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Secret video reveals Burma's crackdown on monks

By Norman Hermant, Australia Network, Nov 27, 2009

Rangoon, Burma -- A hidden camera has provided a rare glimpse inside Burma's mental health system which is used to incarcerate opposition figures and politically active monks.

At one hospital where activities were filmed by a Burmese video journalist, there are hundreds of patients and not enough supplies to go around.

The head nurse says more clothes and shoes are needed.

She also acknowledges criminals are held there, confined because of their mental condition.

It appears from the footage that some of the "criminals" in the hospital are monks.

The film shows they are allowed to keep their heads shaven but are forced to give up their robes, although some defy that rule.

Many observers have long suspected that Burma's junta has confined political monks to mental institutions to treat what the regime claims is a sickness.

Bo Ki from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma told Australia Network's NewsHour that it is not known how many people were rounded up after the monk-led political uprising known as the Saffron Revolution.

The uprising was crushed by the military junta in September 2007.

"After the September revolution, some monks were sent to mental hospitals, also other activists," he said.

"The military regime regards them as the crazy men or something."

Silencing opposition

The video of monks in the mental institution appears to confirm reports that opposition groups have been receiving for years.

"Because we cannot go to mental hospitals, it's really difficult to collect information," Mr Bo said.

"But definitely we knew that monks were in hospital because of their participation in the monk struggle and the other sorts of protests."

That kind of treatment has helped the regime silence political opposition, particularly from Buddhist temples and monasteries.

Generous donations also ensure some toe the line.

But some monks will speak out.

"There will be other monks who will appear again," one said, seemingly unafraid of the risk of years in prison or a mental hospital just for speaking to a journalist.

"They won't be afraid to die.

"If there is any grime, there will be someone who will clean that grime."

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