BURMA: monk imprisoned over alleged anti-government activity

By William Gomes
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Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has obtained detailed information

about a case of a monk U Gawthita in Burma who has been imprisoned

for alleged anti-government activity. AHRC said the authorities

accused U Gawthita of travelling to Thailand unlawfully and getting

support from groups there. A court imprisoned him for seven years

without evidence. Gawthita, who was not involved in the September 2007

anti-government protests, claims that he was obtaining support from

abroad to continue relief efforts for cyclone victims.

AHRC said U Gawthita and seven other months were detained at the

airport in Rangoon on their return from Taiwan in August 2009. The

authorities later released the other monks but accused Gawthita of

having met and obtained support from anti-government groups in

Thailand. They kept him at a special interrogation facility for a

month before he was charged with having allegedly gone to Thailand

illegally earlier in the year to meet with and get support from

anti-government groups there.
AHRC also said Gawthita, who had no involvement in earlier political

activism by monks in Burma, denies the charges and according to him he

was merely collecting support for relief of cyclone victims and other

humanitarian activities. Politically-active monks from Burma in

Thailand have also denied that he came to met them. Photographs that

the police used in court to show that Gawthita had gone to meet exile

monks were not taken in Thailand at all but at an earlier time in

Among other so-called evidence that the police presented in court

against Gawthita were trivial sums of money in various currencies,

from less than a thousand US dollars to a single Malaysian Ringgit,

and some computers and other appliances some of which had been

confiscated from other monks with whom he had been travelling said

According to the source the supposed currency offence was not only

absurd because of the amounts involved but also illegally laid because

the police detained Gawthita as soon as he arrived in the airport and

before he had time to declare currency or other items in his

possession in accordance with the law. In other words, the police

pre-empted the possibility of any criminal offence being committed.

AHRC said the closed court ignored the lack of evidence and other

flaws in the case, and in February 2010 sentenced Gawthita to seven

years in jail. AHRC urged to UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

and the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia for

interventions into this case.
Human rights organization Christian Development Alternative (CDA)

expressed its solidarity and expressed its concern for U Gawthita who

was arrested in Myanmar have imprisoned inexplicably, instead of

lauding him for his efforts to raise funds with which to give

continued support to cyclone victims.
CDA urge the concerned authorities to ensure the release of Gawthita

without delay.CDA also remind the Government of Myanmar of the need to

allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to places of

detention, in accordance with its globally recognized mandate,

including to all those monks and nuns imprisoned in the aftermath of

the September 2007 protests, and to ensure that all prisoners obtain

appropriate medical treatment, have access to family members and are

otherwise treated humanely and appropriately.