At least nine striking teachers working for Kaung for You Education, an online school for students boycotting junta schools, have reportedly been arrested since Wednesday, forcing the school to temporarily close.
The arrests came after rumors spread that the school’s principal, Kaung Thaik Soe, was arrested early Wednesday morning.
A post on Kaung for You’s Facebook page said that “Sayar Kaung [principal Kaung Thaik Soe] was arrested”. However, the post was deleted around an hour later as his detention couldn’t be confirmed. The Irrawaddy was also unable to confirm his arrest.
An officer known as ‘Captain Zero’ who defected from the military to join the civil disobedience movement (CDM) said that five Kaung for You teachers personally known to him were arrested on Wednesday.
He said the laptops of the five were confiscated during the arrests. Captain Zero added that a teacher from Myittha Township in Mandalay Region was also arrested at around 8am while teaching.
Captain Zero warned anyone else associated with the school to move, as well as not to post on the school’s Facebook page as he suspected that it was no longer under the control of the school’s authorities.
The Basic Education Student Affairs’ Federation also confirmed the arrest of a Kaung for You teacher in Kalaw, Shan State on Wednesday afternoon while she was teaching from her home.
A Central Executive Committee member of the Federation told The Irrawaddy that they have also received reports on Thursday of more arrests of teachers affiliated with Kaung for You.
He said that the Federation can confirm two arrests on Thursday including a CDM teacher in
Moe Kaung, Kachin State who was arrested at her home by junta soldiers and police on Thursday afternoon, and one teacher arrested in Tanintharyi Region.
Some unconfirmed reports also stated that over a dozen teachers had been arrested as of Thursday afternoon.
Kaung for You Education, which is officially endorsed by the parallel National Unity Government (NUG), teaches primary, middle and high school students. It has previously attracted controversy for leaking the private information of students registered with the school.
Several parents complained that they had subsequently received threatening phone calls attempting to blackmail them for money.
The school responded by saying that it will upgrade its online security and will take action against those who leaked the information.
On Thursday, NUG deputy minister of education Ja Htoi Pan wrote on her official Facebook page that the education ministry is investigating the leak of students’ personal information and that the Kaung for You administration team has already admitted to shortcomings in management.
The deputy minister continued, “With the news of Sayar Kaung Thaik Soe being arrested, some teachers were arrested. Arresting people for teaching is a violation of the right to education and is inhumane,” said Ja Htoi Pan on her Facebook.
“Everyone has to be cautious now,” she added.
Kaung for You principal Kaung Thaik Soe was an assistant township education officer until he joined the CDM following last year’s coup. He is also the leader of the Myittha Township Education Strike.
Pro-junta Facebook accounts have threatened CDM teachers, parents and students with arrest for defying military rule by refusing to attend or work in junta-run schools.
Kaung for You and other online schools providing free education are one of the few options for students who boycott regime-run schools.
Students at Kaung for You were notified that the school is now temporarily closed.
One parent whose son is registered with the school said she is worried for her family’s security since she heard of the teachers being arrested.
“I am really worried. I didn’t sleep well last night when I heard the news of the teachers being arrested. My younger daughter studies in another school under the NUG as well and I worry we will be in danger,” she added.
Ja Htoi Pan said that the education ministry will issue a notice shortly to the public about Kaung for You and will continue to work to ensure the security of online schools.