Leader of Myanmar's 'Saffron Revolution' freed, charges dropped

Nyi Nyi Lwin, better known by his ordination name, Gambira, was arrested in January for allegedly entering Myanmar illegally from neighbouring Thailand.
Nyi Nyi Lwin, better known by his ordination name, Gambira, was arrested in January for allegedly entering Myanmar illegally from neighbouring Thailand.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Already due to be released yesterday, he was hit with new charges this week

YANGON • A former monk and influential leader of Myanmar's 2007 anti-junta uprising, or "Saffron Revolution", has been freed from jail and all charges dropped, his lawyer said yesterday, just a day after new charges were levelled against him.

Nyi Nyi Lwin, better known by his ordination name, Gambira, was arrested in January for allegedly entering Myanmar illegally from neighbouring Thailand.

He had been set to be freed yesterday, but on both Tuesday and Thursday new charges stemming from alleged trespassing in 2012 were brought against him in two separate Yangon townships.

His lawyer Robert San Aung said these charges have been dropped and that Gambira is now free. "They (the judge) just said that he was freed completely after cancelling all the charges against him."

Gambira, 37, told Reuters by phone that he was happy with the decision and would now focus on his health.

"I'm very happy to be free again. At the moment I have to receive medical treatment for my mental illness and post-traumatic stress disorder," he said.

CLEAN SHEET

They (the judge) just said that he was freed completely after cancelling all the charges against him.

MR ROBERT SAN AUNG, Gambira's lawyer.

Myanmar's Eleven Media Group said he suffers from cerebral malaria, and has had two operations.

The additional charges this week were brought against Gambira for allegedly breaking into monasteries in 2012 that had been sealed by the government.

In 2007, he emerged as a leading figure in a mass protest over living conditions and the oppressive rule of then-dictator Than Shwe that was dubbed the Saffron Revolution.

The government cracked down harshly in response, opening fire on protesters and sweeping up those who took part. A report from the United Nations found that at least 31 people were killed by security forces and thousands arrested.

Gambira was arrested in 2007 and his jail sentence of 68 years for his role in the protest turned him into one of Myanmar's most prominent political prisoners.

He was released in 2012 and afterwards told Reuters he faced solitary confinement, beatings and sleep deprivation while behind bars. His captors, he said, were "very rude and cruel".

Amnesty International has said he suffers from "serious mental health issues" due to time spent behind bars and his treatment in jail.

REUTERS, ELEVEN MEDIA GROUP/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2016, with the headline 'Leader of Myanmar's 'Saffron Revolution' freed, charges dropped'. Print Edition | Subscribe