Asian Human Rights Commission released a statement Wednesday calling for the immediate release of Moepyar religious leader Shin Nyarna.
The monk was sentenced to 20 years in prison for ‘defiling the Buddhist religion’ after he criticised the country’s ruling officials for preventing religious freedom.
Authorities arrested the 72-year-old religious official on 12 February 2010 while he was staying at Anupada Dharma Centre in Mandalay’s Patheingyi township.
The former Theravada Buddhist monk started his own religion sect and had previously been imprisoned for the three years during the 1980s. Legal expert Aung Thein said charging an individual with the exact same crime twice should not be allowed.
“So in a way they are prisoners of religious conscience – they diverted from Buddhism and started their own sect,” said Aung Thein. “On legal grounds, he was being punished again for the same charges he had already [been punished for].
The monk’s devotees have sent letters appealing the imprisonment to President Thein Sein and the National Human Rights Commission.
The current government and former ruling junta’s aggressive embrace of Theravada Buddhism as the official state religion has continually driven a wedge between followers and members of other religions in the multi-cultural country.