HRW: Burma Govt’ Behind “Crackdown” on Student Activists

Burma’s Government is intensifying intimidation and arrest of student activists as a nationwide election nears on November 8, 2015.

In recent weeks student activist leaders have been arrested without notice and arbitrarily detained. Last week security forces arrested Ko Zeya Lwin, one of the leaders behind a June 30 protest outside Yangon’s Town Hall.

Ko Zeya Lwin was pr0testing against a decision by the military-dominated parliament to block constitutional reform that would ease military control and allow the National League for Democracy leader, Aung Sun Suu Kyi to run for President.

David Scott Mathieson, senior Burma researcher at Human Rights Watch, said that the arrest was part of a wider crackdown on political opponents of the government.

“As international expectations are raised for genuinely democratic elections in November, the number of detained students and other political prisoners will be a key indicator of the government’s commitment to basic freedoms. With recent arrests, that commitment looks increasingly shaky.” Mr Mathieson said in a Human Rights Watch statement.

Meanwhile on July 10, a court in Meiktila sentenced two land rights campaigners to four-month prison sentences after holding a peaceful protest in May.

“Last March, police cracked down on more than 100 peaceful student demonstrators in the town of Letpadan, and at least 70 protesters – many of them members of the formerly banned All Burma Federation of Student Unions – remain jailed and face charges of rioting and unlawful assembly, which could send them to 10 years in prison.” Mr Mathieson added, “The jail conditions for many of the activists during their prolonged pre-trial detention are dire.”

According a statement on the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners-Burma website, the number of political prisoner in Burma has risen this year with 169 currently in prison and a further 446 facing charges.

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