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Detained Burmese Monk Honoured With 'Freedom of Expression Award'

by Phanida & Solomon, The Buddhist Channel, May 5, 2008 Source: Mizzima news, 22 April 2008

London, UK -- Venerable Burmese monk Ashin U Gambira was recently honoured with the London-based Index on Censorship's Freedom of Expression Award, 2008, for his vital role during the Saffron Revolution in September.

Ashin U Ottara, who is in London to receive the award on Gambira's behalf, said the Index on Censorship's award to Venerable Gambira was an honour for all Burmese monks, who had bravely led the protests in September.

Padraig Reidy, News Editor of the Index on Censorship, said the award was to focus on the problems and hardship faced by monks in Burma, and the courageous effort made by Burmese monks in opposing the ruling junta's repressive regime.

"It is important to acknowledge the struggle of all those Burmese people and the monks as well and to make sure that the issue remains fresh in public memory," Reidy said.

Out of the several awards that the Group has, Gambira and Burmese monks were honoured with the campaign award for their important role during the rare protests in Burma last year.

Triggered by a sudden rise in fuel prices – petrol and diesel – student activists led a peaceful protest march in Burma's former capital city of Rangoon in August, 2007. The protests, which began on a humble note turned political when Burmese soldiers manhandled Buddhist monks, who had joined the students.

In September, Buddhist monks declared that they would boycott the ruling junta and urge them to apologize for their repressive treatment. However, when the authorities refused, the monks began to lead the protest, which was later joined by thousands of common people across the country.

But the junta reacted swiftly and brutally crushed the protests killing several people, including a Japanese photo-journalist.

Gambira and a few other senior monks took a leading role in mobilizing monks, who have an estimated population of 4, 00000, almost equivalent to Burma's military population.

Despite evading arrest continuously by the ruling junta, Gambira was arrested by the authorities in November 2007. He was then charged with an Emergency Act 5 (j) and is currently being detained at Burma's notorious Insein prison in Rangoon.

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