Military council files terrorism charges against student activists to ‘instil fear’

The All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) confirmed that three of their Mandalay-based members were charged last Friday by the junta with violating Myanmar’s counterterrorism law. 

The individuals, who were arrested on March 2 in Amarapura Township, include Aung Myo Ko, chair of the student union at the Mandalay Education College; Thiri Yadanar, upper Myanmar secretary of the ABFSU; and Kyaw Zin Latt, a middle school teacher from Singu Township.

ABFSU chair Aung Pyae Sone Phyo said that the activists had been helping families of detained students send care packages to their loved ones in prison. 

“They were actually a part of the democratic movement before but they stopped doing that. They just focused on sending care packages to the detained students and helping the detained students contact their families in distant places,” he told Myanmar Now. 

The three detainees—all in their 20s—have been held at the township police station since their arrest, and were formally accused on March 18 of violating Section 50j of the counterterrorism law for funding “terrorist” organisations. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, Aung Pyae Sone Phyo told Myanmar Now. 

A second charge was also added to their cases for being alleged accessories to terrorist acts, as is outlined under Section 52a of the law, and carries a seven-year sentence. 

The three student activists are also reportedly being investigated for incitement charges under Section 505a of the Penal Code, but Aung Pyae Sone Phyo noted that the final charge had not yet been formally filed. 

“[The military] started by arresting protesters on the streets and now they’re arresting people who are helping the detained civilians. They clearly want to instill fear into the people so that they don’t dare to revolt,” the ABFSU chair said.

The military council has not released any information on the charges allegedly brought against the student activists. 

Protests have continued in Mandalay more than one year after the military coup in February 2021. The junta continues to make frequent arrests of dissidents in the region, questioning civilians in public, and sealing off houses belonging to anti-dictatorship figures. 

“They are going to decimate each and every one of their opponents. That is why we have been revolting against the junta from the time of Ne Win until Min Aung Hlaing,” Aung Pyae Sone Phyo said, referring to the military leader who seized power in a 1962 coup and the current army chief. 

“It’s also essential that we, the people, hold our heads high and keep fighting back,” he added.

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