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Student arrests raise doubts over Myanmar reforms
Myanmar's repressive 'old ways' still alive: activistsFellow 88 Generation Students Group leaders and local residents greet D Nyein Lin in Yangon after his release from police detention (Photo courtesy of the 88 Generation Students Group) D. Nyein Lin
- ucanews.com reporter, Yangon
- July 12, 2012
As evidence for this assertion, more than 20 student activists from Yangon, Mandalay, Shwebo and Lashio were detained by police last Friday night, while they were preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a military crackdown on students in Yangon. They were freed on Saturday after undergoing five hours of interrogation, with their inquisitors mainly wanting to know why they had chosen to stage the event.
On July 8, 1962, Myanmar's armed forces blew up the student union of Rangoon University during a crackdown on student protesters demonstrating a day earlier over a military coup that brought General Ne Win to power in March of that year. Dozens of students are believed to have been killed in the crackdown.
â€śOur aim was to bring the reality of that incident in 1962 to a new generation and to honor the students who sacrificed their lives,â€ť said Phyo Phyo Aung, secretary of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, who was one of the detained.
â€śWe were arrested because we were told the gathering was unlawful. But the government uses the law at will, to control or oppress opponents,â€ť she said.
â€śIn order to have rule of law in the country, the unjust laws must be abolished and new laws to protect the right of each citizen must be introduced.â€ť
Sithu Maung, vice-president of the Federation, added: â€śThey told us the arrests were intended to protect our dignity and to ease public anxiety. But we doubt that rule of law exists in our country as our rights are violated and our lives are not safe.â€ť
Rights groups and political analysts have voiced concerns about the detentions, with the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus calling them an â€śact of oppressionâ€ť which left the impression that â€śthe old ways are still in effect.â€ť
Phyo Phyo Aung fully endorsed that observation. Â â€śOppression is still going on in the country and itâ€™s time to ask whether the country really is moving towards democracy,â€ť she said.
Although she described herself as cautiously optimistic about the future of Myanmar, she also said: â€śWe donâ€™t fully trust the government because they just change the uniform. It will take time to transform attitudes.â€ť
AnotherÂ of the detainees, D. Nyein Lin, pointed out that there is still no officially formed students' union.
â€śFreedom of assembly and expression is still lacking in the country, even though the constitution talks about it,â€ť he said.
â€śStudents and activists still face limitations and hindrances all through the country and it shouldnâ€™t be happening.Â If the government is genuine about wanting reform, they should allow the establishment of an official students' union instead of oppressing studentsâ€™ movements. Only then will the young generation play a major role in building the nation.â€ť