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Statement: Condemning the arrests of the students for protesting against the civil war in Rakhine state

This post was originally published on the Coconet website.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the Coconet community, EngageMedia, APC, or their funders. Copyright of the article is held by the author(s) of each article. Check out our Contribution Guidelines for more information. Want to translate this piece to a different language? Contact us via this form. is republishing this statement signed by over 180 civil society organisations from Myanmar. The statement is available in English and Burmese. If you would like to sign, whether as an individual or on behalf of an organisation, please fill out the form at the end of this post. Signatures are updated in real-time in the table below.  You can also access the form via this link.

Aside from signing this statement, you can also read up on previous statements and articles on Myanmar and Rakhine state, also known as Arakan.

(Featured photo from the Athan Twitter account.)

From early 2019, civil war has been raging in Northern Rakhine state and Chin state in Myanmar. Based on Radio Free Asia (RFA) records, between December 2018 to 2nd October 2020, a total of 292 civilian deaths and 654 casualties due to war have been reported in those areas. Over 200,000 local civilians have to abandon their homes and villages due to the ongoing armed conflicts in Rakhine state. Myanmar military has continued to attack the civilian villages with heavy artillery and arrest local civilians for interrogation even during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government has shut down the internet in Rakhine State for over a year and even at this time has only allowed 2G internet connection. As a result, the public has been facing challenges to obtain essential information and health education during the pandemic. On 10th September 2020, Rakhine Student Union led a protest against the human rights violations and prolonged humanitarian crisis suffered by the Rakhine people in Sittwe. To show solidarity with the Rakhine students, the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) started to mobilize in Yangon, Meikhtila, Mandalay, Monywa, Hsiphaw, Loikaw, and Pyay through similar demonstrations and poster campaigns. In response, the Government started to arrest the student activists under different charges to clamp down on the widely spreading student mobilizations. The charges made against the students were based on the Peaceful Assembly Law as well as article 505 (a) (b) of the Penal Code and the Natural Disaster Management Law. Students were arrested in their homes and at their present locations (university compounds and monasteries) by a large contingent of police and plainclothes people, as if the latter were raiding organized criminal activities, without any warrant nor any regard to the law. Moreover, Kyaw Thiha Ye Kyaw and Soe Hla Naing, who are ABFSU Central Working Committee members, were arrested on 25th September. They were sentenced to a two-year prison sentence by the Maha Aung Myay township court, a one-year sentence by the Aung Myay Thar Zan township court, and a two-year sentence by the Chan Aye Thar Zan township court. In total, they were sentenced to five years in prison, according to Athan’s record. They still have to face charges prosecuted under the Natural Disaster Management Law and the Peaceful Assembly Law. On the other hand, although there have been election campaigns and massive mobilizations involving over a thousand people organized by supporters of the current ruling party, military-backed political parties, and other political parties, the Government has not prosecuted any of these actions and even publicly stated that it would be difficult to make charges against the supporters, which is extremely disappointing. It is an outright basic human rights violation by the Government to unjustly arrest and detain the students and to raid their homes and universities even though all they did was carry out peaceful demonstrations to stop the ongoing civil wars, which have caused immense suffering to the public.
  1. We civil society organizations condemn the unjust arrests of the students and we demand that they be immediately released and that all charges made against them be dropped urgently.
  2. We urge the Government and the military to announce a nation-wide ceasefire, including Rakhine state, without any exception, and we strongly urge to solve political conflicts only through political dialogues.
To contact –
Maung Saungkha (Athan) – 09773937273 Mon Yee Kyaw (Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica) – 09784043478 Moe Thway (Generation Wave) – 09979238220 Thinzar Shunlei Yi (ACDD) – 09795574775
Maung Saungkha is a poet, activist, and the Executive Director of Athan.