Buddhist monks join the crowd listening to the monks' calls for the government to release political prisoners. Photo/Mandalay Breeze Facebook
Five Buddhist monks launched a protest at Maha Mya Muni Monastery in Mandalay on Tuesday, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of political activists who are being detained in prisons across the country, one of the protesters told The Irrawaddy.
The move came after Win Mra, the chairman of a government-appointed rights body, the National Human Rights Commission, called on President Thein Sein to grant another amnesty as a reflection of his magnanimity or to transfer political prisoners in remote prisons to facilities with easy access for their family members.
The Buddhist monks also urged the government to end armed hostilities in ethnic Kachin State in northern Burma and to hold peace talks with ethnic armed groups.
They held signs which read: “Peace Here Right Now!” “Free All Political Prisoners!” “We Want Freedom!” and “Stop the Civil War Now!” as they protested using loudspeakers. The monks began the vigil at 5 am and it was still continuing at 2pm.
The Buddhist monks have also demanded that the government allow monks to exercise their right of religion such as by being able to give religious speeches in public. The police did not intervene but instead questioned the monks, then stood by and monitored the demonstration, said the source.
One of the monks was identified as Ashin Sopoka who lived in exile in Germany until recently, and who runs Burmese book stores in Chiang Mai and Mae Sot in Thailand.
Another Buddhist monk, U Sawpaka, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is do hold a telephone conversation with the protesting monks in Mandalay. Electricity lines have been cut at the Maha Mya Muni Monastery where the protest is taking place.
Members of the public watch the protesting monks at Maha Mya Muni Monastery in Mandalay on Tuesday morning. Photo/Mandalay Breeze Facebook
Hundreds of residents have turned up to cheer the monks and have offered them food, drinking water and petrol to work a generator. Plain-clothed security was beefed up around the protest site, and both police and fire trucks were deployed nearby, said the monk.
* Later on Tuesday afternoon, the five monks moved from Maha Mya Muni monastery to Ma Soe Yein monastery in Mandalay and continued their protest. They said they will maintain their protest until the government accepts their demands.
They said they moved location after being persuaded to by senior monks at Ma Soe Yein monastery.
“Even though the government released some political prisoners, there remain many Buddhist monks and political activists in prison. We call for the government to immediately release them and end the civil war for the sake of peace in Burma,” one of the protesting monks told The Irrawaddy by telephone.
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