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: January 05, 2021

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Yadanabon University

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Myanmar (Burma)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 5, 2021, police arrested Yadanabon University student Phone Myint Kyaw in connection with his student activism.

Phone Myint Kyaw, a member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), was arrested in Aung May That San township. Police charged Phone Myint Kyaw, along with fellow ABFSU members, in September 2020 for allegedly distributing flyers, leaflets, and other materials containing anti-war and pro-democracy themes. At that time, ABFSU members organized a number of protest activities in response to an ongoing armed conflict in Myanmar’s Rhakine state.

Sources indicate Phone Myint Kyaw was charged under sections 505(a) and 505(b) of the Penal Code, which relates to expression that is intended or likely to cause a member of the armed forces “to mutiny or otherwise disregard his duty” or that is intended or likely to result in “fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offence against the State or against the public tranquility.” Violation of Section 505 may result in two years’ imprisonment, if convicted. He also faces charges of violating Section 4 of the Peaceful Assembly Law, which relates to obtaining advance permission to exercise the right to peaceful assembly, and which carries a penalty of up to three months’ imprisonment and/or a fine.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of a student for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting or retaliating against such conduct, so long as it is peaceful and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, the use of arrests to retaliate against or deter peaceful the expressive activity of students undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.