Myanmar Should Protect Rights of Protestors
In response to Myanmar’s arrest of demonstrators at two protests last week and the on-going student demonstrations, Freedom House released the following statement:
“Authorities’ apparently intentional use of plainclothes mobs to provoke violence in otherwise peaceful protests is a worrying reminder of the notorious Swan Ah Shin group, which was used by government forces to intimidate demonstrators and discredit protests during the Saffron Revolution,” said Robert Herman, vice president for regional programs. “This tactic was used twice in the past week, the first reported cases since 2011. Freedom House calls on Myanmar authorities to respect international standards on freedom of assembly and protect the right of citizens to demonstrate peacefully.”
Over a dozen people were arrested during a strike by garment factory workers in Yangon on March 4. Protestors said that plainclothes individuals supported uniformed police in violently breaking up the protest and that demonstrators were beaten during arrest. The following day, about 200 demonstrators gathered in central Yangon calling for changes to the Education Law and expressing their support for student protestors encamped in Letpadan. The assembly was broken up by police and plainclothes agitators with eight demonstrators being arrested.
Separately, student protestors, who left Mandalay on January 20 as part of a nationwide march to Yangon calling for changes to the Education Law, have been stopped in the city of Letpadan since February 17. Reports state that approximately 100 protestors and are currently surrounded in a monastery by a blockade of about 500 police officers. The students have expressed their intention to challenge the police blockade and resume their march to Yangon on March 10.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.