Seven University Students Jailed in Connection with Effigy Burnings

By De Hlaing Winn 15 February 2019

MANDALAY—The Amarapura Court in Mandalay Region on Wednesday sentenced seven Yadanabon University students to three months in prison for burning ministers in effigy during a protest to demand better security on campus.

The students were each sentenced to three months’ imprisonment under Article 435 of the Penal Code, which prohibits “mischief by fire”, and two months’ imprisonment under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law. The court ordered that the sentences be served concurrently.

On Dec. 28, 2018, three student protesters led by Yadanabon University Students’ Union (YUSU) chair Ko Kyaw Thiha Ye Kyaw staged a demonstration to demand better security measures on their campus, citing the case of a student who was killed during a robbery on Dec. 25, as well as a rash of motorcycle thefts.

During the protest, they burned effigies of Mandalay Chief Minister Dr. Zaw Myint Maung; Regional Minister of Electricity and Transport U Zar Ni Aung; Regional Minister of Border Affairs and Security Colonel Kyaw Kyaw Min; Union Deputy Home Affairs Minister Lieutenant-General Kyaw Swe; and the rector of Yadanabon University, Dr. Maung Maung Naing. They were arrested on the same day over the burnings.

Five days later on Jan. 2, four other students were arrested while demanding the release of the student union leaders.

All seven students—Ko Kyaw Thiha Ye Kyaw, Ko Ye Min Tun, Ko Ye Myo Swe, Ko Phone Myint Kyaw, Ko Myo Chit Aung (aka) Ba Chit, Ko Nay Win Kyaw and Ko Ye Lin Aung—initially had lawsuits opened against them on four charges and were brought before the township court on Jan. 11.

Ko Ye Myo Swe, a YUSU organizer, said after the verdict, before being taken to prison, that the seven would “continue our demands when we are out of prison.”

Amarapura Township police acted as plaintiff in the case and sued the students under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law.

The deputy chief of the Amarapua Township General Administration Department also acted as plaintiff and sued them under articles 435, 505 (b) of the Penal Code, which relate to “intent to cause public fear or alarm” and Article 114, which relates to “abetting”.

The official later dropped the last two charges, “as he cares for the education of those students and thus the judge delivered a verdict on the two charges [Article 435 of the Penal Code and Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law],” said Police Lieutenant-Colonel Myo Aung, the head of the Mandalay District Police Force.

Other student union members also met with Mandalay Region government officials on Jan. 24 and demanded the release of the student leaders, and the regional government promised to reduce the charges.

Yadanabon University has an enrollment of some 20,000 students in variety of subjects. Students have asked that the school provide them with better security and cleaner restrooms, but the rector has said there is no budget for that.