On February 12, 2021, police fired rubber bullets at and beat students and others protesting in front of the Mawlamyine University campus.
The protest was part of a series of demonstrations triggered by a military coup on February 1. Students have been a driving force behind many of the protests, which police and military officers have frequently responded to with arrests and the use of force.
Students and civilians peacefully protested outside the Mawlamyine University campus on the morning of February 12. Police ordered them to disperse and fired “warning shots” in the air, according to The Irrawaddy. Police then charged at and beat protesters. At least 14 protesters were arrested. One student was reportedly injured by a rubber bullet that struck them.
The police intervention occurred one day after a search of the Mawlamyine University campus, including the office of the Students’ Union. Military forces would raid another university, the Myanmar Aerospace Engineering University, two days later (see report).
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force, arrests, and campus searches by police in an apparent effort to restrict peaceful student expression — conduct that is protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Instruments and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. While state authorities have a right to maintain public order and safety, they also have an obligation to refrain from restricting or retaliating against nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of force, arrests, and campus raids, especially when intended to restrict student expression, undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.