Burma’s president Thein Sein on Tuesday urged parliament to reconsider the controversial National Education Law that has been the subject of widespread student and teacher protests.
In a message to the union parliament session on 20 January, the president called for a review and amendments to the law to reflect student demands, namely: to loosen the centralisation of policymaking; allowing the formation of teacher and student bodies; the promotion of schooling for all children in the country; and the promotion of ethnic literature.
Lower house MP Ye Tun said the legislature should prepare to negotiate with students.
“In response to the president’s message, the parliamentary bill committee may review and revise the National Education Law accordingly,” he said. “They should also prepare to negotiate with students and teachers who oppose the current draft and who have recommendations for amendments to the law.”
The National Education Law was approved by the union parliament on 30 September amid objections that led to several public protests around the country.
In November, the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) issued a 60-day deadline for the parliament to negotiate amendments of the law, threatening to organise nationwide student protests if ignored.
On Monday this week, after the deadline passed, the ABFSU launched demonstrations in central and southern Burma, with columns of student protesters setting out to march hundreds of miles to Rangoon where they plan to set up a rally camp.
Ye Tun said the protestors should make efforts to communicate with parliament instead of only reaching out to the president and Education Ministry which drafted the controversial bill.
Ye Yint Kyaw, a spokesperson for the ABFSU, said the president’s message to the parliament alone will not be enough to stop the protests.
“We heard about the president’s message to the parliament, and we have now called for a meeting between the government, parliament, the National League for Democracy, students and education experts to negotiate amendments to the law,” he said. “We will only call off the protests when we see a positive outcome from this meeting.
“The president’s message alone will not stop our movement – it will not change a thing.”