Nationalist Monk Denied Bail Over 2016 US Embassy Protest

By Htun Htun 14 November 2017

YANGON — Kamayut Township court in Yangon on Tuesday denied bail to U Parmoukkha, a Buddhist monk who was disrobed and detained on Sunday for staging a protest without permission last year.

U Parmoukkha was one of three Buddhist monks who were charged alongside four nationalists in August last year under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code and Section 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law for staging a protest in front of the US Embassy over the embassy’s use of the term “Rohingya.”

The nationalists, and many in Burma’s government, refer to the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are migrants from Bangladesh.

The court granted U Parmoukkha bail of 2 million kyats for the charge under Section 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law, but refused it for a related charge under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code.

Violations of Section 505(b) are punishable by a maximum of two years in prison, a fine, or both, while Article 19 carries a maximum sentence of three months’ imprisonment.

“We’ll appeal to the district court to get bail,” said U Aung Myaing, a lawyer acting for U Parmoukkha.

As of last week, U Parmoukkha and two other monks — U Pyinnya Wuntha and U Thuseitta of the Patriotic Monks Union — had still not been arrested for their role in the protest even though four nationalists who participated in the protest were sentenced to six months in prison under the same two charges in September by the same court.

U Parmoukkha was finally detained on Sunday when he went to North Dagon police station to seek permission to stage a protest over the alleged confiscation and sale of a land plot by Yangon municipality to a third party.

“Before this, Sayadaw [U Parmoukkha] had appeared at many events including the court before the very eyes of the police, but they didn’t arrest him,” said Ko Sithu Mayint, a disciple of U Parmaukkha.

“Sayadaw was not hiding. Police have only just arrested him, and I think it is because authorities were concerned that their [alleged] wrongdoing in issuing the land permits would be revealed,” he said.

As of yesterday, it was not clear whether the police would arrest the other two monks. The court hearing for U Parmoukkha was set for Nov. 21.

After the arrest, police brought U Parmoukkha to the Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, the regional Buddhist authority in Yangon, and asked him to leave the monkhood, which he refused to do.