BURMA/MYANMAR: Serious concern about the on-going hunger strike of student protesters

Asia Human Rights
November 11, 2015
Reproduced with Permission
Asian Human Rights Commission

The Asian Human Rights Commission is gravely concerned about the health situation of student protesters who are currently carrying out hunger strikes in the prisons. There are incidences of solitary confinement, force-feeding, denial of water to some students besides inadequate hospital care. There was a police crackdown after which they arrested the non-violent student protesters on 10 March 2015 for exercising the constitutional rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association. These students have been detained in prison now for over 8 months. They are awaiting trial over their protest demanding an amendment to the controversial National Education Law enacted last year. Charges have been filed against them under sections 143, 145, 147, 332 and 505(b) of the Burmese Penal Code, allegedly over unlawful assembly and alarming the public.

It has been 20 days since Aung Hmaing San, a student leader began his hunger strike calling for the release of all political prisoners across Burma. He has been detained in Tharawaddy prison. Currently he is being held in solitary confinement for breaking a prison rule by not eating. More and more students from Tharawadday and Myingyan and Insein prisons have joined the hunger strike.

According to the latest information received, 18 students are undertaking hunger strikes in the prisons. They are 1. Aung Hmaing San, 2. Than Htike, 3. Myo Htet Paing, 4. Myo Myat San, 5. Swe Lin Tun, 6. Mar Naw, 7. Phyo Dana, 8. Kyaw Swar Lin, 9. Soe Moe Naing, 10. Sithu Myat, 11. Soe Hlaing, 12. Nyan Gyi, 13. Ye Htut Win, 14. Aung Myin Han, 15. Ko Thein, 16. Khant Aung, 17. Naing Zaw Kyi Win, 18. Tin Htut Paing.

Aung Hmaing San is one of the student representatives who participated in the quadripartite dialogue between the Action Committee for Democratic Education, the National Network for Education Reform, the Parliament, and the Government regarding enactment of the education law and peaceful protests. It was held while student protesters marched from Mandalay to Yangon earlier this year. The students had an agreement from the authorities that they will not take any action against the protesters and their supporters. However, in violation of the agreement, the police brutally struck out against the protesters on 10 March 2015 after weeks long blockade in Letpadan Township and the police arrested many of them.

The Asian Human Rights Commission condemns the arrests, the excessive force used by the police, the denial of their human rights and the current arrests of student leaders who were fugitives for months because of protesting against the education law. Recent arrests occurred a few days after the National Human Rights Commission appealed to the president to release all political prisoners.

It was also pointed out by the AHRC that the prison hospital could not provide proper medical assistance as students faced hygienic problems. Therefore, the AHRC calls on the government to provide basic needs such as water and adequate health care for the students undergoing the hunger strike. Information about the students' situation should also be shared with their families. The AHRC urges the government to immediately release all political prisoners.