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Hospital chaplain arrested in Burma: MP calls for 'urgent action'

London SE1 website team

Bermondsey & Old Southwark MP Simon Hughes has called for 'urgent action' by the Government after a Buddhist chaplain at Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals was arrested in Burma.

Simon Hughes has written to the Foreign Office minister responsible for the Far East following the arrest in Burma of the Venerable U Uttara, a Buddhist chaplain at Guy's and St Thomas' hospitals.

Mr Uttara, a long-standing member of the chaplaincy service at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, had taken a career break to set up a prison chaplaincy and healthcare service in Burma.

Mr Uttara had been in temporary charge of the Mahasantisukha monastery in Rangoon, when police acting on behalf of the state religious authorities stormed the building on Wednesday.

It is understood that the monastery was the subject of a long-running ownership dispute between the monks and the authorities.

"It appears that Mr Utarra was in the wrong place at the wrong time and has been caught up in a dispute he had nothing to do with," said Simon Hughes MP.

"It is obviously hugely worrying that there has been no news yet of his whereabouts, especially given Burma's poor record of respecting human rights and specifically the rights of prisoners.

"I have written to the minister in the Foreign Office responsible for the Far East to call for urgent action. It is vital that we confirm Mr Utarra's whereabouts and safety, and ask for assurances that our government will press for a swift legal process and Mr Utarra's immediate release if it is clear that he has done nothing wrong.

"My thoughts are with Mr Uttara, his family, friends and colleagues at this challenging time."

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