Cartoons are being widely shared on Facebook to condemn the government's violent methods in handling student protests in the former capital city of Yangon in Myanmar.
The youth protesters in front of the Yangon city hall were waiting for the arrival of students from Mandalay who had been marching towards the capital city since January 20 to press for education reforms.
The 400-mile march from Mandalay to Yangon attracted nationwide attention to the students’ demands including their rejection of the Education Bill which was introduced by the government last September. The new measure, according to students, would restrict human rights in campuses.
The march grew bigger as it passed several towns and cities. But it was often blocked or intimidated by the police and other government forces.
On February 11, the government negotiated a dialogue with the students, who asserted their right to reach Yangon. But the government rejected it and ordered a blockade to prevent the march from arriving in the country's premier city. The march kept moving forward, however, until it neared Yangon.
To support the marchers, Yangon students gathered in front of the city hall to demand the removal of the blockade.
This is the moment when a group of civilian police known as Swam Ar Shin, which literally means power owner, dispersed the students.
Swam Ar Shin is regarded by many residents as thugs who are backed by the government to fight and arrest protesters. The red band they wear on their arms, with an inscription that reads “on duty”, has become a symbol of oppression and state violence. Swam Ar Shin became infamous for their brutal and violent crackdown of the protests during the Saffron Revolution in 2007.
It is hoped that Myanmar's so-called democratic transition will render this group irrelevant. Unfortunately, they were mobilized once more to enforce law and order, which led to the brutal dispersal of a peaceful student-led protest.
The use of civilian police to attack a rally was denounced by many. Cartoonists were among those who criticized the government for using excessive force against the young protesters. Their cartoons, gathered on Facebook page of Brainwave (Nyanhline), reflected the anger of many citizens and rising cynicism to the political reforms that the military-backed civilian government are allegedly implementing.
For example, cartoonist Kyaw Thu Rain depicts the Swam Arr Shin as the main threat to the country's democratic transition.
The cartoonist Saw Naing Htut believes that the police force is being misused.The cartoonist AAW Taung Gyi also questions the government's sincerity through his short cartoon stories.
For cartoonist Kar Lu Pyi, he believes education reform is a very important step to train a new breed of leaders.