Lifestyle & Belief

Myanmar: 20 student leaders detained


Buddhist students shout slogans during a demonstration in front of the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta. The students urged the Myanmar government not to suppress its citizens' call for freedom and democracy.


Jewel Samad

At least 20 student activists were detained in Myanmar on Saturday, ahead of a commemoration of the crackdown on the student reform movement 50 years ago, BBC News reported

The students were arrested in four different cities — Yangon and Mandalay, Myanmar's two largest cities, as well as Lashio and Shwebo in the north — late Friday night and taken to undisclosed locations for questioning, Reuters reported

Kyo Kyo Gyi, a veteran of the 1962 student uprising, known as Generation '88, told Agence France Presse that the five students being held in Yangon were "taken for no reason", adding that "the authorities said they wanted to talk with them." 

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Phyo Phyo Aung, the 23-year-old secretary of All Burma Students Union and a former political prisoner who was freed under amnesty last year, was among those detained, according to Reuters.

"They said they would send her back home after questioning," Aung's mother told Reuters. "We don't know where and how she is now."

Saturday is the 50th anniversary of the country's 1962 suppression of student protests, according to Reuters, the same year that the late General Ne Win seized power and began the military junta's 49-year rule of former Burma.

Despite the students' detentions, around 300 people gathered in Rangoon to mark the anniversary, BBC News reported

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) today called on the government of the Union of Myanmar to immediately release the students, Asian Correspondent reported

"This act of oppression has given us the impression that the old ways of practice are still in effect, despite all the positivity for change that we have been hearing," Cambodian lawmaker Son Chhay, AIPMC's vice president, said in a statement. "If they are even going to arrest people before any crime has taken place, this shows that they continue to use fear and intimidation to repress." 

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BBC News' Thailand correspondent Jonah Fisher said that "anything other than a speedy release will raise serious questions about President Thein Sein's ability to transform what was until recently one of the world's most repressive states." 

Myanmar ended its military rule last year, and elected a quasi-civilian government led by President Sein in an attempt to reform the country, AFP reported.