6 March, Yangon
Six out of nine students accused of leading a demonstration last month demanding the restoration of internet access in nine townships of Arakan and Chin states have been charged under Section 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law at a court in Yangon’s Kamayut Township, according to the Kamayut Police Station.
Five students were arrested on March 5 and charged under the Peaceful Assembly Law at the Kamayut court along with one other, Police Major Thein Han, head of Kamayut Police Station, told DMG. They were previously detained for questioning on February 24, one day after the protest in Yangon, but were subsequently released pending a formal arraignment.
“They were apprehended yesterday and charged under the Peaceful Assembly Law,” Police Major Thein Han said on Friday.
The defendants detained on Thursday have been identified as Ko Aung Pyae Sone Phyo, U Naung Htet Aung, Ko Thuta Soe, Ma Hnin, Ma Aye Myat Mon Kyaw and Ko Zaw Htet Naing, and the three other students accused of organizing the demonstration are still on the run, according to the Kamayut Police Station.
U Thaw Zin Tun from the Arakan Students Union said the arrest and indictment of the youths was questionable, given the fact that as university students, they are scheduled to sit for exams on March 18.
“The charges against the students have raised a question for us regarding to what extent does the government pay attention to education,” he said.
The Arakan Students Union (Universities – Yangon), Yangon University of Economics Students’ Union (Ywarthargyi) and the All Burma Federation of Student Unions staged the offending protest against the government in Yangon on February 23, demanding an end to the months-long internet shutdown in some parts of Arakan and Chin states.
In addition to calling for internet access to be restored, the students demanded accountability for the artillery shelling of a school in Buthidaung Township, Arakan State, on February 13, and advocated for the media’s right to cover news in Arakan State independently.
The government blocked internet access in the Arakan State townships of Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Rathedaung, Ponnagyun, Kyauktaw, Myebon, Mrauk-U and Minbya, as well as Paletwa Township in Chin State, on June 21. The ban was lifted in Buthidaung, Maungdaw, Rathedaung, Myebon and Paletwa townships on September 1, but was reimposed on February 3.
In addition to local civil society organizations, international agencies and foreign embassies have also called on the government to restore internet access in the affected townships.