Jailed students hit with fresh charges

Jailed students hit with fresh charges

Two high-profile student activists were hit with fresh charges on Wednesday, just short of one year after the pair were arrested and jailed.

Nanda Sitt Aung and Phyo Phyo Aung were indicted on additional counts of unlawful protest at two courts in Rangoon. Both charges are linked to their roles in the staging of nationwide education reform protests last year.

The two remain incarcerated in Tharrawaddy Prison, Pegu Division, where they face a raft of criminal accusations including sedition under Article 505(b) of Burma’s Penal Code. The crime is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.

Fifty-one student unionists and education reform activists languish in jail alongside the pair, bail has been denied to each of them, despite some holding health concerns. On 10 March 2015 at nearby Letpadan, chaos ensued when police turned to violence to disperse protesters that had staged a week-long sit in. Police arrested 127, more than 100 were charged with some later bailed.

Nay Win, the father of Phyo Phyo Aung, said the two were indicted under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law’s Article-18 for organising unauthorised protests in Botahtaung and Tamwe townships exactly one year ago, on 3 February 2015.

“The Botahtaung Township court appointed ahearing on 15 February following their indictment on Wednesday. After Botahtaung, they were taken to Tamwe Township court where they were indicted again on the Article-18 and also appointed to a hearing on 15 February,” said Nay Win.

The two were already facing Article-18 charges in multiple townships across Rangoon for staging a protest in solidarity and the students marching across the country from Mandalay to Rangoon, demanding amendments to the National Education Law in February last year. Students demanded amendments, arguing that the law limited academic freedom.

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Nay Win said it is inappropriate for the government to be pressing additional charges on student activists while the country is going about political change.

“The incumbent government is doing the strangest thing. They are still treating students like their enemy and still do not to see or acknowledge students unions,” he said.

Phyo Phyo Aung is a leader of the ABFSU, the largest student union in the country.

Alongside others jailed in Rangoon, Mandalay and Myingyan, Amnesty International considers Nanda Sitt Aung and Phyo Phyo Aung as prisoners of conscious and is currently campaigning for their release.

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