[JURIST] Myanmar authorities on wednesday charged 69 protesters for demonstrating against the Myanmar National Education Law [text, in Burmese]. The law has faced tremendous criticism from the public since its passage in 2014, in part due to lawmakers’ lack of consultation [Myanmar Times report] with student and teacher groups, and also because the law does not accommodate for the recognition of student and teacher unions. Numerous demonstrations against the law [JURIST report] have been held since its passage. Tensions reached a fever pitch earlier this month, with riot police attacking and detaining [AP report] 127 protesters. Many have been released, but the remaining 69 have been charged [AP report] with hurting public servants, unlawful assembly and a variety of other charges. The next hearing will be held on April 7.
Myanmar has long been critiqued for its human rights situation, especially with regards to its limitations on personal freedoms such as speech and press. Earlier this month, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee called on state authorities to address ongoing challenges to the democratic reform process in Myanmar, noting with concern that journalists are being interrogated and arrested [JURIST report]. Also this month a Myanmar court sentenced a New Zealand bar manager and his associates to two-and-a-half years in prison for insulting Buddhism [JURIST report] in an online advertisement that showed a psychedelic depiction of Buddha wearing headphones. In July a Myanmar court sentenced four journalists and the chief executive [JURIST report] from the Unity Journal to 10-year prison sentences and hard labor for publishing a story in January in violation of the national State Secrets Act, a British colonial law dating back to the 1920s. The story alleged the Myanmar military had seized a sizable amount of land in the central Magwe region of the county for the purpose of producing chemical weapons. Last May Human Rights Watch called on Myanmar to pass more protective media laws [JURIST report] and end arbitrary arrests of journalists