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Myanmar: Government’s broken promises unleash student protests

Burmese police forces violently cracked down on a group of marching protesters in the town of Letpadan, Malaysia, on 10 March. The crowd, made up mostly of members of the All Burma Federation of Students Unions (ABSFU), was protesting against the controversial National Education Bill passed late last September. Authorities, which outnumbered protesters 5 to 1, arrested 127 demonstrators, including monks and journalists. At least 65 of them have been charged, and face up to six years of jail term.  The excessive use of violence to disperse and arrest protesters was denounced by international rights groups as well as by the European Union, which has been training Burmese police forces in crowd management. 

Protests were spurred by anger over the government’s breaking of an understanding reached earlier this year. In early February, the Burmese government had finally agreed to modify the National Education Bill passed last year, which has been controversial from the start: Not only does the bill stifle the autonomy of academic institutions, but protestors say it was passed Today, with most student leaders under arrest, others in hiding, and attention diverted towards the appalling treatment of protesters by Burmese police, it is unclear what will become of the National Education Bill. Given recent developments, however, it seems unlikely that the Burmese government will honour its commitment to making substantial amendments to the controversial bill.

BBC The Guardian The Economist