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Burmese Relief Center--Japan
DATE:May 8, 1995
TIME: 9:18PM JST
SIX YEARS ON THE RUN
(From Burmese Relief Centre April 1995 Newsletter)
"Yes, it's difficult. But it's difficult for everyone. Every time
they attack us, I feel stronger It makes me realize there is no
way to five in a country ruled by this kind of dictatorship".
San San Myint is a member of the All Burma Students'
Democratic Front (ABSDF) and lives along the Thai-Burma
border. She is also a medic, a wife and the mother of two 14-month-old girls.
"When I first arrived in 1988, 1 thought I would be here for
about one year and then go back home. But we students can't
go back. To go back to Burma would mean imprisonment or
San San Myint is the daughter of a Burmese government
official from a small town in Karen State. She remembers
even as a young girl how corruption saturated every part of
Burmese society, even her home town.
"Because of my father's position, our family used to get access
to better food and merchandise. Of course, the army personnel
got much more. I remember thinking there is something very
wrong in this country".
In 1988, San San Myint was 18 years old and was preparing to
enter university when the nationwide anti-military -
demonstrations spread to Karen State. "I became one of the
central committee members who were organising the
demonstrations. After the massacre in September, all the
committee members were forced to flee. We decided to go to
the border and spent 9 days walking through the jungle to
reach the Salween river. We joined up with the thousands of
other students already there"
Soon after arriving, San San Myint found herself in a KNU
medic training program near the village of U Tha Hta. After
graduating, she began working at the local hospital. A year
later in 1990, SLORC troops attacked the village and burned
down the hospital. San San Myint then fled to another camp
on the Salween river called Mae Baw Mu Hta.
"At that time I was very sick. I had chronic malaria with
attacks every 6 or 7 days. I was too ill to work. It took me a
year to recover." Still weak, San San Myint was transferred to
fighter duty at the ABSDF information office at the KNU
headquarters of Manerplaw. It was there she met her future
husband, Tin Aung, another ABSDF student working in the
After regaining most of her strength, San San Myint was more
determined than ever to continue her struggle against the
SLORC. "I was angry. First the SLORC chased us from our
homes and families.
Then they followed us into the jungle and attacked our camps.
They burned down our hospitals and our schools. I realized
that for those of us who are pushing for democracy, nowhere in
Burma is safe".
In order to improve her medical skills, San San Myint next
attended a 6-month training course by the Burma Medical
Association. Her exam results placed her 5th out of the group
of 50 multi-ethnic students attending the training. After the
course she began working at the new hospital at the ABSDF
headquarters of Dawn Gwin.
Three months after arriving at Dawn Gwin, she married Tin
Aung and a year later her twins were born. Caring for her
children then became San San Myint's full time job. Both of
her children have had malaria at least 7 times as well as
dysentery and numerous chest infections.
San San Myint feels she has no option, however, but to bring
up her children in the jungle. "I know it would be easier to
bring them up at home m Burma since my mother or sister
could help, but if I go back now, SLORC will be waiting for
me. I don't want my children to grow up without a mother".
Since the beginning of this year, San San Myint and her family
have already moved house 4 times. As
the SLORC military machine relentlessly swallows up more and
more border territory, all of Burma's border based opposition
groups are constantly having to find new homes.
The student headquarters of Dawn Gwin is now in ashes and the
ABSDF are in the process of setting up yet another headquarters
along the Thai-Burma border.
According to San San Myint, the Burmese people must rid the
country of the military dictatorship by themselves, but she also
admits that those groups along the border need outside help.
"I would like to tell those people living in foreign countries, at
least those who support democracy, not to forget about us and
help pressure the SLORC to hand over power to the Burmese
people. I'll stay here and continue to do what I can."
(The Daily Yomiuri, May 5, 1995)
RESIDENTS CAUGHT IN MYANMAR'S REMODELING'
By Toshio Toma
Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent
YANGON-Myanmar's military regime is turning its attention to
"remodeling" the capital into an attractive sightseeing spot for
Designating 1996 as "the year of sightseeing," the Myanmar
government is ordering Yangon residents to demolish old houses
and build new ones. It has also told residents to stop chewing
betel leaves, which turns saliva and teeth red and is regarded as
offensive to tourists. The government is also mandating a new
dress code for singers who perform in the capital.
However, many of Yangon's 4.8 million residents are becoming
increasingly frustrated over the plan, largely viewing the
government's redevelopment project as self-serving and high-handed.
Last June, residents of Yangon's Dalla district, located across the
Yangon River from downtown, were caught off guard when they
were ordered to demolish "obsolete and dangerous buildings" and
build a "beautiful" neighborhood by 1996.
The order was issued by the Yangon City Development Com-
mittee, a pro-government capital redevelopment committee
headed by Yangon Mayor U Ko Lay.
The Dalla district is congested with one-story wooden houses-the
average residential dwelling seen in Yangon. The residents claim
their homes are not "dirty" or "dangerous" as the committee
But orders from the military regime, which interprets the law at
its own discretion, are absolute. In line with the directive,
residents began demolishing their "obsolete" homes last year.
At the same time, the committee is trying to redraw residential
blocks and make improvements to streets.
The committee is allowing residents to build new two-story
houses and choose prime building sites along main streets,
provided they have enough money to pay for the houses. Those
who can afford only one-story houses are given the remaining
building sites while those with no financial ability are being re-
located to other local areas.
Moe Moe Aung, a 28-year-old middle school teacher, says her
eight-member family-her parents, sister and her children-scratched together 30
0,000 kyat (Yen 300,000) from savings and
loans needed to build a new one-story house.
With her 1,200 kyat monthly salary, she has a hard enough just
making ends meet. The added monthly loan payment for the
house is putting even more strain on the family budget.
"We are much better off than people who were relocated," she
said. "It would be impossible to commute to work from the
relocation site and there would be no job available there." About
50 percent of the Dalla residents were ordered to move out, she
The committee is also pushing the redevelopment project in at
least four other districts in the city.
Downtown Yangon, which is lined with classical brick buildings
from its colonial period, is no exception. Since last May, the
committee ha ordered an average of 10 building per month in the
downtown area to be rebuilt, claiming they are in danger of
Dissatisfaction is also simmering because many people suspect
that the military and construction companies are conspiring to
evict owners of buildings in exclusive areas so that hotels and
other buildings can be built with foreign capital.
In its remodeling plan, the military regime is also tampering with
the traditional practices and customs of ordinary citizens.
One of these practices is the use of kon, spices wrapped in a betel
piper leaf that Myanmar people have been chewing since around
the 11th century. The government banned its use in the
downtown area on April 1.
The military government says it is not suitable for "an
international city" to have globs of red saliva on the street.
One portion of kon cost 5 kyat to 10 kyat. More than 70 percent
of male adults habitually chew kon.
"Kon is good for stopping palpitation and killing pinworms," said
Zaw Mingt, a friend of Moe Moe Aung. "There are many poor
people out there who try to relieve hunger with kon."
Furthermore, the government, as part of its program to lure more
international travelers, has established dress and behavior codes
for singers to keep indigenous Myanmar culture intact.
Lt. Gen. Myo Nyunt, commander of the Yangon Command,
recently announced a strict 10-point code for singers.
According to the code, female singers are encouraged to wear
longyi, a traditional wrap-around Myanmar costume. They are
prohibited from wearing skirts with deep slits, tight jeans and
"These moves destroy the much freer atmosphere generated by
economic revitalization," a diplomatic source said. "They will
only serve to fan antimilitary sentiments'