Student Activist Po Po Arrested and Facing Charges in Myanmar

Po Po is seen at the student protest in March in Letpadan. Photo JPaing / The Irrawaddy.

Po Po is seen at the student protest in March in Letpadan. Photo JPaing / The Irrawaddy.

Human rights defender and 20 year old student activist Po Po was arrested at her home in Myanmar on April 8th. Warrants were issued for her arrest, along with fellow student activists Myat Thuya, Nanda Sitt Aung and Kyaw Ko Ko, by a Kamayut Township Judge on March 11th. Student organizations, such as the All Burma Federation of Student Union (ABFSU), of which Po Po is a member, have been heavily involved in protests since November 2014 against the National Education Bill, enacted by Parliament on September 30th 2014.

Student activists and independent experts have been highly critical of the law, which they claim restricts academic freedom. The ABFSU was one of a number of organizations that presented a list of ten demands to the Parliament for an amended statute, which include the adoption of ethnic languages in school curricula and the right to form student and teacher unions. The crackdown on student protesters are part of widespread restrictions on protests in Myanmar recently.

Po Po spent the night of her arrest in a Kamayut Township jail, and has since been remanded to Insein Prison. Nanda Sitt Aung was arrested a few days previously, while Myat Thuya and Kyaw Ko Ko remain free despite the pending warrant.

Po Po was involved in the peaceful student protest in Letpadan on March 10th 2015, but escaped the violent police response to the movement, which resulted in the arrest of approximately 126 students. On that date, students attempting to march from Letpadan, Pegu Division, to Yangon in protest over the education law were beaten and seriously injured by riot police and armed groups. Five days previously, students protesting the same law at the Sule Pagoda in Yangon were also severely beaten and arrested.

Along with Myat Thuya, Nanda Sitt Aung and Kyaw Ko Ko, Po Po led a protest in Yangon demanding the release of all students detained. She is due to be arraigned on Friday, April 10th, along with Nanda Sitt Aung, at the Kamayut Township Courthouse under articles 143, 145, 147 and 505(b) of the Penal Code. The charges against the pair are set to include participation in an unlawful assembly and rioting. The alleged offenses carry penalties of up to three years in prison.

Human rights organization Front Line Defenders expressed its grave concern at the detention of human rights defenders Po Po and Nanda Sitt Aung, which it believes to be solely the result of their human rights work, and the continued suppression of the right to peaceful assembly within Myanmar. The organization urges the authorities to immediately drop all legal proceedings against Po Po, Myat Thuya, Nanda Sitt Aung and Kyaw Ko Ko as it is believed that they are solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful work in of human rights, and unconditionally release Po Po and Nanda Sitt Aung.

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