Myanmar government and students agree on points of reform
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar’s government reached an agreement Wednesday with student protesters who have been marching to Yangon to seek education reforms, but the deal announced by the two sides still needs parliamentary approval.
The agreement came after a marathon negotiating session. Public support has been increasing for the students as they marched several hundred miles (kilometers) from the central city of Mandalay to demand the scrapping of a recently enacted education law they say fails to give autonomy to universities and does not allow the formation of student unions.
The government had appeared nervous about the growing public support, and last week issued a special announcement suggesting they were being manipulated to stir up instability, though it did not identify by whom.
The joint announcement of the agreement, broadcast Wednesday night on state television, said the government had generally agreed on many of the 11 points submitted by students and their allies on education reform, and the two sides would meet again on Saturday to work out further details.
However, the final decision on amending the education law lies with parliament.
The government agreed to allow schools and colleges to independently administer education policies, to allow the formation of student unions and teachers’ unions, to reinstate students who were expelled for political activism, and to increase education’s share of the state budget to 20% over five years.
“We will closely watch and anxiously await how the parliament will respond to the amendment because the final decision lies in their hands. However, I strongly hope that the parliament will respect the voice of the students and the public,” said Phyo Phyo Aung, one of the student leaders at Wednesday’s meeting.
“We are pleased with the agreement but we are very worried that some the agreements reached today might be rejected by parliament,” she said.
She added that student leaders who attended the meeting with the government will share the information with their colleagues who are still marching and have not immediately called off the protest.
The march has attracted the support of growing numbers of students and Buddhist monks. It also has many supporters from the opposition National League for Democracy party of Aung San Suu Kyi, which is expected to make a strong challenge to the military-backed government of President Thein Sein in elections set for later this year.