Myanmar junta accuses opposition of trying to sabotage education system

YANGON, Myanmar, AP

“A group of destructive elements … is conspiring with nationals from Western nations to create disturbance and jeopardize the present peaceful pursuit of education,” Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt said in remarks published in all three government-owned daily newspapers Saturday. Myanmar’s state-run press on Friday had accused opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi of being power-hungry and blamed her for pushing the country toward “utter devastation.” For the past few weeks, it has kept up a drumbeat of criticism targeting Suu Kyi’s movement and its foreign supporters. The military government launched a new crackdown on Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy on Sep. 2 following a nine-day confrontation in which authorities blocked her from traveling to the countryside to engage in political activities. The NLD headquarters have been closed and senior party officials confined to their homes. Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her nonviolent pro-democracy work, has long been a favorite target of the state-controlled press. News media echo the military government’s claim that she and her party are impeding progress toward democracy and prosperity. Khin Nyunt, Secretary-One of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, made his attack at an International Literacy Day ceremony in the capital, Yangon, on Friday. Khin Nyunt claimed that NLD leaders and youth members, along with 15 foreigners, held a discussion on education at the party’s headquarters last month. “This trumped-up discussion was videotaped and distributed to other countries to dampen the enthusiasm and spirit of the students and jeopardize the continuing education,” he said. Myanmar’s universities and colleges, hotbeds of activism since the days of British colonial rule, were reopened in July after being closed in 1996 following student demonstrations in Yangon. They had been open only 30 months since 1988, when the current generation of generals came to power after crushing an uprising against a quarter century of military rule. Pro-democracy leaders and foreign human rights organizations have cited the closing of schools as one of many human rights abuses inflicted by the military on the population in Myanmar. A commentary in the Kyemon newspaper Saturday accused Western nations of meddling in the internal affairs of the country by criticizing the restrictions imposed on NLD leaders. “This is a matter between the ruling government and a political party. it is our internal affair and not the concern of others and they are meddling in our internal affairs,” the paper said. Myanmar’s government has kept the NLD on a tight leash since 1988, when Suu Kyi helped lead pro-democracy demonstrations. The military allowed national elections in 1990 but refused to honor the results when the NLD achieved a landslide victory.