Education Reformers Demand Release of Detained Students

By Nobel Zaw 13 March 2015

RANGOON — A leading education reform network has announced that it will abstain from parliamentary discussions until all student demonstrators arrested earlier this week are released from custody.

Thein Lwin, a spokesman for the National Network for Education Reform (NNER), told The Irrawaddy that the group will boycott an Upper House education reform hearing scheduled for March 17 unless all relevant parties can attend.

“The view of the NNER is that all students should be included [in education reform hearings], and we have made clear that we will attend only when all of the student protesters can attend,” he said.

A parliamentary session to discuss amendments to the national Education Law began on March 5, and is scheduled to continue until March 17, closing with final discussions and remarks by the NNER.

But the NNER said it will boycott the meeting because several members of the Action Committee for Democratic Education (ACDE), a core group of student activists, are still in detention since their arrest in Letpadan, Pegu Division on Tuesday.

Earlier hearings on March 5 and 6 were also boycotted by the NNER because the demonstrators in Letpadan were being blocked by police, preventing them from continuing a march to Rangoon.

The students held a sit-in after police prevented their passage, and on March 10 the site was brutally disbanded. A total of 127 people were arrested during the violent crackdown, and many were injured by baton-wielding police.

About 60 of those detained have been charged with various offenses including incitement, harming a public servant and rioting, while 17 were conditionally released on Thursday and another 10 are expected to be freed on Friday.

An additional five people were detained in Rangoon and Monywa on Thursday for their involvement in the protests, two were released from custody on Friday.

The ACDE said it will not boycott the hearings, but will negotiate with the government for the release of its remaining members, according to member Zeyar Lwin.