YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – A prominent Buddhist monk who was one of hundreds of political prisoners freed in Myanmar last month was released late Friday after being taken away before dawn by the authorities.
Shin Gambira, 33, was one of the leaders of the so-called Saffron Revolution, a 2007 anti-government uprising led by Buddhist monks against the then-ruling junta. He was detained shortly after a military crackdown on protesters and released Jan. 13 as part of a mass prisoner release that has been hailed as a sign of Myanmar’s new government’s willingness to make reforms.
Friday’s detention of Gambira had echoes of the previous administration, which was known for whisking away its critics in the middle of the night.
In Washington, before word of Gambira’s release, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed deep U.S. concern over the detention.
“Given the Burmese government’s stated commitment to reform and democratization, we call on Burmese authorities to protect the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens, including all of those recently released from detention,” she told a news briefing. Myanmar is also known as Burma.
An official from the Home Ministry said that Gambira had been “taken away” from the Yangon monastery where he was staying and brought for “questioning in relation to incidents that happened after his release.”
The official, who spoke on condition on anonymity, said that Gambira and other monks had illegally entered monasteries that had been shut after the 2007 uprising.
Authorities went after Gambira after he ignored a summons to report for questioning, the official said.
Gambira had also publicly voiced skepticism about the new government’s commitment to democratic reforms.
The official said Gambira was sent back to Maggin monastery in the evening. It had been sealed by the authorities after the 2007 protests, but they reopened it Friday evening.
Gambira’s detention came amid widespread international attention on Myanmar, where the new nominally civilian government has drawn cautious praise.
The U.S. and European Union have called the progress positive steps forward but say they will be closely watching an upcoming April by-election before deciding whether to lift sanctions that were imposed during military rule.
Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.
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