Myanmar rights body urges govt to take action against police

YANGON • Myanmar's national human rights body has urged the government to take legal action against police who beat up protesters at an education reform rally, as dozens of activists remain detained over a case that has sparked international alarm.

The rare call from the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) in the former junta-run nation on Friday comes after its investigation into the March student-led protest.

Violent scenes flared at the rally in Letpadan town, some 140km north of Yangon, with baton- wielding riot police arresting more than 100 activists in one of the most concerted challenges to reformist President Thein Sein's government.

"Making arrests through beatings goes against official police procedures," the MNHRC said in a statement, adding it had documented "injuries to the head and face of some protesters".

"Legal action must be taken against police force members who didn't follow the correct procedures," the body said.

It added that activists who threw stones at police officers should also face legal action.

The crackdown on the March protest came as scores marched to meet fellow activists in Yangon as they called for changes to the country's education laws, including decentralising the school system and allowing student unions.

In June, Myanmar's Parliament approved amendments to a controversial Bill, including approving student unions but without adopting the central activist demand on decentralisation.

A total of 81 activists are facing trial with a few dozen granted bail.

Students have long been at the forefront of political action in Myanmar, where campaigning is under way for crucial elections on Nov 8.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 13, 2015, with the headline 'Myanmar rights body urges govt to take action against police'. Print Edition | Subscribe