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Hundreds of Shan monks pinched in crackdown

SHAN, October 10, 2007

Rangoon, Burma -- A Shan cleric who recently escaped to Thailand has confirmed that more than a hundred Shan monks were among those detained by the ruling military junta during the crackdown launched two weeks earlier.

"The Pinnya Ramika temple in (Rangoon's) Botahtaung township where I stayed alone had more than a hundred Shan boarders out of a total of 400 plus," said the 22-year old monk, a native of one of the townships in the Shan State East. "All of us except the abbot and his two deputies (Taik-Ok) were detained. Only 9 escaped arrest by climbing up into the attic."

The monastery was raided at 03:00 on 27 September, a day after the violent clampdown began. "The military surrounded the temple, woke up the abbot and ordered him to beat the brass gong," he said.

According to him, the monks were instructed to assemble at the messhall and told they had been invited to breakfast at the Kaba Aye (World Peace Pagoda). "We piled up on the trucks waiting outside the temple grounds," he said. "But when the trucks drove past the Kaba Aye and then Insein without stopping, we knew we were in for a Heaven-knows-how-long ordeal."

The group at least arrived at the Mingladon military prison outside Rangoon where they were locked up in crowded cells. "There were at least over 1,000 detainees, including 600 monks," he estimated.

Later in the day, some elderly monks, believed to be sympathetic to the military, arrived with new "lay people's clothes" and ordered them to put them on, discarding the standard saffron robes worn by Buddhist monks.

"Day and night, one monk after another was taken out of the cells to be interrogated," he recalled. "Some returned with swollen heads and bruised bodies, others with bent backs or limps.'You are no longer monks', the guards liked to tell us, 'You are just bald-heads now'".

The young monk, who asked not to be identified as he had left a number of relatives back in his hometown, said he, together with 70 monks, were released on 4 October, "probably through the good offices of our abbot."

The exact number of Shan monks detained along with Burmese monks would not be known, according to other sources. Rangoon and Mandalay have been centers of learning both for lay people and monks from the Shan hills.

"My elder brother is among those arrested in Mandalay," said a businessman in Tachilek. "I haven't heard from him for a week. But the last time he called me, he along with other monks were staging a hunger strike."

According to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), at least 4,000 people including more than 1,000 monks were arrested during the countrywide clampdown on protestors demonstrating against 100-500% fuel price rise on 15 August.

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