Former Buddhist monk, activist and prisoner of conscience U Gambira has been arrested during his visit to Myanmar from Thailand. His arrest is believed to be as a result of his previous work as a human rights activist, which was always peaceful, and he must be immediately and unconditionally released Amnesty said in an Urgent call to Action on 20 January.
On 19 January at 11pm U Gambira, aka Nyi Nyi Lwin, was arrested without a warrant by around 20 police officers at his hotel room in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, and taken to Mandalay’s police station No. 9. On 20 January, he was brought in front of Maha Aung Myay Township Court and charged with entering the country illegally under Section 13(1) of Myanmar’s 1947 Immigration (Emergency Provisions) Act. The charge carries up to five years’ imprisonment. Following his hearing U Gambira was then transferred to Mandalay’s Oh-Bo prison. His next court hearing will take place on 3 February.
U Gambira is a former prisoner of conscience, arrested in 2007 for his role leading mass anti-government protests in August and September of that year. He has been suffering from serious physical and mental health issues, including schizophrenia for which he must take medicine three times a day. It is unclear whether he is being given his medicine while in prison.
U Gambira, who now lives in Thailand, arrived in Myanmar on 15 January in order to apply for a passport. He crossed the border between Thailand and Myanmar at an official crossing point without facing any problems with either Myanmar or Thai immigration officials. According to a source close to him, U Gambira had been followed and monitored by officers from the Special Branch state security agency since arriving in Myanmar. Amnesty International believes the charges pressed against him are contrived, arbitrary and politically motivated, the statement said.