SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: March 02, 2015

Attack Types: Travel Restrictions

Institution(s):Various Institutions

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Myanmar (Burma)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On March 2, 2015, Burmese police surrounded a traveling demonstration of several hundred students, preventing them from continuing a protest march that began just over a month earlier in Mandalay, and was scheduled to continue on to Yangon.
The students were demonstrating against the education law passed by Myanmar in September 2014, which students allege curbs academic freedom by banning student unions, ignores calls for classes to be taught in local ethnic languages and gives decision making authority over education policy and curriculum to a body consisting largely of government ministers.  Burmese police have reportedly threatened action against the students if their march continued on to Yangon. 
The students began their march in January and stopped the week of February 28, to negotiate with government authorities.  Following these negotiations, about 200 of the protesters paused to camp in a monastery in Letpadan, about 145 kilometers (90 miles) north of Yangon, with plans to continue marching on the morning of March 2, 2015.  That morning, however, police vehicles surrounded the monastery, closing exits and entrances, and prevented the students from resuming their march.  According to reports, police ordered the students to disburse by Tuesday, March 3.  As of this report, the students have refused. 
Scholars at Risk is concerned about attempts to limit student mobility, in apparent retaliation for nonviolent expressive activity concerning academic freedom and higher education policy.  While students have a responsibility to exercise their rights of free expression and association responsibly, state authorities likewise have a responsibility to protect academic freedom, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and to refrain from imposing arbitrary restrictions on movement intended to limit these freedoms.  Restrictions on travel or movement aimed at limiting such expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.
To view related reports, please click here and here.