‘Fugitive’ education activist in Letpadan police custody

‘Fugitive’ education activist in Letpadan police custody

A student activist, declared a fugitive by a Burmese court last week, is being held by police in Letpadan. He was transferred there after being after being arrested in Rangoon.

Nanda Sitt Aung was detained by authorities on 27 March after leading a protest in the former capital. A former political prisoner, Nanda Sitt Aung was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2003 for attempting to revive the All Burma Federation of Student Unions under military rule. He was released in a 2012 presidential amnesty.

He and three other student leaders – Kyaw Ko Ko, Ye Yint Kyaw and Myat Thu – had been charged in absentia by a court in Letpadan for their role in an education protest in the town earlier this month that ended in a violent police crackdown.

Friday’s protest, held in downtown Rangoon in the Theingyi Market Plaza area, was held to condemn the police’s brutality against student protestors and called for their release. Nanda Sitt Aung, Shein Yazar Htun and Aung Htet Aung were arrested by plainclothes officers.

Lanmadaw Township police subsequently held Nanda Sitt Aung in custody before transferring him to Letpadan on Tuesday, 31 March.

Speaking to DVB on Monday morning while awaiting transfer, Nanda Sitt Aung said, “On 24 February, a preliminary agreement was signed with government officials including a minister. We were seeking a political solution on the issue [of educational reform] but there are also problems regarding legal punitive measures.

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“I think we are at a crossroads between the democratic principal of finding a peaceful solution, and the old ways,” he said.

His father U Htay told DVB that the government had broken its vow not pursue legal retribution against the student protestors.

“The government broke its promise not to take action against the students. They broke up the protest by force, and pressed multiple charges on the protestors. This quasi-civilian government and Tatmadaw [Burmese military] clearly have a serious grudge against the students, and are continuing to oppress the people amid the upcoming elections in accordance with the 2008 Constitution,” said U Htay.

A Letpadan police officer told DVB: “Nanda Sitt Aung was remanded today [Monday], and will later be sent to Tharawaddy prison.”

Sixty-five other Letpadan activists are being held in Tharawaddy prison, charged with the same five counts, including rioting and disturbing the peace.

The United States government has made a fresh expression of their concern about the treatment of student protestors, and called for an investigation.

A 30 March statement said: “We call for the immediate, unconditional release of all individuals being detained in the country as a result of exercising their right to peacefully assemble.

“Transparency, accountability, and justice are vital for the Burmese Government’s expressed goals of social stability, peace, and democracy. We strongly urge an impartial and credible investigation into the events of March 5 and 10, in cooperation with civil society, that would hold accountable all those involved in the violence, including security forces who applied excessive force.”

To track the chronology of the student protests, visit the DVB interactive map.

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