Myanmar teachers, both those supporting and those opposing the country’s post-coup junta, are reportedly facing threats, including death threats, in many parts of the country from both armed pro-junta and opposition groups as the government works to reopen schools.
Schools were closed last year because of the pandemic. In addition, thousands of teachers had joined the anti-junta civil disobedience movement and boycotted junta-run schools. Moreover, parents kept children out of schools because of security concerns and a school boycott. The junta allowed students to take exams to finish their school in March and April and reopened schools June 2 as usual, saying more than 5 million students are enrolled this school year.
However, local news organizations and junta-controlled newspapers have carried reports of teachers being killed and arrested by unidentified armed groups, and attacks on schools have reportedly been occurring every day. Generally, local media reports do not identify the attackers. Some reports have blamed pro-junta groups and some reports have said opposition groups had claimed responsibility. The junta has always blamed attacks and killings on opposition forces.
According to locals interviewed by VOA, Moe Moe Khaing, a school principal in Botae village of Wetlet township in the Sagaing region and her sister, Kay Zar Khaing, were shot and killed by an unidentified gunmen June 6. The junta blamed an opposition people’s defense force, but no local defense force claimed responsibility.
Win Bo, a lecturer at Dawei University in the southeastern part of the country and Mya Mya Moe, a Home Affairs Ministry staff member, were killed in Pan Tin Inn village of Laung Lone township in Dawei district, on June 13. The opposition Launglone People’s Defense Force admitted in an announcement they killed them for informing and coordinating with the junta.
Eight education staff were injured and one killed in a bomb blast in Naungcho, a town in northern Shan state on May 31, four schools were reportedly attacked in Sagaing region on June 6, and a high school was set on fire and a bomb exploded near a school in Kachin state in the second week of June. Local reports did not identify the attackers and no opposition group has taken responsibility but the junta has blamed people’s defense forces.
Meanwhile, rangers of the opposition Anti-Coup People’s Liberation Force claimed responsibility and apologized for the accidental killing of a 21-year-old man in a bomb blast in Yangon’s North Okkalapa Township Education Office on June 19. However, the group again warned teachers not to work “under the military dictatorship,” adding that they would not take responsibility if any damage occurred in future bombing.
Teachers also face the same dangers the rest of the population does.
On June 10, five people including two civil disobedience movement teachers were arrested and killed by junta security forces in Dan Pin Kan village in Magway’s Yezagyo township, villagers and the Northern-Yezagyo Guerrilla Force, a local opposition group, told VOA. The group said the junta forces arrested villagers on June 10 after being attacked by the guerrilla force. Villagers found dead bodies of five people including a civil disobedience movement teacher who was five months pregnant on June 14.
“All bodies were apparently burned alive. It was very shocking,” said a local resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.
Junta spokesperson General Zaw Min Tun told reporters June 16 that 44 education staff, including teachers had been killed and more than 500 schools were destroyed between April 1, 2021, and June 13 of this year. The junta has repeatedly accused peoples’ defense forces of being involved in the killings, although many PDF chapters deny involvement in those killings.
“We never kill civilians and just give warnings to those who work for the junta. We also have a policy of not attacking religious buildings and schools,” said Ko Hlat See, a leader of the People’s Revolutionary Front-Pakokku, based in Magway’s Pakokku township.
The Chinland Joint Defense Committee, made up of 18 regional defense groups in Chin state, detained more than 20 education staff, committee spokesman Salai Timmy told VOA June 20. He said they detained them after giving two warnings but did not harm them.
“We do not harm anyone. We detained teachers to find out why they were working for the junta because we are preventing military rule in our state. If a teacher promises not to work for the junta, we will release them and make arrangements for their safety,” Salai Timmy said.
Teachers’ safety is at stake under the coup. A civil disobedience movement teacher working at a school run by the opposition National Unity Government in Magway’s Myaing township told VOA that the junta forces entered the village, looted and destroyed property and arrested villagers after fighting with local militia groups.
“We ran before they got there and returned to village when they left,” the teacher said.
“Teaching at schools run by the junta does not mean supporting the military rule. Teaching is my profession and as a father, I have responsibilities including financial support to my family,” said another teacher, with 16 years teaching experience in Magway’s Monywa township, who teaches in a government school.