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: July 28, 2023

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Multiple Institutions

Region & Country:Southeastern Asia | Myanmar (Burma)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On July 28, 2023, Myanmar’s military forces killed three leaders of the Budalin Student Union (BSU), located in Sagaing Region.

The three students included the union’s chair, Ko Kyaw Win Thant, the vice-chair, Ko Kyal Sin Nyein Chan, and the information officer, Ko Thuta Nay, all aged 18-19 years old. The Budalin Student Union represents Monywa University and Monywa University of Economics, in addition to local secondary school students.

The three students were involved in the nonviolent civil disobedience movement through their affiliation with the BSU, which is a member of the All Burma Federation of Students Unions (ABFSU). The ABSFU been a leading actor in the civil disobedience movement that has been ongoing in Myanmar since a February 2021 military coup. During the week prior to the attack the BSU had hung banners protesting the military junta around Budalin Township and posted photos of the banners on social media. The BSU had also been involved in organizing protests in the township.

At the time of the attack, the three student leaders were reportedly staying at the house of the uncle of Kyaw Win Thant and Thuta Nay. Their uncle, Ko Myo, is a member of an armed resistance force. Members of Myanmar’s military raided Ko Myo’s house during the early morning on July 28. The three students were found dead following the attack, with their hands tied, stabbing wounds, and signs of torture, including their tongues cut out. In addition to killing the three students, the military forces abducted Ko Myo’s father and several other people from the village.

Following the attack, pro-regime channels on Telegram reported that military forces had destroyed a “terrorist” camp in Budalin township.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the targeted killing of student leaders apparently due to the exercise of their rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression – conduct which is expressly protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from taking action to restrict or retaliate against students’ expressive activity. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, the disappearance of current and former students in response to their expressive activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.