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Myanmar Arrests, Charges Student Activists

A student activist speaks during a rally protesting constitutional amendments June 30, 2015, in downtown Yangon, Myanmar.
A student activist speaks during a rally protesting constitutional amendments June 30, 2015, in downtown Yangon, Myanmar.

Myanmar authorities have arrested four student leaders from Mandalay for an alleged anti-government graffiti campaign, according to their close friends and family members.

Several anti-government slogans were recently sprayed on the wall of Mandalay University, calling for a reduced role for the military in parliament.

A friend of the students, former activist Amar Ni, said they have been abused while in custody.

“They were arrested inside the Yadanabon University campus. Then I went to the prison and my friends went to the police station to see them. When I met them at entrance of the prison, they told me they were beaten by the policemen while they were apprehended," she said.

The government has not responded to VOA's request for comment about the arrests or the allegations of abuse.

Meanwhile, five student leaders in Yangon have been charged with conducting an illegal protest against the 2008 State Constitution.

Dozens of students in Yangon Monday staged a march against military representatives in parliament who have been appointed by the military commander-in-chief.

According to a new regulation, any protest requires permission from local officials, which the students did not seek before conducting their march.

Ye Zarny, a leading student activist, told VOA Burmese that the status quo in parliament cannot be accepted.

“We cannot accept that military representatives are able to deny people's desire for their own cause. This representation is not elected and appointed according to the 2008 State Constitution. So we protest against their representation in the parliament," he said.

Although charged by police, none of the student activists has yet been arrested for Monday's march.

According to the 2008 State Constitution, 25 percent of parliament seats have been occupied by military representatives, giving the army effective veto power over any proposed constitutional amendments.

Last month, the military used its power in parliament to block several proposed constitutional amendments, including one that would have allowed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to run for president.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Burmese Service.