YANGON — Student leader Kyaw Ko Ko was arrested Thursday near Sanpya Market in Thingangyun Township in Yangon after spending eight months as a fugitive, according to Ko Myat Thu, another student activist currently hiding from the authorities.
The head of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), Kyaw Ko Ko played a leading role in organising a student-led movement opposed to a new National Education Law passed by Parliament last year. The law, its detractors claim, places unacceptable limits on academic freedom and puts political constraints on students and instructors.
An umbrella organisation for various student unions around the country, the ABFSU has long played an instrumental role in past efforts at political change, including the ill-fated 1988 uprising against military rule.
In March, some 100 students and their supporters were arrested following a crackdown on a peaceful sit-in at Letpadan, north of Yangon. Roughly 60 remain imprisoned at Thayawaddy Prison in Bago Region, charged with rioting, causing injury to government workers and unlawful assembly. Their trial has dragged on for months. Student leaders suspect that the final verdict will not be handed down until after the results of next month’s elections are announced.
On Tuesday, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) issued an appeal to President U Thein Sein, urging the government to pardon “political prisoners who can peacefully take part in the democratic nation-building process,” particularly “students and supporters detained for their part in the demonstration in connection with the amendment of the National Education Law.”
The government’s attempts to silence student activists in the run-up to the elections will not slow their efforts, Ko Myat Thu claimed. “Even if Kyaw Ko Ko was arrested, our Ba Ka Tha (ABFSU) is not stopping,” he said. “If they arrested Kyaw Ko Ko, there will be [another] Kyaw Ko Ko [that will] appear in the near future.”
Additional reporting by Mratt Kyaw Thu