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A Letter in AW:Tributes to Student

Subject: A Letter in AW:Tributes to Student movements (12/8/88)

/* Posted 4 Jan 6:00am 1997 by drunoo@xxxxxxxxxxxx in igc:soc.culture.burma */
/* ------------" Difficulty in Burma (Asia Week,1988) "------------ */

[Some letters and comments by Burmese in various journals are well-worth
studying, such as this one in Asia Week on August 1988. Burmese who wrote
letters in those days appears to be from a somewhat older generation and
most of the letters were usually written anonymously. -- U Ne Oo.]
Difficulty in Burma

We were young university graduates when Ne Win seized power 26 years ago
from U Nu's democratically elected government. In our political naivete, we
thought the changes was for the good. The military had traditionally been
respected as the saviours of Burma.

How wrong we were. Within a few months, Rangoon University Student Union's
historic building was demolished and political activity was banned.
Businesses, banks and factories were nationalised. People were detained,
sometimes for years, without due process of law. Newspapers came under
state control. The currency was demonetised. Military personnel were placed
in all departments -- the civil service, corporations, law courts, shops,
banks, ministeries, even the diplomatic service. There would be a
bhomu(major) or bogyi(captain) in every office -- and of course Bohmu was
always right. The military, from the bogyokes(generals) all the way down
the ranks, received special privileges and facilities.

As we worked in various parts of the country, we experienced first hand the
workings of the regime. Our parents' property was confiscated. We were
bypassed in promotions and transfers. Day-to-day routine was full of
shortages, rations and queues.

AS years went by, the children of the military were favoured in schools and
universities and eventually in the competition for jobs. A daughtor of Ne
Win and a son of the education minister(Col. Hla Han) scored distinctions
in all subjects in their university entrance examinations. How bright they
all were! The black market became the main source of consumer items.
Burma's natural resources were plundered and smuggled out to neighbouring

Saddest of all, the morals of the people declined. Bribery and pilferage
became common. Young women prostituted themselves for a better social life.
When old bohmus retired with houses and cars, new bohmus came in to take
their places. Members of the military considered themselves a breed apart.
Their attitude to their countrymen was totally uncaring.

We wondered what the future held. Traditionally, Burmese had never
migrated; there had been no need to. But now we felt there were no
prospects or security in our homeland for us and, especially, our childern.
So we joined the thousands of Burmese scattered across the globe.

The third demonetisation last year and more shortages of commodities,
including rice, have brought further gloom to Burma. There have been
numerous abuses of human rights. Documentation has been difficult because
of the closed society. The most prominent of these abuses has been the
violent quelling of funeral arrangements for the late U Thant in DEcember
1974 in Rangoon. The demonstrations last March were led by students who
were not even born when the regime came to power. We salute these young
people. The March affair and its martyrs will go down in history as a
significant step in the struggle against the dictatorship.

We hoped that the recent extraordinary party congress would pave the way
for reform and even eventually a government of reconciliation and national
unity. However, there has been no compromise. Sein Lwin has been elected
party chairman. This man could be called the Butcher of Burma.

There has not been any superpower interference in Burma's internal affairs.
It remains a one-party state. The regime claims to follow a socialist
policy, but it was and is a military dictatorship. We fear there will be
further violent confrontations, and no one can predict the outcome. Ne
Win's regime will go down as the blackest segment of Burma's 20th century
history -- much, much worse than the preiods of British colonial rule and
the Japanese occupation.