An activist working with the George W. Bush Institute’s Liberty and Leadership Forum was arrested in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, earlier this week during protests calling for more transparency in the country’s education system.
"When she speaks, people listen."'
Phyoe Phyoe Aung, a longtime advocate for the cause, serves as the general secretary for the All-Burma Federation of Student Unions. She was arrested on Tuesday along with more than 120 other demonstrators, according to The New York Times.
"We are deeply concerned about the recent arrests of peaceful demonstrators in Burma by local authorities,” George W. Bush and Laura Bush said in a statement released Thursday. “Like Phyoe Phyoe Aung, many of the demonstrators are students working to support Burma's transition by advocating for a transparent and accountable education system. Education is vital to the political, economic, and social well-being of every nation and people. We hope that those arrested will soon be released."
The students were protesting an education law passed by the country’s semi-civilian government, which took control in 2011, according to The Washington Post. In particular, they are seeking to establish student unions, gain more freedom to study languages spoken by the country's ethnic minorities, and establish a decentralized academic system. Protests had centered around the city of Letpadan.
The “local authorities violently cracked down on a large group of students protesting the recently passed National Education Law,” Elizabeth Hoffman, the program manager of the George W. Bush Institute’s Freedom Advocate Initiative, wrote in a post on the organization’s website. “The students are demanding greater transparency, accountability and government investment in the country’s education system, which was decimated due to decades of authoritarian rule.”
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She noted that Aung, 27, participated in the 2007 Saffron Revolution, which was led by Burmese monks protesting the country’s military junta.
“Shortly after that she was arrested and imprisoned for over three years due to her involvement in the pro-democracy student movement,” Hoffman wrote. “These experiences explain her commanding presence despite her slight stature and soft-spoken nature. When she speaks, people listen.”