At least 30 teachers detained following data leak and arrest of NUG-linked school founder

July 20th, 2022  •  Author:   CDM Education Workers (Myanmar)  •  5 minute read
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Teachers’ protest in Mandalay on March 1, 2021 (Myanmar Now)  

Myanmar’s military is attempting to destroy the public image of teachers participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement, the civilian government’s education ministry says

By Myanmar Now

The Myanmar junta has detained at least 30 teachers working for or suspected of being affiliated with a private online school with ties to the civilian National Unity Government (NUG) following the recent arrest of its founder.

According to a Saturday announcement in military-controlled media, on July 13 junta officials arrested Kaung Thaik Soe—who created the Kaung For You online school—and two other teachers who were taking part in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) in the southern Shan State town of Aungban. They were identified as Thant Sin Htike and Win Bo.

Kaung Thaik Soe was the deputy education officer in Mandalay’s Myittha Township until he joined the CDM after the 2021 coup and was wanted by the military for incitement after leading a teachers’ strike.

With some 30,000 students enrolled, his Kaung For You school—recognised by the NUG’s education ministry—had become one of the most popular alternative private education options for students who refused to participate in the military-run school system.

In early June, the data identifying students enrolled at the school, including their names, phone numbers, and addresses, were leaked. Several parents reported in early July that they had received phone calls from individuals claiming to be Kaung For You teachers and trying to extort money from them.

It is not known exactly how much information was leaked or if the information had fallen into the military’s hands.

Amid the controversy, Kaung For You announced on July 8 that an individual from the school’s “inner circle” had exposed the data and that the organisation’s leadership would take action against the perpetrator.

Unconfirmed reports emerged days later regarding the arrest of school founder Kaung Thaik Soe, which Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify at the time.

The school soon announced a temporary closure.

The junta has accused Kaung Thaik Soe and the two teachers arrested with him of of disrupting the state’s public education system and working with the NUG, which it has labelled a “terrorist” organisation. Military mouthpieces have also claimed that the three individuals misused donations and that they were arrested at a brothel.

The NUG’s education ministry issued a response on Sunday calling the junta’s statement “unbelievably fabricated” news and rejecting the allegations against Kaung For You as “military shenanigans.” Ministry officials speculated that the military had made the accusations in an attempt to destroy the public image of teachers participating in the CDM.

Naung Cho, a member of the strike committee for basic education staff, told Myanmar Now that the junta was trying to slander teachers for promoting interim education programming in response to the military’s attempted takeover of the sector.

“They are trying to brainwash people into thinking that the teachers are misusing public funds, and they are misportraying the people’s revolution,” Naung Cho, who is also a teacher, said.

Junta spokesperson Gen Zaw Min Tun told a propaganda news outlet on Monday that the military council would not be taking action against the students and parents enrolled in the Kaung For You school.

However, following the data leak and initial arrests, at least 30 teachers suspected of association with the school have reportedly been detained by junta authorities, according to local sources.

Those arrested were from Magway, Mandalay, Tanintharyi and Sagaing regions, as well as Shan and Mon states.

Two individuals arrested late last week in Mandalay’s Pakokku Township were identified as Khin Marlar Nwe and Su Myat Thandar. According to the anti-junta Pakokku Township People’s Administration Group, the two had been taking part in the CDM but had no connection to the Kaung For You school.

A source close to a third victim in Mandalay said that the men who carried out the arrest had a copy of the teacher’s household registration document, as well as knowledge of other personal information.

Junta authorities also seized property belonging to the targeted teachers, including phones and laptops, leading to further exposure of their personal data, said the sources close to the victims

Another person working as a teaching supervisor for Kaung For You in Meiktila Township, Mandalay, was arrested on July 14, according to a source familiar with the incident.

“They said they had to question him about something and they took him. Since he is a teaching supervisor, he had the data of other teachers and students. His laptop was seized too. We asked those teachers and students to flee immediately,” said the source.

Five teachers from Tanintharyi Region’s Myeik Township were also detained at 11:30pm on the same day, said a local on the condition of anonymity.

“They were arrested for illegal association and told that their cases would be submitted to Naypyitaw and that they would be charged,” he said, referring to the junta’s administrative capital.

He told Myanmar Now that some 10 military authorities in three army vehicles came to carry out the arrests and that a local administrator had guided them to the teachers’ location.

It is still unknown where the dozens of detained teachers are being held.

The NUG has stated that the arrest of teachers taking part in the CDM is a blatant violation of the right to education declared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Original Post: Myanmar Now