Burma Students Reject Govt Warning to Stop Protests

By The Associated Press 6 February 2015

RANGOON — University students from across Burma on Friday rejected a government warning that they stop protesting against a new education law that they say prohibits them from engaging in political activities and curbs academic freedom.

A student activist contacted by phone said they continued their march Friday and that colleagues from different universities will join forces in Rangoon.

“Many of our colleagues from Ayeywarwaddy [Irrawaddy] delta and southern Myanmar [Burma] are also proceeding with their protest march and we will all meet in Yangon [Rangoon],” said Ye Yint Kyaw, a student member of the protest group.

On Thursday, the government accused the students of being manipulated by groups seeking to destabilize the country.

A special announcement by the Government Information Committee broadcast on state television said some political organizations were behind recent student protests, but did not identify them. It called on the public to cooperate, reminding them of past instability due to riots.

Public support has been growing for hundreds of students who on Jan. 20 began a peaceful march of several hundred miles from the central city of Mandalay to Rangoon seeking to change an education law passed last year. They say the law fails to give autonomy to universities and does not allow the formation of student unions.

Talks started by the government with the students this week were suspended over a disagreement about how many students could attend.

The march has attracted the support of growing numbers of students and Buddhist monks. It also has many supporters from the opposition National League for Democracy party of Aung San Suu Kyi, which is expected to make a strong challenge to the military-backed government of President Thein Sein in elections set for later this year.

The threat of an expanded protest is sensitive in Burma, in part because students were at the forefront of pro-democracy protests in 1988 that were brutally crushed by the military.

But Ye Yint Kyaw said the protest march had been peaceful and that the students had also received support from local residents along the way.