Five monasteries were raided in Rangoon and about 36 monks were arrested overnight on Wednesday, after receiving beatings from soldiers.

Burmese soldiers patrol the streets in downtown Rangoon [Photo: AFP]
“They (soldiers) came and searched for monks on their lists,” a monk told The Irrawaddy. The soldiers had photographs of monks, and if they found a monk who was in a photograph, they arrested all the monks in the monastery, said the monk.

Raided monasteries included Shwetaungpaw, Dhammazaya and Sandilayama monasteries in South Okkalapa Township and Zayawaddy and Pannitayama in North Okkalapa Township. Two mobile telephones that belonged to monks were also seized by troops, said the source.
The raids in the North Okkalapa monasteries started around 10 p.m. and ended in early morning, said Nilar Thein, a leader of the 88 Generation Students group.

“Monks requested soldiers not to use violent acts on them. But soldiers neglected their requests.” she said.

The raids on monasteries in South Okkalapa Township began at midnight and ended at dawn. Everyone in the monasteries, including laymen, women and children, were taken away.

Security forces also entered a monastery at Chauk Htat Gyee Pagoda in Rangoon searching for specific monks.

At Maggin Monastery in Rangoon, authorities took photographs of HIV positive laypeople that are housed at the monastery and questioned them regarding interviews with a foreign radio station.

Sometimes arrests are like “kidnappings,” said one source, because soldiers might ask for up to 200,000 kyat (about US $130) for the release of unimportant detainees.

Overnight raids on monasteries began on September 26, the day the junta started its crackdown on peaceful protesters.

“I also heard some monks under detention at GTI (the Government Technology Institute) died,” said a Rangoon resident.

Soldiers are also looking for people who provided water or food to monks during the mass protests, said one source.

Also on Wednesday night, soldiers, searching for information, entered the home of a prominent former student leader, Min Ko Naing, who is under arrest.

In Taungdwingyi in central Burma, three men, Aung Ko, Kyaw Naing and Bo Ni, were arrested around midnight on Wednesday. All are members of the National League for Democracy.

According to Rangoon residents, security checkpoints are still scattered around the city. Soldiers stop and search civilians, particularly young people who carry bags.

Dissidents in Rangoon estimate there are 1,200 monks detained among an estimated 3,000 people arrested during the mass protests in Burma.

Monks are currently detained in Insein Prison, the Government Technology Institute and Kyaikkasan Stadium in Rangoon. Many monasteries in Rangoon remain locked up, and monks are unable to go out for alms, say Rangoon residents.