Police Nab Another Student Linked to Letpadan Protest

By Yen Saning & Zarni Mann 9 April 2015

RANGOON — Another student activist, Po Po, who last month participated in an education reform protest that was violently dispersed in Letpadan, Pegu Division, was arrested at her home on Wednesday and will be charged with joining a subsequent demonstration in Rangoon.

Po Po, a third-year student majoring in history who also goes by the name Yadanar Su Po Paing, spent the night in a Kamayut Township jail cell before being remanded to Insein Prison on Thursday.

The Thanlyin Township native had been a participant in a peaceful protest involving about 200 students in Letpadan when police on March 10 cracked down violently on the movement, which was pushing for an overhaul of the controversial National Education Law. More than 120 students and their supporters were arrested, but 20-year-old Po Po and several others managed to escape the police dragnet, according to her sister Ei Pone, who was arrested at Letpadan but was later released by authorities.

“We are told they arrested her due to the Hledan protest,” Ei Pone said, referring to the traffic junction where protestors later gathered on the same day of the Letpadan crackdown to protest the police’s use of force.

The demonstrators in Rangoon were dispersed by authorities just minutes later.

“With her, Nanda Sitt Aung and others, altogether six people will be [charged] in the same case,” Ei Pone added.

A judge in Kamayut Township issued a warrant for Po Po’s arrest on March 11. Prior to her detention on Wednesday, police had arrested Nanda Sitta Aung and Win Kyaw Moe. A manhunt is still on for Kyaw Ko Ko, Lin Htet Naing and Shein Yarzar Htun, whom authorities accuse of leading the demonstration along with Po Po and the others.

Win Kyaw Moe and Po Po, both currently being held at Insein Prison, are due to be arraigned on Friday at the Kamayut Township Courthouse under articles 143, 145, 147 and 505(b) of the Penal Code. The charges include participation in an unlawful assembly, joining or continuing an unlawful assembly and rioting, with some of the alleged offenses carrying penalties of up to three years in prison.

Nanda Sitt Aung was arrested in Rangoon on March 27 and transferred to Tharrawaddy Prison.

Meanwhile, 81 students on trial for involvement in the Letpadan protest were brought to court again on Thursday. Tension arose when police initially did not allow parents to meet with their children as they were brought to the courthouse on Thursday morning.

“We were not allowed to meet with our children at first. Afterward, the parents and supporters shouted at the police to allow it, and we were able to meet with our children,” said Khin Khin Yu, mother of Min Thwe Thit.

“My son and his friends said they are not receiving proper medical treatment,” she said, adding that he was suffering from headaches after being struck on the head with a police baton during the crackdown.

“But the authorities said they’ve checked him and nothing is wrong with his health. We fear internal injuries because we heard our children were beaten severely when they were arrested.”

Authorities finally allowed the student detainees to receive clothes from donors after prison officials first blocked the donation, objecting to the fact that the white tops resembled the traditional school uniforms of Burmese students.

Student supporters and activists from Mandalay plan to organize a protest on Saturday to urge the government to release the detained student protesters.