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Myanmar monk faces new criminal charges after government amnesty

Myanmar police on Sunday charged a rebel Buddhist monk for occupying a government-closed monastery, only a month after he was given amnesty and released from prison [JURIST report]. Shin Gambira, who was among 130 political prisoners freed last month following a presidential pardon, is accused of living in and rebuilding the Meggin Monastery [advocacy report] in Rangoon. The monastery was destroyed and closed by government forces after the 2007 Saffron Revolution [Independent, backgrounder], a peaceful pro-democracy movement led by Gambira and other Buddhist monks. Since the pardoning of his 68-year sentence for leading the revolt, Gambira has criticized senior monks [Mizzima report] of a state-appointed Buddhist organization, the Sangha Nayaka Committee (SNC), for failing to fight for the release of other monks arrested following the 2007 demonstrations. The senior SNC monks have called for the government to take legal measures against Gambira for his political actions and alleged violations of the Buddhist code. Police arrested Gambira on February 10 and released him the same day after facing international criticism. A leader of the All Burma Monks' Alliance [website], Gambira has questioned the sincerity of recent government reforms in the country.

Myanmar's nominally civilian government has implemented numerous political reforms since winning the first elections held in 20 years in March 2011. Last month, in addition to releasing political prisoners, Myanmar President Thein Sein [BBC backgrounder] signed a clemency order that shortened sentences [JURIST report] for many prisoners on humanitarian grounds. In December, Sein gave his official approval to a bill allowing the country's citizens to conduct peaceful protests [JURIST report], if the protests are approved in advance. The Myanmar government also announced in December that the political party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi [JURIST news archive] would be allowed to register for the next elections, a move that would allow Suu Kyi to run for parliament after being detained under house arrest [JURIST reports] for nearly eight years. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] has praised [JURIST report] the country's strive toward democracy.

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