Detained Student Protesters Agree to End Hunger Strike

By Moe Myint 17 November 2015

THAYAWADY, Pegu Division — A group of jailed students and their supporters have ended a hunger strike that was taking its toll on the participants’ health, the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABSFU) said in a statement on Tuesday.

At its peak, 15 students and supporters were involved in the hunger strike that was initiated by Aung Hmein San in Thayawady prison on October 23 in protest at the continued incarceration of political prisoners in Burma.

All of the students involved were jailed for their involvement in a peaceful protest movement earlier this year against a controversial National Education Law that was broken up violently by police in Pegu Division’s Letpadan Township.

Aung Hmein San was sent to hospital last week alongside fellow student protester Myo Myat San. Phyo Dana, who was on a hunger strike for nine days, was also admitted to Rangoon General Hospital on Nov. 11 suffering gastrointestinal problems.

The ABSFU’s statement said the students’ decision was made to halt the hunger strike after several civil society organizations made interventions, urging the students to suspend their protest until a new government took charge in 2016.

On Saturday evening, Win Htein of the National League for Democracy (NLD), visited Aung Hmein San and Myo Myat San at Rangoon General Hospital at the request of Aung San Suu Kyi. He urged them to halt their protest during a sensitive time of political transition in the country.

The Former Political Prisoners Society and monks which took part in the 2007 Saffron Revolution also called on the students to stop their fast.

Over 40 students, jailed since March 10 for their part in a peaceful protest for education reform, appeared for a hearing at Thayawady Court on Tuesday morning. Upon their arrival, the students sang songs and chanted in unison, “Democracy must win.”

The hearing was promptly adjourned until next week.

Ko Thein, one of around 50 activists that remain behind bars in connection with the Letpadan crackdown, was dubious of some reports of an imminent release of political prisoners.

“This government transformed from the military and their mindset has not changed yet,” he said.

After the opposition NLD’s landslide victory in the Nov. 8 poll, Ko Thein told reporters that student movements will retain relevance in a new political climate.

“We don’t [expect] much of the next government because they have to do a lot in this country,” he said.