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Arrested monk refuses food

Ashion Pyinya Sara, an Arakanese historian monk arrested by military junta authorities on allegations of impropriety,....

Sittwe: Ashion Pyinya Sara, an Arakanese historian monk arrested by military junta authorities on allegations of impropriety, has refused to eat since 27 July, when he was detained in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, said a town elder.

"I heard through a police source that Ashion Pyinya Sara has refused food since he was arrested. He is now in a serious condition not having eaten for a long time,” he said.

The 57-year-old Ashion Pyinya Sara is being detained at the Sittwe No. 1 police station for interrogation, without any formal remand from the court.

"There are reports that he has been tortured severely during interrogation. Since he was arrested, he has been taken to the interrogation cell several times where he was questioned and tortured. However, he has remained silent and not offered any information," the source said.

U Pyinya Sara is a well known Arakanese historian as well as a leading abbot of the Buddha Vihara Mahamuni orphanage in suburban Sittwe, where more than 100 orphans live and are educated.

The military authorities arrested him on charges that he was living with a woman against religious law, that he has been involved in politics, and that he buried many children in the orphanage compound without notifying authorities.

According to a local source, the monk was arrested soon after some officials from the NGO Martayzar, which provides food and educational support for children and women, complained to the military authorities in Sittwe.

An analyst in Sittwe said, "The arrest of U Pyinya Sara is a little strange and different because the army's second commander of the Western Command himself took part in the arrest along with many soldiers. The allegations and arrest are not an army concern, but army officials were still involved in the arrest. It shows what authorities wanted to arrest him."

The army authorities also seized many precious ancient antiques from the library of the orphanage, including ancient silver and gold Arakanese coins, Buddha statues, and palm-leaf inscriptions that were collected by Ashion Pyinya Sara over the years.

Ashion Pyinya Sara is a respected historian, who often threw light on the history of Arakan through articles published in journals and magazines. The authorities, however, saw this as activity against the solidarity of the union.

It was learnt that some Sittwe residents believe the authorities' accusations against Ashion Pyinya Sara, but others believe the charges are baseless.