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Arrested Monk Refuses to Eat

Narinjara, August 2, 2010

Sittwe, Burma -- Ashion Pyinya Sara, an Arakanese historian monk who was arrested by military authorities on allegations of impropriety, has refused to eat since 27 July, when authorities detained him in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, reported a town elder.

He said, "I heard through an inside police source that Ashion Pyinya Sara has refused to take food since he was arrested by authorities. He is now in serious condition due to not eating for a long time."

57-year-old Ashion Pyinya Sara is being detained at Sittwe No. 1 police station for interrogation, without any formal remand from the court.

"There are many reports that he has been tortured severely by authorities during the interrogation. Since he was arrested, he has been brought to the interrogation cell several times where authorities questioned and tortured him. However, he has remained silent and not offered any information," the source said.

U Pyinya Sara is a well known Arakanese historian as well as a leading abbot of the Buddha Vihara Mahamuni orphanage in suburban Sittwe, where more than 100 orphans live and receive an education.

The military authority arrested him on charges that he was living with a woman against religious law, that he has been involved in politics, and that he buried many children in the orphanage compound without notifying authorities.

According to a local source, the authority arrested the monk soon after some officials from the NGO Martayzar, which provides food and educational support for children and women, complained to the military authority in Sittwe.

One analyst in Sittwe said, "The arrest of U Pyinya Sara is a little strange and different because the army's second commander of the Western Command himself participated in the arrest along with many soldiers. The allegations and arrest are not an army concern, but army officials were still involved in the arrest. It shows what authorities wanted to arrest him."

The army authority also seized many precious ancient antiques from the library of the orphanage, including ancient silver and gold Arakanese coins, Buddha statues, and palm-leaf inscriptions that have been collected by Ashion Pyinya Sara over the years.

Ashion Pyinya Sara is a respected historian who often revealed the history of Arakan through articles published in journals and magazines. The authority, however, sees this as behavior against the solidarity of the union.

It was learned that some Sittwe residents believe the authorities' accusations against Ashion Pyinya Sara, but others believe the charges are baseless.


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