Student protests: Ministry says it will amend Education Law

Student protests: Ministry says it will amend Education Law

Burma’s Ministry of Education has publically announced that it is working on amendments to the National Education Law, which it then intends to present to parliament.

The ministry’s statement, reported in state media on 6 February, also said that upcoming examinations – due to take place in Burmese high schools and universities from late February and throughout March – will be “held without fail”, a declaration that will affect the students are currently engaged in protests around the country against the controversial law.

The report goes on to call for cooperation to allow students to continue with “peaceful learning”.

The Press Release Team of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar released an additional statement, also reported in state media on Friday, in which they called for adherence to the rule of law to safeguard the “democracy and freedom” of all citizens, while rebuking the “unrest and violence that has tarnished the country’s image in the past”.

This statement also mentioned “political organisations” and “so-called students” who are working to create unrest through the “masterminding” of the current wave of protests.

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Meanwhile, student protestors are continuing rallies, calling for amendments to the National Education Law, and continue to mobilise supporters throughout the country.

The Mandalay “column” of students, who have been leading the national protests, were reportedly faced with hundreds of riot police on Friday morning as they continued their march to Aunglan in Magwe Division after spending the night in the town of Taungdiwngyi.

Speaking early on Friday morning, a local supporter of the students, under the condition of anonymity, told DVB: “We are planning to depart from Taungdiwngyi at 9am and stop over for lunch at the village of Sathwa, around 10 miles away. Some 200 riot police are deployed in this village, and 300 more in Aunglan.”

Meanwhile, thousands of local residents turned out to welcome a second column of protestors who began their march in Bassein (officially known as Pathein) in Irrawaddy Division. The demonstrators were given the welcome as they entered the town of Pantanaw, the birthplace of late Burmese UN Secretary-General U Thant.

While staying at the Nyaungbintha monastery overnight, the protestors were visited by government officials, including regional Finance Minister Win Ko Ko. The officials, who were accompanied by a number of teachers and parents, tried to persuade the students to go home.

“We are worried that something might happen. We are not trying to stop the demonstrations, and we will even provide assistance to make it as convenient as we can – but we want to express our wish that the protests are kept in this region if possible,” Win Ko Ko told the students last night.

The students informed the minister that they intended to continue with their march to Rangoon.

A third group of protestors in Tavoy, officially known as Dawei, in Tenasserim Division, continued to stage demonstrations around the town. They have announced their plan to travel 370 kilometres to Moulmein on 8 February by bus, where they will meet with students from the Mon capital, officially called Mawlamyine. This column will then travel the remaining 300km to Rangoon by foot.

The Irrawaddy column rallies in Pantanaw, 5 February 2015. (PHOTO: DVB)
The Irrawaddy column rallies in Pantanaw, 5 February 2015. (PHOTO: DVB)

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. These most recent protests began as the deadline passed.

“Student unions have objected to the National Education Law ever since it was at the drafting stage,” said Swe Linn Tun, the Mandalay district chair of the ABFSU, speaking to DVB in November. “This law centralises control with the government, offers no guarantee for freedom of education, and does not include provisions to allow for the forming of student unions.”

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