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Burmese Activist Monk Taken into Custody

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Burmese authorities have detained a Buddhist monk who was recently freed from prison for leading widespread anti-government protests in 2007.

Witnesses say monk U Gambiya was taken early Friday morning from a monastery in Rangoon. Police later confirmed the detention, but declined to provide further details.

The monk's roommate told VOA's Burmese service police arrived at the Laeti monastery in the middle of the night.

“A group of 11 men came to our monastery at 1:30 on Friday morning while we're asleep. Those men said they wanted to see U Gambiya and looked around for (him) and later found (him) in his bed. When I asked them who they are, they replied that they belonged to the Religious Affairs Department.”

The men did not say where they were taking the detainee or why.

U Gambiya was a leader of the 2007 “Saffron Revolution” led by monks against the military junta in power at the time. The mass protest was crushed by authorities, and Gambiya was later sentenced to 68 years in prison — 12 of them at hard labor.

He was among 651 political prisoners released from detention in January by Burma's new, military-backed civilian government. Observers say the monk has since advocated reopening another local monastery that was closed by the junta following the 2007 crackdown.

The prisoners gained their freedom as part of a series of democratic reforms by the new government that were aimed at persuading Western governments to lift long-standing economic sanctions imposed on the former junta. The government has also reached tentative peace deals with several major ethnic rebel groupings, and has cleared the way for democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi to run for public office in April.

Article by VOA News