MANDALAY — Four student protesters were sentenced to four months in prison under the Peaceful Assembly Act and for disrespecting the court at Chanayethazan Township Court in Mandalay on Tuesday.
Kaung Zaw Hein, Zaw Ye Htut, Hnin Aung and Ye Myo Swe, who are members of Mandalay and Sagaing student unions, were arrested protesting Sagaing Teacher Training College’s draconian rules in front of the Department of Higher Education (Upper Burma) in Mandalay last month.
The four were found guilty of disrespecting the court for shouting and tussling with police after their guards refused to remove their handcuffs for their final court appearance on Tuesday.
The students were given the option of a one-month prison sentence or a 2,000 kyats fine and chose the prison sentence, in addition to a three-month sentence handed down under the Peaceful Assembly Act.
During the protest, the students held placards urging the college to respect students’ freedom and human rights, to practice democracy, and to stop oppressing students.
“Rules like not allowing mobile phones on the campus and strict timetables are like the rules in the army, not the rules of a college,” said Zaw Ye Htut during the protest.
On Tuesday, the students vocally denounced the judge’s sentence after it was read out and condemned Burma’s unjust laws and mistreatment by police.
Police forcibly removed the young men from the courtroom and bundled them into a waiting car to whisk them off to Obo prison.
“The police’s actions were very ugly,” said Ko Aung Hmaing San, a former political prisoner and student supporter. “Today proved that we still have no freedom of speech and cannot freely express what we dislike or disagree with.”
The students’ families said they would not appeal the court’s decision in protest of the unjust law and to highlight the lack of freedom of expression.