Two Monks Arrested in Drug Raids on Two Buddhist Monasteries in Mandalay

By Zarni Mann 17 October 2018

MANDALAY—Mandalay police arrested four men including two Buddhist monks and seized drugs from two monasteries in Mandalay’s Pyigyidagun and Patheingyi townships on Sunday and Monday.

Pyigyidagun police raided the Chanmyatharzi meditation center and seized over 41.9 million kyats worth of methamphetamine tablets hidden in a speaker and bookshelves.

Ashin Arsina, 52, also known as U Aye Kyaw, was disrobed and arrested for possessing the drugs.

“He has been a monk for 13 years. We believe he used his status as a monk as a cover for his drug dealing. He is now in police custody and we will take him to court under the anti-narcotics law,” Mandalay district police chief Police Colonel Myo Aung told journalists on Wednesday.

The arrest followed a tip from the President’s Office that drugs were being sold from the meditation center. President U Win Myint recently invited members of the public with information about the illegal drug trade to report it to his office or to local authorities.

On Monday, Patheingyi Township police arrested a monk and two other men with heroin and other drugs worth over 6,000,000 kyats at Thatipathan monastery, located at the foot of Yankin Hill.

Cases were opened against Ashin Sandawbartha  (also known as U Soe Moe), 49, who had been in the monkhood for about 18 years; Ar Chan (also known as Myo Myint), 49; and Aung Latt, 28, under the anti-narcotics law. Police said they were investigating another person in relation to the case.

“In this case, local residents informed us directly and we were able to arrest them in time. There are many cases of drug abuse that police do not know about. Thanks to the president’s instructions and invitation to report drug abuse directly to his office or to other responsible departments or local authorities, we were able to take action against these drug dealers,” Police Col. Myo Aung said.

Police said it was not uncommon for drug dealers to enter the monkhood as a cover for their illegal activities inside monasteries, and welcomed any further information from the public.

“We’ve arrested these kinds of people in the past. Taking cover under Buddhist monks’ robes to commit crimes is an ugly stain on the country and the whole Buddhist community. We police need cooperation from the public [to fight it], as we cannot know everything,” he said.