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A leading dissident Buddhist monk who was among hundreds of political prisoners released last month is to face trial in Burma, according to state media.
Gambira “will have to face the charges of squatting” in one monastery in Rangoon and breaking into two others, which led to his detainment briefly by police earlier this month, according to the state-run New Light of Myanmar. The newspaper said authorities “are taking legal steps to bring (him) to trial”.
Gambira was one of scores of political prisoners freed in January, cutting short a 68-year jail term imposed for his key role in 2007 mass protests known as the “Saffron Revolution”, which were brutally crushed by the former junta. The monk, who goes by only one name, was taken away by authorities early on 10 February and released that night. His detention drew sharp criticism from the USA.
State Department spokeswoman Ms Victoria Nuland said at the time that given the “government’s stated commitment to reform and democratisation, we call on Burmese authorities to protect the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens, including all of those recently released from detention”.
Burma’s release of about 500 political prisoners since October has been hailed by Western countries, which have long demanded the freeing of such detainees before they would consider lifting sanctions.
Since being let out of prison in January, Gambira has breached regulations by breaking into monasteries closed by the government after the monk-led demonstrations, a government official said on the day he was detained. The New Light said that after questioning Gambira was taken to senior monks who reprimanded him for his behaviour and “wished for legal actions” against him after he admonished them for not helping jailed monks.
Burma’s ostensibly civilian government, which came to power in March last year after almost half a century of outright military rule, has surprised critics with its apparent desire to reform and open up to the outside world.
A key sign of change has been the acceptance of democracy icon Ms Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party into the political mainstream after more than two decades of marginalisation. The Opposition leader, released from house arrest soon after a 2010 election, has been allowed to run for parliament in 1 April by-elections.