Burma/Myanmar : Violent acts against student protesters and their leaders

    The Observatory has been informed of violent acts against student protesters and their leaders who are calling for amendments to the National Education Law. Nationwide peaceful protests led by the Action Committee for Democratic Education (ACDE), which includes the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), began in November 2014.

    URGENT APPEAL – THE OBSERVATORY

    MMR 001 / 0315 / OBS 016
    Obstacles to freedom of peaceful assembly /
    Obstacles to freedom of movement / Excessive use of force / Arbitrary arrests
    Burma / Myanmar
    March 12, 2015

    The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Burma / Myanmar.

    Description of the situation :

    The Observatory has been informed of violent acts against student protesters and their leaders who are calling for amendments to the National Education Law. Nationwide peaceful protests led by the Action Committee for Democratic Education (ACDE), which includes the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), began in November 2014.

    On March 2, 2015, police surrounded hundreds of student protesters at a monastery in Letpadan Township, Pegu Division, preventing them from continuing a march from Mandalay to Rangoon that began on January 20, 2015. An estimated 200 police officers manned barricades blocking the road.

    The student protesters at Letpadan set a March 10, 2015, 10 AM deadline for authorities to allow the group to proceed by car to Rangoon. On March 10, 2015, the agreement broke down when authorities refused to permit the student protesters to leave as a group, wave banners or chant slogans. When students attempted to break through police barricades, the police responded with force. Police officers attacked students, supporters, and journalists with batons, injuring an estimated 70 people. Police officers also attacked medical workers carting injured protesters into ambulances and smashed students’ vehicles. Police arrested 127 people on the scene, including 20 women, among them Ms. Phyoe Phyoe Aung, former political prisoner and All Burma Federation of Student Unions Secretary. An estimated 65 were students. At the time of publication of this urgent appeal, a large group of protesters remained in detention.

    Authorities used excessive force against student protesters in the days leading up to the 10 March violence. On March 5, 2015, police and hired thugs used force to break up a solidarity protest of more than 200 near Sule Pagoda in Rangoon, beating protesters with batons and dragging them into trucks. Police detained eight individuals —five students and Ms. Nilar Thein, Ms. Nu Nu Aung, and Mr. Myo Thant of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, and held them overnight. On March 6, 2015, police and plainclothes men broke up a small demonstration in Letpadan near the protest site, detaining five more students and accosting a journalist in the process. All five were released the next day.

    The Observatory strongly condemns the disproportionate and unjustified use of force against peaceful protesters, medical workers, and journalists and calls upon authorities to end restrictions on protesters’ freedom of assembly and movement and to refrain from using force against them.

    The Observatory urges the Burmese government to release unconditionally and without delays all those who were detained in Letpadan on March 10.

    Background information :

    Proposed changes to the National Education Law include : more autonomy for educational institutions, an increase in the national education budget, and mother -tongue language instruction. From November 14-17, 2014, the ACDE, comprising members of the ABFSU, the Confederation of University Student Unions, and the University Student Union – Myay Latt held demonstrations in Rangoon and other areas of Burma calling for a quadripartite meeting between the ACDE, the National Network for Education Reform (NNER), the government, and Parliament. Protests restarted in January, including a Mandalay to Rangoon march, after the government failed to respond within the 60-day period mandated by the students.
    In February, student protesters halted their protest march toward Rangoon, as multi-party talks led to an 11-point agreement forwarded by the students and an amended bill submitted to Parliament. Some student protesters restarted protests and vowed to continue until Parliament passed the agreed upon amendments.

    Actions requested :

    Please write to the authorities in Burma, urging them to :

    i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all student protesters, as well as of all other human rights defenders in Burma ;

    ii. Release immediately and unconditionally all individuals detained on March 10, including Phyoe Phyoe Aung as their detention is arbitrary and merely aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities ;

    iii. Put an immediate end to all acts of police violence and police and judicial harassment against peaceful protesters ;

    iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its :
    – Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;
    – Article 12.1, which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” ;
    – Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration” ;

    Addresses :

    · U Thein Sein, President of Myanmar, President Office, Office No.18, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR ; Fax : + 95 1 652 624
    · Lt. Gen Ko Ko, Minister for Home Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Office No. 10, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR ; Fax : +95 67 412 439
    · U Win Mra, Chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, 27 Pyay Road, Hline Township, Yangon, Republic of the Union of Myanmar ; Fax : +95 1 659 668
    · Dr. Tun Shin, Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General, Office No. 25, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR ; Fax : +95 67 404 146/ 106
    · U Tun Tun Oo, Chief Justice, Office of the Supreme Court, Office No. 24, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR ; Fax : + 95 67 404 059
    · U Kyaw Kyaw Htun, Director General, Myanmar Police Force, Ministry of Home Affairs, Office No. 10, Naypyitaw, MYANMAR ; Fax : +951 549 663 / 549 208
    · H.E. Mr. Maung Wai, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue Blanc 47, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. Fax : +41 22 732 89 19, +41 22 732 73 77, Email : mission@myanmargeneva.org
    · Embassy of Myanmar in Brussels, Boulevard Général Wahis 9, 1030 Brussels, Belgium, Fax : +32 (0)32 2 705 50 48, Email : mebrussels@skynet.be

    Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Burma in your respective countries.
    ***
    Paris-Geneva, March 12, 2015

    Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

    The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

    SOURCE www.fidh.org