On February 13, 2019, a Mandalay court sentenced seven Yadanabon University students to five months in jail in connection to their participation in a protest.
The seven students are prominent members of the Yadanabon Student Union and organized a series of protests beginning in December 2018, to demand better security on campus, after the reported murders of three students in the fall and robberies of several more. During a protest on December 28, students reportedly burned an effigy of a coffin with photos of government and university officials. Following the protest, authorities arrested three students, Kyaw Thiha Ye Kyaw, Ye Min Htun, and Ye Myo Swe. After holding the students overnight at the police station, the court issued an order remanding the students to Mandalay Obo Prison without bail. On January 2, following an additional protest, police arrested four other students, Ba Chit (aka) Myo Chit Zaw, Phone Myint Kyaw, Ye Linn Aung, and Nay Win Kyaw, and transferred them to Mandalay Obo Prison (see report).
The Amarapura Township Court sentenced the seven students to two months in prison for violating the peaceful assembly law and three months’ hard labor for burning effigies. The students will receive credit for time served.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the prosecution and imprisonment of students in apparent retaliation for their non-violent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly on campus—conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. State authorities have a responsibility to refrain from interfering with the rights to academic freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, arbitrary arrests of nonviolent student protesters undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.