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Prominent dissident freed on bail

New development in ongoing mine protest

Prominent dissident freed on bail
Former monk Nyi Nyi Lwin was a leader of the 2007 Saffron Revolution (photo by Daniel Wynn)
Daniel Wynn, Yangon

December 11, 2012

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Authorities last night released prominent dissident Nyi Nyi Lwin from Yangon's notorious Insein Prison after he posted bail.

A former monk known as Gambira, famous for leading the Saffron Revolution in 2007, Nyi Nyi Lwin said he was detained because authorities feared his influence on protests against a copper mine near Mandalay which police brutally suppresssed on November 29.

He was arrested on December 1 for allegedly “squatting and committing vandalism” at monasteries which were closed after the Saffron Revolution when monks led democracy protests through the streets of Yangon.

“The real cause of my latest detention was not related to these charges at all,” Nyi Nyi Lwin said today after he was released on bail of four million kyat (US$4,740).

He was sentenced to 60 years in prison after taking part in the 2007 monk-led protests but was released in January, one of a series of recent prisoner amnesties in reforming Myanmar.

Although Nyi Nyi Lwin left the monkhood earlier this year citing health reasons, the influential activist has advised monks protesting against the Monywa mine, a project involving Chinese arms-maker Norinco and a state-owned holdings company which remains the subject of a land dispute.

At least 50 people were injured after police raided protest camps set up around the mine site, leading to an apology by authorities and the assignment of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to head an investigation.

Nyi Nyi Lwin said he advised monks to lead a nationwide protest after the crackdown to call for those responsible to be brought to justice.

“Even though I would not take a leadership role, I will share my knowledge and experience gained during the 2007 protests with the monks,” he said.

Demonstrations have continued at Monywa mine for three months and are considered a litmus test of the reformist government’s tolerance of protests and its willingness to tackle land disputes.

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