At least 14 are in prison, another 30 are wanted by the police. The young people are part of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (Abfsu) and were demonstrating for a conflict that has claimed hundreds of victims, including children. University in Meiktila: government and army "do not want peace".
Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Myanmar police have arrested 14 university students for holding protests and demonstrations against the conflict in the western state of Rakhine between the Burmese government army and soldiers of the Arakan Army (Aa) Buddhist rebel group. According to a leader of the student movement, another 30 have escaped arrest and are currently being sought by the police.
The students, most of whom are members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (Abfsu), have repeatedly organized demonstrations and awareness-raising activities on the war in the Western state, which has also claimed victims among children. Recently, young people have posted signs and papers on the bulletin boards of universities in various cities, including Mandalay (the second most important in the country), Pakokku and Monywa.
The Abfsu is an umbrella organization that brings together different student movements and groups and which fights for academic freedom, student rights and freedoms throughout Southeast Asia, not just Myanmar. They are calling for an end to the conflict between the Burmese army and Arakan Army, which broke out at the end of 2018 and which caused the death of over 300 civilians, the wounding of almost 700 and the flight from their homes of 220,000 people.
The students are also demanding an end to censorship and internet blocking in the areas affected by the war.
Among those arrested are three young people from Yadanabon University, three others from Meiktila University and Monywa University, one from Pakokku University and two from Pyi University. The universities are located in the regions of Mandalay, Sagaing, Bago and Magway. Some of them were stopped outside the buildings or while they were campaigning actively against the war.
They are charged under Section 19 of the Peaceful Assemblies and Demonstrations Act, Law 505 (a and b) of the Criminal Code and Section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Act. If convicted, they risk up to two years in prison and a fine.
Speaking to Radio Free Asia (RFA) from a secret location to avoid arrest, Swam Pyae Tun of Meiktila University points out that the police arrested the students but not the supporters of political parties who demonstrated violating the restrictions in place on Covid-19. “We were asking for an end to the civil war - he adds - because we only want peace. The police did not arrest the thousands of people who took part in the electoral campaign, they only arrested us on the basis of spurious rules. Government and military do not want peace”.