonder why they still want to arrest him.”

Gambira is currently being held at the No. 9 Police Station in Mandalay, and his hearing will proceed on Wednesday afternoon.