Teacher and five children still in custody following raid on monastery school

A teacher and five students detained after a raid on a monastery school in Magway Region’s Sinbaungwe Township last week are still in regime custody, according to the monastery’s head monk.

The captives, 27-year-old teacher Aye Sandar and three girls and two boys between the ages of six and 14, were taken from the Myat Gone Yi charity school on November 18, Ven. Pandawa told Myanmar Now.

Around 20 soldiers searched the school, located at a monastery near the village of Sin Myu Aung, late the night before and warned those staying there not to leave, the abbot said.

During the raid, the soldiers seized 1m kyat ($600) in cash, along with rice, oil, medicine, a telephone, and a variety of tools and kitchen utensils, including knives, he added.

They also took papers from the monastery, including property documents and students’ application letters.

He said he didn’t know why the monastery was raided, but assumed it was because he is suspected of having ties to the anti-regime People’s Defence Force (PDF).

“I have been away from the monastery for two or three months. I think they were looking for me. They seem to suspect that I am a PDF supporter,” he said.

“I’m not supporting the PDF. I’m an itinerant monk. I have to travel a lot, and I think that made them suspicious,” he added.

He said that the teacher, who was with 30 students at the time of the raid, was warned to remain at the school for questioning. She and five of her pupils were arrested the next day.

“I’ve heard that the children are at an interrogation centre and have not been harmed. We haven’t heard anything about the teacher,” said Ven. Pandawa. 

According to the monk, the children are currently being held at the police station in the nearby village of Koepin and will be sent to another monastery school in Aunglan Township.

Myanmar Now tried to contact the Kopin police station for information regarding the children’s situation, but all calls went unanswered.

It has also been learned that the head monk’s 32-year-old brother, Tun Tun Gyi, was arrested in San Aing, another village in the area, shortly before the raid, but was released on November 22.

According to a Sinbaungwe local, around 150 orphaned children between the ages of five and 14 lived at the Myat Gone Yi charity school until it suspended its teaching activities about a year and a half ago. 

Following the arrest of their teacher and five classmates last week, the remaining students at the school were sent to live with their closest relatives, according to Ven. Pandawa.

“The soldiers also asked about the teacher’s birthplace and the names of her parents and said that if anyone were to move away from the monastery, they would shoot her and the children dead,” he added.

In July, the military shot and killed the father of a regional MP in Sinbaungwe.

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