YANGON — A former monk and one of the key leaders of the 2007 Saffron Revolution has been arrested in Mandalay and charged with immigration offences during a visit to Myanmar from his home in Thailand.
U Gambira, also known as Nyi Nyi Lwin, was visiting Myanmar with his Australian wife Marie Siochana in order to obtain a passport.
“The Burmese police are claiming Gambira entered Thailand illegally,” Ms Siochana said in a post on her Facebook page. “Firstly, I was with him when he entered the first time and I can assure you he had all the correct documents,” she wrote.
“These are politically motivated trumped up charges, and besides, why did the Burmese police need 20+ police officers to arrest one person on an immigration charge?” she said.
U Gambira, who is no longer a practicing monk, is one of Myanmar’s best known political prisoners, having been arrested shortly after the Saffron Revolution. Since being released in 2012, he has struggled with mental health issues, and has been receiving treatment in Thailand.
Mr Rory Magee, who has been treating U Gambira in Chiang Mai, Thailand, said he was “extremely concerned” about the detention.
“This action will have produced a catastrophic effect on his fragile recovery from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). The experience of imprisonment will have retraumatised Gambira and he will have already experienced unbearable amounts of psychological suffering since being arrested,” he said on Facebook.
U Gambira’s arrest came just one day after US Deputy Secretary of State Mr Antony Blinken urged President U Thein Sein to release all remaining political prisoners before the end of his term at the end of March.