Myanmar authorities release detained monk

Story highlights

  • U Gambira, an activist monk, is released after being detained earlier Friday
  • He was questioned at a military headquarters in Yangon, a fellow monk says
  • U Gambira was released by the government last month along with other political prisoners
An activist monk detained by Myanmar authorities Friday was freed hours later after being questioned at a military base in Yangon, a fellow monk said Saturday.
U Gambira was taken away from a monastery in Yangon by about 10 men in plainclothes who said they were from the "Yangon Division," said U Thika, a monk who witnessed the events. His detainment occurred only weeks after he was released from years of imprisonment.
He was released again Friday night after being questioned at the military headquarters in Yangon about his personal and family information, according to Ashin Issariya, another monk at the Yangon monastery.
The detention of U Gambira comes after the Myanmar government has taken notable steps to improve its human rights record.
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In recent weeks, the regime has pardoned hundreds of political prisoners, approved the participation of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party in April elections, and pledged to pursue a peace deal with an ethnic rebel group.
Western governments have applauded the effort, with the United States announcing in January that it would exchange ambassadors with Myanmar for the first time since 1988. That came after a visit to the country last month by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the first top U.S. diplomat in the nation in more than five decades.
U Gambira was one of the leaders of anti-government demonstrations that rallied tens of thousands of people in 2007. The Myanmar authorities cracked down on the demonstrations, clubbing and gassing protesters and arresting as many as 200 monks. He was released last month with other political prisoners.
U Thika said he believed the reason U Gambira had been taken away Friday may be related to a recent effort by U Gambira to break into his old monastery, which was locked after the 2007 protests.