By WAI MOE
The Irrawaddy News
The leader of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance (ABMA), Ashin Gambira, has been disrobed by the authorities and charged with multiple criminal offenses in the aftermath of the 2007 uprising.
His lawyer, Aung Thein, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that Gambira told him the authorities disrobed him after his arrest in November 2007 without following traditional procedures or consulting relevant monks’ organizations.
“Ashin Gambira said the authorities, under Buddhist rules, had no right to disrobe him or to charge him with criminal offenses,” said Aung Thein.
The ABMA was a key organization behind the 2007 nationwide uprising.
Gambira appeared in court on Wednesday in Insein Prison with three other monks and five citizens, all of who face multiple charges under State Offence Act 505 A or B, Immigration Act 13/1, Illegal Organization Act 17/1, Electronic Act 303 A and Organization Act 6.
His lawyer said the charges have to do with immigration laws, contacting banned organizations, illegal contacts with foreign organizations through the Internet and other offenses.
The next court date for Gambari and his colleagues was set for August 27, said Aung Thein.
Since 1962, many monks have been arrested and charged with criminal offenses, say people familiar with the military government.
Burmese monks, often joined by students and laborers, have been leaders in many demonstrations protesting military rule. Monks were in the vanguard of the 2007 uprising in which hundreds of thousands of people across the country staged demonstrations in the largest mass uprising since 1988.
The regime is also believed to have killed monks, hundreds of whom remain in prison or are still missing.
The Burmese junta officially supports Theravada Buddhism and has banned other forms of Buddhism.
“During British colonial rule, some monks were arrested for their political activities and imprisoned, but they were never disrobed by the colonizers,” said Bo Kyi, joint-secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma, which has offices in Thailand.
“Under the junta, many monks have been arrested and disrobed for their conscientious objection. on this basis alone, the junta’s Buddhist faith is called into question,” he said.