US presses for release of Myanmar protesters

The United States voiced concern Monday at the arrest of and charges against peaceful protesters in Myanmar after a protest over educational reform, and called for their release.

More than 60 demonstrators were brought to a court hearing in the central town of Letpadan on Wednesday, two weeks after baton-wielding police violently quelled their rally for education reform in scenes that sparked fears of a return to junta-era repression.

"We call for the immediate, unconditional release of all individuals being detained in the country as a result of exercising their right to peacefully assemble," State Department acting spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

Myanmar`s quasi-civilian government introduced much-praised reforms after a half-century of military rule ended in 2011. 

But some observers fear these are stalling as the country heads toward a landmark election later this year. 

Harf called for an "impartial and credible" investigation to hold those involved accountable, including security forces who applied "excessive force."

"Transparency, accountability and justice are vital for the Burmese government`s expressed goals of social stability, peace and democracy," she added.

"Only an impartial investigation and accounting will advance the country`s goals of mutual trust and national reconciliation and avoid deepening division."

Students have rallied in Myanmar for months to call for changes to a new education law, including decentralizing the school system, allowing student unions and teaching in ethnic minority languages.

Talks between the government and the young activists had led to a rethink of the legislation by parliament, which is currently debating proposed changes.