Student Leader Kyaw Ko Ko Arrested After Months in Hiding

By Nobel Zaw 29 October 2015

RANGOON — A leader of Burma’s student movement that was that brutally crushed earlier this year was apprehended by police in Rangoon on Thursday after spending more than seven months in hiding.

The All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) announced in the early afternoon that the group’s president, 34-year-old Kyaw Ko Ko, had been arrested near San Pya market in Thingangkun Township.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone on Thursday, ABFSU spokesperson Aung Nay Paing said the fugitive was found, arrested and taken away police, but the group did not know his current whereabouts.

“He was detained by plainclothes police near San Pya Market at noon when he went out alone,” Aung Nay Paing said, explaining that Kyaw Ko Ko was allowed to borrow an officer’s cell phone to inform his peers of the arrest.

Kyaw Ko Ko was a central figure in a stuent protest movement that began late last year against a new National Education law.

The movement gained traction in early 2015, and culminated in a brutal police crackdown on March 10, when officers were seen surrounding and indiscriminately beating students, supporters and journalists outside a monastery in Letpadan, Pegu Division.

More than 100 people were arrested during the crackdown, and about 60 are still in custody awaiting trial for various offenses including rioting, incitement and causing harm to a public servant.

Kyaw Ko Ko, who was not present at Letpadan, led a similar peaceful demonstration in Rangoon on the same day, fleeing the scene as police arrived to break up the march.

The sudden arrest came a day after the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) called for the release of all political prisoners—including all students and their supporters still awaiting a verdict—ahead a Nov. 8 general election.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) issued a similar request last week, calling on the government to immediately release all political prisoners and put an end to the arrest of opposition party supporters.

According to AAPP, more than 560 people are either serving prison sentences or facing trial for charges deemed to be politically motivated.