Students threaten to sue police over Letpadan crackdown

By Mratt Kyaw Thu   |   Tuesday, 09 June 2015

The All Burma Federation of Student Unions says it is planning to take legal action against police responsible for the brutal crackdown on demonstrators in Letpadan on March 10 and will involve the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission in the process.

ABFSU leaders, members and supporters are among about 70 people still held in Tharyarwady Prison since the crackdown.

“We’re planning to sue the police who were really responsible for the Letpadan crackdown. We have video clips, photos, eyewitnesses and other evidence. The government must take action against them,” Ko Aung Nay Paing, an ABFSU spokesperson, told The Myanmar Times.

Students are working with Equality Myanmar, a rights group, on drafting legal letters and registering a case with the human rights commission.

“Students asked me to help. They don’t know how to complain about human rights violations to the commission. Equality Myanmar truly believes that Letpadan was a violation of human rights so we have decided to help them,” said U Aung Myo Min, executive director of Equality Myanmar.

Equality Myanmar is interviewing students, writing the complaint letter and collecting evidence which it plans to submit within a week. But the organisation does not appear very hopeful.

“We’re not very encouraged by the human rights commission. They always work when orders come from above … For example, we can see their efforts in the case of Ko Par Gyi,” said U Aung Myo Min, referring to the government’s request to the commission to investigate the death of a journalist in military custody last October.

Equality Myanmar and students have decided to submit their complaint to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission if the national commission cannot handle the issue.

During a court hearing last month, Police Captain Phone Myint, a witness for the prosecution against the students detained at Letpadan, said police had followed European Union standards and techniques during the operation.

He did not elaborate but noted that police had held extensive negotiations with the students in failed attempts to get them to stop their illegal protest march against the National Education Law.

However, the EU, which has been training the police in crowd control techniques since 2013, has condemned the Letpadan crackdown and called for a formal investigation.

U Sit Myaing, deputy chair of the commission, said the human rights body was willing to accept the complaint.

“We’ll solve the problem according to the rules and regulations of our commission,” he said yesterday.

The independent commission, comprising 15 retired civil servants and bureaucrats, was formed in 2011 by the government with a brief to investigate alleged human rights violations.