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Upper house passes watered-down education bill

(PHOTO:DVB)

The upper house of parliament on Thursday approved a bill amending the National Education Law; however it fell short of the demands laid down by student leaders.

The amendment bill was approved via voting with only nine objections.

Phone Myint Aung, an upper house MP from Rangoon, said the bill that was passed omitted several key points which students and activists had called for through nationwide protests in recent months – demonstrations that ultimately turned violent on 10 March when police dispersed protestors in the Pegu Division of Letpadan, resulting in the arrest of more than 100 activists, 69 of whom have been charged and remain behind bars.

“The students previously demanded that the amendment bill include the formation of student unions without restrictions,” said the MP. “However the wording of this bill said the formation of unions should be ‘in accordance with convention’.

“Since there is no ‘convention’ whatsoever I would say that the law will pretty much stay the same – it still does not allow students to freely associate by forming student unions as per their demands.”

He added that the amendment bill also did not include the students’ proposal to increase spending on education to 20 percent of the national budget, but simply stipulated that the budget would be gradually increased over the next five years, but without specifying any figures.

Another upper house MP, Dr Aye Maung, chairperson of the Rakhine National Party (RNP), said the amendment bill met about half of the students’ demands.

“About four or five of the main demands from the students were not included in the bill,” he told DVB on Thursday.

Having passed the upper house, the bill will next be tabled for discussion in Burma’s lower house of parliament.