08/27/2015, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Jailed Burmese students in isolation for going a hunger strike

by Francis Khoo Thwe
The students are protesting the refusal by the authorities to let them out on bail to take exams scheduled for September. The four students, who are from a Mandalay university, were arrested on July 1 for demonstrating against education reform. For Myanmar activists, the four have been abused and denied their basic rights.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Activists and human rights groups have expressed great concern over the mistreatment of four jailed university students, who were arrested on 1 July for protesting against the government’s education reform.

In a press release sent to AsiaNews, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) and the Former Political Prisoners Society (FPPs) slammed the isolation regime imposed on the prisoners, who have been placed them under isolation after going on a hunger strike after they were denied bail to take exams.

The four jailed students and activists are Wai Ye Naing Aung San Oo, Jit You and Nyan Lin Htet, from Yadanarpon University, in Mandalay.

They are members of the local branch of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) and were arrested for spray-painting graffiti outside the university on 26 June.

In their writing, the students openly criticised the government’s reform ("We do not want the National Education Law") and called for the "immediate release of the students detained in Tharyarwaddy prison". Many of latter have been in jail for months over last March’s protests in Letpadan, which were suppressed by the police.

The event was front and centre in the foreign press, eliciting protests from Western governments, and fears that government repression might take a violent turn as it did in September 2007, when a protest by monks and young people was violently repressed.

Students from the Mandalay university have been accused of incitement to riot, unlawful assembly, aiding and abetting illegal acts and cold be tried.

They asked to be released on bail in order to take their exams, which are scheduled for 17-29 September. However, on 12 August the judge rejected their request in less than ten minutes.

The students responded by going on a hunger strike. Prison authorities placed the four students in isolation on 22 August as a punishment for their action.

AAPP and FPPs activists said that the four have not been tried nor convicted, and should be considered innocent until proven guilty. For this reason, they should be allowed to take the exams.

"Punishing students over the hunger strike by putting them in isolation is a totally unjustified step,” the activists said. “It is a deliberate attempt to discourage students from engaging in political activism." Those detained should “be released" to "take the exams."

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