Some detained Myanmar students freed but others face charges

AP News
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Posted: Mar 12, 2015 9:22 AM
Some detained Myanmar students freed but others face charges

THARYARWADDY, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar authorities have freed several students detained after a bloody protest, but others involved in the stand-off over a new education law will face charges including disrupting stability, which carries a 2-year prison term.

Yee Mon, a Yangon university student who was released Thursday, said at least 12 students have been freed and about 10 more were expected to be released later Thursday.

"We didn't break the law but we were peacefully protesting for academic policy change," said the 19-year-old.

The government announced Wednesday that students who are currently in university will be freed on humanitarian grounds, while 10 Buddhist monks detained after a police crackdown on the protest in Letpadan, about 140 kilometers (90 miles) north of Yangon, had also been released.

Several student leaders and other protesters were brought Wednesday under tight security to a court in Tharyarwaddy, about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of where the confrontation took place, and were charged with five different counts ranging from disrupting public tranquility, which can be punished by up to two years in jail, to joining an unlawful assembly, which carries a six-month jail sentence or a fine.

Nearly 130 people, including about 60 students, were detained Tuesday after hundreds of riot police charged their protest, pummeling them with batons and then dragging them into trucks, bringing a harsh end to a weeklong standoff.

The students say the new law puts all decisions about education policy and curriculum in the hands of a group largely made up of government ministers, which critics say undermines the autonomy of universities.