A student movement leader wanted by police in Myanmar for his role in protests challenging a controversial national education law was arrested on Thursday in the commercial capital Yangon after more than seven months on the run, sources said.
Kyaw Ko Ko, the 34-year-old president of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), was taken into custody near a market in Yangon’s Thingangkun township, according to local media sources.
“He was detained by plainclothes police near San Pya Market at noon when he went out alone,” ABFSU spokesperson Aung Nay Paing told The Irrawaddy, a Myanmar news outlet, on Thursday.
Contacted by RFA’s Myanmar Service, police officers in Thingangkun, Dagon, and Kamayut township police stations said they were not responsible for the arrest.
Kyaw Ko Ko’s father said however that his son had called to inform him he was in custody.
“He called and told me he had been arrested, but said he has no idea where he was taken,” Kyaw Aye told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“We went to the police station in [Yangon’s] Kamayut township, but officers denied having taken him there,” he said.
A Myanmar court in March issued arrest warrants for Kyaw Ko Ko and three other student leaders after they led a march in Yangon protesting a National Education Law which they said would break up student unions and allow the government to control what courses are taught in the universities.
Another student march that same day in Letpadan, in Myanmar’s Pegu region, ended in beatings and arrests, with police assaulting marchers and supporters and taking into custody over 100 protesters, 60 of whom remain in jail.
Students have demanded a more “democratic" education law that includes a decentralized education system, changes to university entrance exam requirements, modernization of the national education curriculum, the right to form student unions, and instruction for ethnic minority groups in their own languages.
Movement activists must now do more to help those students held in jail and those still sought by the police, ABFSU spokesman Aung Nay Paing told RFA.
“Although the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission sent a letter to [President Thein Sein] asking that detained students and other political prisoners be released to participate in the [Nov. 8] national election, they have only arrested more and issued more warrants,” he said.
“It is obvious that this election will be neither free nor fair,” he said.
Another student sought
Myanmar authorities have meanwhile issued a warrant for the arrest of fourth-year civil engineering student Hnin Ei San for her role in another protest in March after charging her with demonstrating without a permit, sources said.
“Ten students from Myingyan Technological University, including Hnin Ei San and myself, were charged under Article 18,” fellow protester Zaw Linn Aung told RFA.
“They sent letters telling us to come to court, but we couldn’t go at that time because we were taking exams,” he said, adding, “Later, as ABFSU members, we simply decided not to go.”
“Now they have served Hnin Ei San with a warrant for her arrest because she didn’t show up in court.”
Hnin Ei San has now gone into hiding, he said.
Reported by Nay Rein Kyaw and Khin Phyae Sone for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.