Occupied schools, attacked amid post-coup Myanmar unrest | Conflict news


Some 103 schools and other schools were attacked in May, according to new data from Save the Children, amid growing concern that student safety may be at risk amid the continuing turmoil following the coup. February 1 of the army.

The children’s rights organization said improvised explosive devices and hand grenades were used in the vast majority of the attacks.

“Save the Children is appalled by these attacks, which not only endanger the lives of children, but further jeopardize what is already a disastrous situation in terms of children’s learning in Myanmar,” he said in a statement. communiqué.

“Schools are protected learning places for children who must be free of attacks at all times. Attacks on schools constitute a serious violation against children and no school should be deliberately targeted.

The coronavirus pandemic had already deprived children in Myanmar of months of schooling when Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power in a coup on February 1, arresting elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and senior members of his government.

Since then, thousands of people have taken to the streets in protest and the military has used force to repress those who oppose its government. The Political Prisoners Assistance Association says at least 860 people have died and nearly 5,000 people are in custody.

During previous periods of military rule, generals closed universities, and since February 1, the armed forces have occupied dozens of schools and university campuses across the country. Thousands of teachers joined the civil disobedience movement they have been looted.

Although schools have been set on fire or bombed, it is unclear who is behind the attacks. The army blames the movement against the coup, but resistance fighters told Myanmar’s independent media that they were only targeting the military and would not harm civilians.

Save the Children told Al Jazeera that it had “no reliable information” about those responsible.

The generals fired thousands of teachers for participating in the anti-coup movement [File: Kaung Zaw Hein/EPA]

UNICEF has also noted an “increase in the number of explosions in schools, schools and offices” in recent weeks.

“Violence in or around schools is never acceptable,” the UN agency’s office in Myanmar said in a statement on Facebook on June 3rd. “Schools and other schools must be protected from conflict and unrest. Attacks on learning sites and educational staff and the occupation of schools are a violation of children’s rights.”

Armed soldiers in schools

Government school children began returning to their classrooms earlier this month, but many young people have been too scared to go there.

“I couldn’t go to school all year because of the virus. And this year I dare not go there, ”a ten-year-old girl from the central Magway region told the organization. “I want to go to school, but I’m scared. Even though the school doors are closed, there are soldiers inside and I am afraid of the soldiers. I’m afraid there may be a bomb blast at our school while we’re at it. “

The Federation of Teachers of Myanmar told The Irrawaddy, a Myanmar media outlet, that less than a million students had returned to school because of concerns about their safety.

Images from the first day of school posted on social media showed armed soldiers on school doors, on buses and even in classrooms, and some apparently encouraged young children to have guns.

“Even for us, we are anxious for possible violence when we go outside while regime forces continue brutal actions against civilians,” the mother of an elementary school student told The Irrawaddy, who he expressed concern about the presence of the military. “How could we send our son to a place where we couldn’t see if anything was wrong with them?”

Security forces have occupied at least 60 schools and university campuses across the country since March, Save the Children said.

“Armed soldiers have no place in schools or other learning spaces,” he said in the statement. “Under no circumstances should children have weapons of any kind. This highly irresponsible behavior by armed personnel is unacceptable, puts children at risk and violates international standards for safe education. “

Students out of school in Sittwe, Rakhine state capital, on June 1 to start a new term [Stringer/AFP]

Myanmar is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states that all children have the right to a safe education.

Save the Children says the international community, including governments and member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, should condemn the attacks and make safe and inclusive education a priority in its response to Myanmar crisis.

“Children often bear the brunt of conflict and violence, and the situation of children in Myanmar right now can hardly be more urgent.” the group told Al Jazeera by email.

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