Student leaders face charges after Education Bill rally in Taungoo

Student leaders face charges after Education Bill rally in Taungoo

Six activists from the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) are facing charges in Pegu Division under the Peaceful Procession and Peaceful Assembly Law for organising a public rally without official permission.

The six ABFSU leaders – Min Thwe Thit, Myat Thu, Aung Htet, Aung Ko Khant, Min Min Zaw and Aung Nay Paing – led about 100 activists in a protest against the National Education Bill on 29 November in the city of Taungoo.

Min Thwe Thit said that the group has decided not to comply with a court summons and will instead face arrest.

Students’ protests against the recently adopted National Education Bill have taken place in cities across Burma, including Rangoon, Mandalay, Monywa and Myingyan.

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A delegation of student activists met with university professors at the Masoyein Monastery in Mandalay a day after the ABFSU led a public demonstration in the city denouncing the bill, which was passed on 30 September by President Thein Sein despite widespread objections from student and teaching bodies.

The bill provides for the creation of a National Education Commission, which civil society organisations such as the National Network for Education Reform believe will keep the education sector under tight government control.

The ABFSU has become involved in several campaigns over the past year, including rallies in support of farmers who have allegedly been the victims of land grabs by the military.

On 14 May, ABFSU members joined a group of villagers protesting in Pegu [Bago] to demand the return of confiscated farmlands. After the rally, the group alleges it was assaulted by more than 60 police officers and about 100 plain-clothed thugs.

Then, on 13 September, Phyu Hnin Htwe, an ABFSU member and second-year student at Mandalay’s Yadanabon University, was arrested on charges of kidnapping in respect to a case involving villagers near the Latpadaung copper mine site in Monywa detaining two Chinese employees of the Chinese firm, Wanbao, one of the mine’s joint partners.

She was released in October when the charges against her were dropped.

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