Dr Thein Lwin, a leading figure in the current educational reform movement, has been indefinitely stripped of his position in the National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party, according to an NLD statement released on Monday.
The prominent veteran of the 1988 student movement has been leading recent negotiations on the controversial National Education Law on behalf of the National Network for Education Reform (NNER).
The NLD statement announces that Dr Thein Lwin has been suspended from his posts as auxiliary Central Committee member and Central Committee member for “violating the party’s regulation, and not following restrictions.”
The party also released an additional statement announcing that all activities of its Central Education Committee have been suspended, pending restructuring.
[pullquote]”Around 200 riot police and 100 Swan Arr Shin members have used barbed wire fences to barricade the roads”[/pullquote]
Following the collapse of government-student negotiations last week, Dr Thein Lwin told DVB in an interview that supporters of education reform had been “looking forward to talking, to negotiating and finding answers”, but that “the government unilaterally suspended the talks.”
Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of the NLD, subsequently pledged to strip Thein Lwin of his position, saying that: “According to NLD regulations, an individual holding an official position and serving in the party is not allowed to work with other organisations, as this is a conflict of interest.”
Following Suu Kyi’s comments, Dr Thein Lwin said that he would not forsake the students’ cause, telling DVB: “I believe that the students’ demands are righteous.”
While Monday’s NLD announcement was made, Thein Lwin and other representatives from the NNER and the Committee for Democracy Education Movement (CDEM) were meeting with Deputy Education Minister Thant Shin for further negotiations on the postponed four-way talks on education reforms.
Other attendees at the meeting, held at 2pm on Monday, were Soe Tun from the NNER and representatives of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), including Aung Hmine San, Chit Win Maung and Ye Zarni Tun.
Meanwhile, nationwide student-led demonstrations continue.
The column of student protestors marching from central Burma’s Mandalay has covered more than half of the distance to Rangoon, where it will converge with other columns. The group was approaching the town of Prome, officially known as Pyay, in Pegu Division on Monday afternoon, and were reportedly one mile away from barricades of around 200 riot police and 100 Swan Arr Shin members – a pro-government civic group who are notorious for thuggish behaviour – as they rested at Aungnyitha village at noon on 9 February.
Min Thwe Thit, secretary of the ABFSU, told DVB: “Around 200 riot police and 100 Swan Arr Shin members have used barbed wire fences to barricade the roads in a place called Yonphyutaung. But there are also around 500 residents from Prome who, fearing that we might face a crackdown, are also waiting for us there.”
He said around 3,000 people, including students and local supporters, are marching in the column, and added: “Local residents from Aunglan, Zigon and Paungde towns are also joining our march, to shield us amid rumours of a possible crackdown along the way.”
Meanwhile, local students in Tenasserim Division’s Tavoy and Mergui, officially known as Dawei and Myeik respectively, have also taken to the streets. Around 40 students from several universities in Mergui were marching in the streets on Monday afternoon, joined by dozens of townspeople.
One group of 15 students from Tavoy had arrived in the Mon State capital of Moulmein, officially known as Mawlamyine, by Sunday evening. They have since been holding demonstrations in the town with local students.
“Right now we are marching to the statue of Gen. Aung San in the town, and are receiving a lot of support from the locals,” Min Lwin Oo, a student leader in the Moulmein group, told DVB on Sunday. He added that they plan to march to universities in the town on Monday.
A third column of protestors, marching from the Irrawaddy Division capital of Bassein (Pathein) to Rangoon, arrived in the town of Maubin, around 160 kilometres away, and were marching in the town.
A further group of 300 student protestors from Magwe’s Pakokku, following the path of the principal Mandalay column, arrived in the town of Magwe, where they were reportedly denied onto the Magwe University campus. The group said it plans to march on to the town of Aunglan.