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: May 17, 2021

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Mawlamyine University

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Myanmar (Burma)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 17, 2021, police and military forces arrested eight Mawlamyine University students in Mawlamyine, ostensibly for alleged participation in anti-coup protests.

Protests spread across Myanmar following a military coup on February 1, 2021. University students and faculty have been regular fixtures at these protests. Military and police have responded to the protests with violence, detentions of protesters, and raids of university campuses.

At a dwelling in the city of Mawlamyine, soldiers and police carried out the arrests of eight students. They also reportedly confiscated computers, motorcycles, and other items. Few additional details are available. Available sources do not specify the evidentiary basis for their arrests.

On June 11, the students were reportedly charged under section 505 (a) of the penal code (“Whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement, rumour or report,— (a) with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty as such.”).

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of students in apparent connection with their nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Government authorities and state security forces have a responsibility to refrain from restricting or retaliating against nonviolent exercise of such rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate individuals, arrests intended to restrict student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).