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Myanmar Begins Hearing for Arrested Student Protesters

Police are seen hitting a student demonstrator during a crackdown on protests in Letpadan March 10, 2015.

Dozens of Myanmar activists have appeared in court following their arrest during a violent crackdown on a student-led protest this month.

The students, who are being detained at Tharyarwaddy Prison, protested from police trucks as they were taken to the Letpadan Court Wednesday.

Robert San Aung, a lawyer representing the students, told VOA that 69 people, including protest leaders Aung Hmine San, Min Thway Thit and Phyo Phyo Aung, are facing five criminal charges.

“If the students are [convicted], based on the five criminal charges, I think they could be imprisoned for about six years. [I] think we will be able to start the case at the [next] hearing scheduled for [April] 7," he said.

He added that about 15 lawyers will take on the job of representing the protesters at trial.

In addition to the initial hearing, authorities Wednesday also issued arrest warrants for four suspected protest leaders who escaped arrest.

The students and some supporters were taken into custody this month when police staged a violent crackdown on students who were trying to continue a cross-country march to Yangon to protest education reform bills.

Ne Win, Phyo Phyo Aung’s father, said it is not right for the government to violate the agreement it had with the students and try to imprison them.

“The government is not keeping [its] promises, and they violently beat and arrested the students. Actually, the people who are guilty are not students, like my daughter and the ones who stood by them, but the government and the police force members," he said.

The government has defended the police crackdown, saying authorities were "legally obligated" to break up the protest.

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