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Women Arrested for Holding Buddhist Prayer Services for Suu Kyi

By THE IRRAWADDY, November 12, 2009

Rangoon, Burma -- Rangoon special branch police have arrested Naw Ohn Hla and three other women who regularly hold Buddhist prayer services for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and charged them in a special court in Insein Prison.

They are charged with inciting activities to undermine public order under section 505 (B) of the penal code, according to attorney U Kyaw Hoe.

He said the women, who were arrested on Oct. 3, regularly held religious services for Suu Kyi on Tuesdays. They are being held in Insein Prison. The case could be heard on Monday, he said.

If found guilty, the women could be sentenced to up to two years in prison.

Special branch police said Naw Ohn Hla was carrying a copy of the Kamavaca, a Buddhist scripture recited at monastic services, he said.

The other women arrested were Ma San San Myint, Ma Cho Cho and Ma Cho Wai Lwin. The women were arrested at San-Pya Market in Thin-Gan-Gyun Township in Rangoon while on their way home from a monastery after offering food to monks.

Naw Ohn Hla, a former National League for Democracy (NLD) member, has been frequently detained by authorities for her political activism.

Her attorney said the women were simply engaged in a private Buddhist religious ceremony.

"The Kamavaca is just a religious scripture, and there’s no reason for arresting people for having it," he said.

A monk in Rangoon, told of the arrests, said it was an infringement of religious freedom.

"I feel sorry to hear this news,” he said. “It is an extreme act that shows no respect for religious freedom in our country. It is a pure violation of religious freedom. Almost every Buddhist usually keeps an image of the Buddha, some mantra or religious teaching close at hand. The act was based on prejudice and it makes the government look bad in the eyes of the international community.”

The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma says 2, 168 political prisoners are being held in Burmese prisons.

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