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Leading members of the National Network for Education Reform (NNER) have voiced criticisms of the government’s approach to the current education reform movement in Burma.
The comments were made at a meeting at the parliamentary upper house on Tuesday.
Twenty eight NNER delegates attended a briefing session on proposed amendments to the National Education Law, which were drawn up in negotiations last month between officials and student groups, after student protests took place across the country against the unpopular law, which came into effect last year.
Rangoon division MP and NNER representative Nyo Nyo Thin told the briefing session that the Ministry of Education is responsible for the crackdown that took place in Letpadan, and warned that the NNER would not be manipulated.
“The crackdown happened because the Ministry of Education abused its power,” she said.
“We should question what we are doing if the NNER is being used by the government in attending this briefing,” said Nyo Nyo Thin.
Prominent NNER representative Dr Thein Lwin told DVB that he deemed the meeting to be incomplete because of the absent student representatives who had been detained by the government in a crackdown on recent protests.
“This briefing, and the amendment bill as a whole, only happened because the students decided to demonstrate. The four-way talks [held between education groups and government officials last month] were also an outcome of the protest. Students have been beaten up, detained and mistreated. This is highly inappropriate,” said Thein Lwin.
“I urged parliament during the bill briefing to help bring the students freedom,” he said after the meeting.
One NNER representative Dr Tin Aung told the assembled representatives that the Education Ministry is living in a state of constant paranoia about a student led communist movement, and is “haunted” by a fear of communism.
“I believe the Ministry of Education is haunted by a communist ghost. When students protest, or they try to form a union, the ministry accuses them of communist activism, which is completely irrelevant. It is prejudiced,” he said.
“I point this out because I would like the ministry to be more clear about student unions: The students are not capable of staging a coup against the government. Moreover, having student representatives in university councils will allow student related issues to be heard, discussed and solved at monthly council meetings, meeting the problem can be conveniently solved before it gets more serious,” Tin Aung continued.
Each representative at the briefing was allowed fifteen minutes of speaking time.
The parliamentary Joint Bill Committee announced at the end of the event that a report from the briefings is expected to be presented in the following week.