Myanmar: Students charged for staging Protest over Internet Shutdown in Chin and Arakan States
Six students are charged of organising a demonstration that called for an end of the internet blackout in parts of Arakan and Chin states in Myanmar. While the indictment is based on Section 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, representatives of the Arakan Students Union call into question the treatment of the students, who are supposed to sit for exams next week. The demonstration was staged by the Arakan Students Union, the Yangon University of Economics Students’ Union and the All Burma Federation of Student Unions. Together, they demanded to end the months-long internet shutdown in townships of Chin and Arakan states and called for accountability for the school shooting in Arakan State, as well as for the right to independent news coverage in the region.
Min Tun — Six out of nine students accused of leading a demonstration last month demanding the restoration of internet access in nine townships of Arakan and Chin states have been charged under Section 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law at a court in Yangon’s Kamayut Township, according to the Kamayut Police Station.
Five students were arrested on 5 March and charged under the Peaceful Assembly Law at the Kamayut court along with one other, Police Major Thein Han, head of Kamayut Police Station, told DMG. They were previously detained for questioning on 24 February, one day after the protest in Yangon, but were subsequently released pending a formal arraignment.
“They were apprehended yesterday and charged under the Peaceful Assembly Law,” Police Major Thein Han said on Friday.
The defendants detained on Thursday have been identified as Ko Aung Pyae Sone Phyo, U Naung Htet Aung, Ko Thuta Soe, Ma Hnin, Ma Aye Myat Mon Kyaw and Ko Zaw Htet Naing, and the three other students accused of organizing the demonstration are still on the run, according to the Kamayut Police Station.
U Thaw Zin Tun from the Arakan Students Union said the arrest and indictment of the youths was questionable, given the fact that as university students, they are scheduled to sit for exams on 18 March.
“The charges against the students have raised a question for us regarding to what extent does the government pay attention to education,” he said.
The Arakan Students Union (Universities – Yangon), Yangon University of Economics Students’ Union (Ywarthargyi) and the All Burma Federation of Student Unions staged the offending protest against the government in Yangon on 23 February, demanding an end to the months-long internet shutdown in some parts of Arakan and Chin states.
In addition to calling for internet access to be restored, the students demanded accountability for the artillery shelling of a school in Buthidaung Township, Arakan State on 13 February, and advocated for the media’s right to cover news in Arakan State independently.
The government blocked internet access in the Arakan State townships of Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Rathedaung, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Myebon, Mrauk-U and Minbya, as well as Paletwa Township in Chin State, on 21 June. The ban was lifted in Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Rathedaung, Myebon and Paletwa townships on 1 September, but was reimposed on 3 February.
In addition to local civil society organisations, international agencies and foreign embassies have also called on the government to restore internet access in the affected townships.
Photo courtesy of Burma News International