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PRESS RELEASES, OPEN LETTERS, STATEMENTS
 

Burmese government urged to cease the assault and arrest of students protesting in Letpadan and Rangoon

13 March 2015

We, the undersigned organizations, strongly condemn the latest instance of brutal and indiscriminate assault by the police and vigilante groups against the students, monks, and residents in Letpadan who have been peacefully exercising their civil and political rights. We further call on the Burmese government to immediately stop the violent attacks, harassment, and arrest of students peacefully protesting against the National Education Law, which centralizes power over the education system, hampers academic freedom, and was approved without proper public consultation.

Since 20 January, hundreds of students have been marching from Mandalay to Rangoon to demand changes to the National Education Law, passed by Parliament in September 2014. The students’ 11 demands for changes to the law include ensuring the freedom to form student unions, mother-tongue language instruction in ethnic areas, greater autonomy for universities, and the allocation of 20% of the national budget to education.

On 2 March, students resumed their protests after the government failed to meet their demands to amend the law by 28 February. A group of students in Letpadan, Pegu Division, were subsequently blocked at a monastery and prevented from marching to Rangoon. In a show of solidarity, students and other supporters in Rangoon and other parts of the country also held peaceful protests at the beginning of March.

On 5 March, police in Rangoon violently cracked down on students peacefully protesting in front of Rangoon City Hall, injuring several and arresting eight protesters, including women’s rights activist Nilar Thein. On the morning of 6 March, police in Letpadan also violently dispersed the student demonstrators held near a monastery and their supporters. Police arrested five students. These detained protesters have since been released.

On 10 March, after the protesters in Letpadan were initially allowed to go to Rangoon, police and members of vigilante groups surrounded the peaceful and unarmed protesters and proceeded to brutally attack them. Injured students, monks, and Letpadan residents who had gathered to express their support were then taken away by the police.

We strongly condemn the use of excessive force and violence against the peaceful protesters by the police. The government must take responsibility for the unlawful and aggressive actions of its security forces against the peaceful protesters. These aggressive actions are reminiscent of the tactics of past military regimes that have been infamous in using lethal violence against students and crushing any form of dissent. Of particular concern is the cooperation between police forces and vigilante groups, who participated in the crackdown and used excessive force against these young women and men.

If President Thein Sein is serious about making educational reform one of the priority measures of his government, it is in his interest to take an inclusive approach by having a dialogue with the students, including leaders of the National Network for Education Reform (NNER) and other student groups in the formulation of education policy. 

The violent crackdowns against student protesters further intensifies the backslide on the government's efforts to transition to full democracy and reveals the government’s continuing reliance on repressive actions. They substantiate the critique that the Burmese government is merely putting up a façade of democratic reform for the sake of gaining political legitimacy and economic engagement from the international community.

We, the undersigned organizations, urge the Burmese government to:

Immediately cease and desist using excessive force and violence against the peacefully protesting students, monks, activists and residents and ensure that security forces exercise the highest degree of restraint in any interactions with the protesters who are exercising their civil and political rights.
•Continue to hold the next hearing sessions for the draft law amending the National Education Law with the representatives of the diverse student movement, including those from ethnic and religious minorities, and to provide the students with an effective avenue to voice their concerns and propose solutions on these matters.
• Prevent any actions that violently repress the right of the students to be heard on issues that directly affect them. This includes protecting the students from the violent actions of vigilante groups that have been harassing them. We condemn the Letpadan police’s threat of using the provisions of the Peaceful Assembly Law against the right of the student demonstrators to freedom of speech, and peaceful assembly.
•Investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the violence, and institutionalize nationwide measures to prevent recurrence of similar incidents.
•Drop all charges against the arrested students, and unconditionally free any students still in detention.
•Amend without delay the National Education Law in line with students’ demands to ensure authentic educational reforms that address the needs and concerns of the stakeholders.

Signatories:

1.             Action Committee for Democracy Development, Burma/Myanmar

2.             Actions Birmanie , Belgium

3.             Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh

4.             All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress, Burma/Myanmar

5.             Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma

6.             Article 19

7.             ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

8.             ASEAN Sogie Caucus

9.             Asia Democracy Network

10.          Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development

11.          Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition

12.          Assistant Association for Political Prisoners, Burma

13.          Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters, Burma/Myanmar

14.          Association Suisse-Birmanie, Switzerland

15.          Ayerwaddy Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

16.          Backpack Health Worker Team, Burma/Myanmar

17.          Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha, India

18.          Burma Action Ireland

19.          Burma Campaign UK

20.          Burma Issues, Thailand

21.          Burma Link, UK

22.          Burma Medical Association

23.          Burma Partnership

24.          Burma-Initiative, Stiftung Asienhaus, Germany

25.          Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

26.          Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association- ADHOC , Cambodia

27.          Centre for Human Rights and Development, Mongolia

28.          Child Rights Coalition  Asia

29.          Chin State Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

30.          Christian Solidarity Worldwide

31.          Civil Authorize Negotiate Organization, Myanmar

32.          Civil Rights Defender

33.          Coalition for Refugees from Burma (USA)

34.          Colorful Girls, Burma/Myanmar

35.          Directorio Democratico Cubano (Cuba)

36.          Empower Foundation Thailand

37.          Forum for Democracy in Burma

38.          Free Burma Campaign, South Africa

39.          Globe International Center, Mongolia

40.          HAK Association, Timor Leste

41.          Hong Kong Coalition for a Free Burma

42.          Hong Kong Committee for Children’s Rights

43.          Htoi Gender and Development Foundation, Burma/Myanmar

44.          Human Rights Foundation of Monland, Burma/Myanmar

45.          Human Rights Working Group, Indonesia

46.          Imparsial, Indonesia

47.          Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Indonesia

48.          Info Birmanie (France)

49.          Interfaith Cooperation Forum

50.          International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), France

51.          Just Associates Southeast Asia

52.          Justice for Women, Burma/Myanmar

53.          Kachin Peace Network, Burma/Myanmar

54.          Kachin State Women Network, Burma/Myanmar

55.          Kachin State Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

56.          Kachin Women Peace Network, Burma/Myanmar

57.          Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

58.          Karen Community of Canada

59.          Karen Human Rights Group, Thailand

60.          Karen Women Organization, Thailand

61.          Karenni National Women’s Organization

62.          Kayan New Generation Youth, Burma/Myanmar

63.          Knights for Peace International, Philippines

64.          KontraS, Indonesia

65.          Lanna Action for Burma, Thailand

66.          Law and Society Trust (LST), Sri Lanka

67.          Magway Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

68.          Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture, Malaysia

69.          Mandalay Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

70.          MARUAH, Singapore

71.          Migrant Forum in Asia

72.          Mindanao Action Group for Children’s Rights & Protection, Philippines

73.          Mon State Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

74.          Myanmar ICT for Development Organization

75.          Myanmar Teachers Federation

76.          National Youth Congress , Myanmar

77.          Natural Resources Accountability Myanmar

78.          Network for Democracy and Development, Burma

79.          Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma

80.          Norwegian Burma Committee

81.          Pago Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

82.          Palaung Women’s Organization, Burma/Myanmar

83.          Panzagar , Myanmar

84.          People’s Empowerment Foundation, Thailand

85.          People’s Watch, India

86.          People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), South Korea

87.          Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, India

88.          Pergerakan Indonesia, Indonesia

89.          Philippine Alliance for Human Rights Advocates

90.          PILIPINA Legal Resources Center, Philippines

91.          Potohar Organization for Development Advocacy (PODA), Pakistan

92.          Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, India

93.          Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia

94.          Radanar Ayar Rural Development Association, Myanmar

95.          Rakhine State Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

96.          Right to Know Campaign, South Africa

97.          SAARC Youth Association

98.          Sagaing Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

99.          Shan State Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

100.        Shwe Gas Movement, Burma/Myanmar

101.        Society for Threatened Peoples, Germany

102.        South East Asian Committee for Advocacy

103.        Students and Youth Congress of Burma

104.        Suara Rakyat Malaysia

105.        Swedish Burma Committee

106.        Taiwan Association for Human Rights

107.        Taiwan Free Burma Network

108.        Tanintharyi Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

109.        Task Force Detainees of the Philippines

110.        Tavoy Women’s Union, Burma/Myanmar

111.        Tavoy Youth Organization, Burma/Myanmar

112.        Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma, Thailand

113.        Thai Volunteer Service Foundation

114.        The Life Skills Development Foundation

115.        The Seagull, Myanmar

116.        Think Centre, Singapore

117.        Union of Karenni State Youth, Burma/Myanmar

118.        US Campaign for Burma

119.        Universities Teachers Association

120.        Vietnam Association for the Protection of Children’s Rights

121.        Voluntary Internship Program, Myanmar

122.        William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com, UK

123.        Women Peace Network Arakan, Burma/Myanmar

124.        Women’s League of Burma

125.        World Merit, Myanmar

126.        World Student Christian Federation – Asia Pacific

127.        Yangon Youth Network, Burma/Myanmar

128.        Yayasan LINTAS NUSA Batam, Indonesia

129.        Yayasan SEJIWA,  Indonesia

130.        Zo Indigenous Forum, India