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Education activists appear in Tharawaddy court

File photo: Detained students and activists arrive at Tharawaddy township court for their hearing on 30 April 2015. (PHOTO: DVB)

Seventy activists have appeared in Tharawaddy court for the first time since their trial was relocated from Letpadan Township, also in Pegu Division, where they were arrested for their part in an education protest on 10 March.

One defendant, Yan Paing Soe, told DVB that the hearing on 30 April involved formal procedures, such as transferring powers of attorney and setting a hearing of the case against three ‘fugitive’ student leaders, Myat Thu, Ye Yint Kyaw and Kyaw Ko Ko.

“We have been told today [Thursday] that the court will first hear the case against the ‘fugitives’, so our case will not yet be heard,” said Yan Paing Soe.

127 people were arrested during a police crackdown on a sit-in in Letpadan on 10 March. Seventy of those who were involved in the protest against the National Education Law have been charged held on five charges each, including rioting and disturbing the peace. Some are also facing additional charges in other townships.

The progress of the prosecution has been sluggish, with the court on Thursday setting a date of 12 May to hear the rest of the case.

“We have been brought before the court many times, but our case is yet to be heard,” said Yan Paing Soe.

Another student activist told DVB the defendants on Thursday had been kept apart from their family members by metal fencing.

“We were allowed to meet our parents, but only through metal screens, like during a prison visit, and we weren’t allowed to speak freely,” said Man Naw.

Myint Moe Khine, the mother of Yan Paing Soe, said: “It wasn’t easy – we couldn’t even speak openly to our children, and the whole thing was very inconvenient. A court house is supposed to be open and transparent.”