Letpadan protesters released, but leaders remain behind bars

Letpadan protesters released, but leaders remain behind bars

Today, a court in Pegu Division’s Tharrawaddy District dropped charges against 69 student activists arrested last year during a crackdown on protests in Letpadan, though three of the movement’s leaders remain behind bars.

Bo Gyi, the secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), said the group’s contacts in Tharrawaddy reported that all of the students involved in the Letpadan protests were released this afternoon, with the exception of leaders Phyo Phyo Aung, Min Thway Thit and Nanda Sit Aung, who have pending court cases in Rangoon.

The students are the most high-profile political prisoners released since State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi promised to release all political prisoners “as quickly as possible” in a public statement issued yesterday afternoon.

The students were arrested when they came through Letpadan in a march to protest the government’s recently announced education law. Several confrontations with local riot police turned violent, and many of the students were arrested along with dozens of other Pegu residents. Some of the students were arrested later after spending several weeks hiding from the police.

The episode, and the ongoing incarceration of the student prisoners, drew widespread media attention and condemnation both locally and internationally. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and several Western embassies called for the students to be released.

There have also been reports that Mee Mee, an 88 Generation activist arrested for protesting in support of the Letpadan marchers, was among those released today, along with three other activists — Nay Myo Zin, Naw Ohn Hla and Tin Htut Paing — involved in demonstrations calling for justice in the case of Khin Win, a woman shot dead while protesting the Chinese-backed Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division.

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While rumors continue to circulate on social media, the fate of other high-profile political prisoners such as Gambira, a leader of the 2007 Saffron Revolution who was arrested again this year on immigration charges, and the reporters from the Unity Journal who were arrested in 2014 for publishing a report that claimed a defense facility was actually a chemical weapons factory, remains unclear.

A spokesperson for the president’s office said more would come in the next several weeks.

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