Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

‘They Belong in the Classroom, Not in Prison': Myanmar's Detained Student Protesters

Ei Thinzar Maung, student leader from Mandalay. Arrested last March 10. Portrait by Kenneth Wong, republished with permission.

Ei Thinzar Maung, student leader from Mandalay. Arrested last March 10. Portrait by Kenneth Wong, republished with permission.

Seventy students remain in detention in Myanmar for joining protests against the proposed National Education Law, which critics believe would give the central government excessive power in managing the country’s higher education institutions. Most of the detained students were arrested in a police crackdown on March 10, 2015.

There have been several street protests across the country since last year when the parliament introduced the measure. Because of the demonstrations, lawmakers called for negotiations with several student groups. The bill was approved last month, but protesters have continued to oppose the new draft.

The violent dispersal of student rallies last March generated a public outcry that forced the government to announce a probe into the incident. Human rights groups and students from around the world also demanded the release of the detained student protesters.

One of the people supporting the campaign calling for the immediate release of Myanmar's students is San Francisco-based artist Kenneth Wong. As a former student activist from Myanmar who joined the historic 1988 uprising, he deplors the imprisonment of the students who were merely voicing their views on legislation that could affect their schools.

To show his solidarity, he made digital portraits of five of the student prisoners, which have been widely shared on the Internet. In an email interview with Global Voices, Wong urged global leaders to speak up about the issue and demand accountability from the Myanmar government. He added:

25 years later, I'm sad to see these young students — the future of the country — paying a heavy price for demanding reform. I don't want them to have to spend the best years of their lives in prison. I think they belong in the classroom, not in prison. That's why I painted their portraits.

Po Po, 20-year old student leader arrested last April 8. Portrait by Kenneth Wong, republished with permission.

Po Po, 20-year old student leader arrested last April 8. Portrait by Kenneth Wong, republished with permission.

Min Thway Thit, student leader from All Burma Federation of Student Unions. Portrait by Kenneth Wong, republished with permission.

Min Thway Thit, student leader from All Burma Federation of Student Unions. Portrait by Kenneth Wong, republished with permission.

Phyo Phyo Aung, 27-year old student leader arrested last March 10. Portrait by Kenneth Wong, republished with permission.

Phyo Phyo Aung, 27-year old student leader arrested last March 10. Portrait by Kenneth Wong, republished with permission.

Honey Oo, 27-year old student leader arrested last March 13. Portrait by Kenneth Wong, republished with permission.

Honey Oo, 27-year old student leader arrested last March 13. Portrait by Kenneth Wong, republished with permission.

Digital drawings by Kenneth Wong in Manga Studio on Surface Pro tablet. Used with permission

2 comments

  • […] are still 173 political prisoners in Myanmar including the students who were arrested last March. Khin Zaw Win posted a meme related to this […]

  • Shiny Elena

    Today young students are the future of the country and I believe that government, politicians should care about education better.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site