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By Soe Myint
General Secretary, All Burma Students League

       NEW DELHI - 1100 11


Unlike  some other Asian countries  which achieved independence after
the  Second  Would  War.  Burma  is  entering  21st  century  with  a
deeply-rooted  military  dictatorial system.   The people  lounge for
freedom, peace and democracy is still neglected by the ruling military
government.   It seems that the people's struggle for the restoration
of  democracy and  human rights  in the  country will  take some more
years, if not very long. The ruling military clique gets strengthened
with  the political and economic  support of some governments.  These
include  the  members  of  Association of  South  East  Asian Nations
(ASEAN)  and China .  The individuals  like Lee Kwan Yuu of Singapore
and Mahathia of Malaysia are actively supporting the military generals
of  Burma with  their reasoning of  "Asian Values" and  "Asian Way to
Democracy"  Moreover,  the Multi-National  Companies (MNCs) which are
based in developed countries are extending their recognition and money
to  the  military  junta  by investing  military  junta  by investing
millions  of dollars in "National  Convention" with their hand-picked
delegates.    The  National  Convention  aims   to  draw  a  (future)
constitution  of Burma in which the  dominant and leading role of the
military  in the  administration of  the country  is guaranteed.  The
people, under the fascist rule of the military generals, continues to
face  enormous sufferings in their day-to-day life.  Hope for freedom
and prosperity seems very far for them.  However,  they never give it
up.  Whenever there is in opportunity, they show their revolt against
the   government,   its  repressive   rule,   policies  and  actions.

Throughout  the history  of Burma,   the liberation  movements of the
country,   whether that was against the  colonial rule or against the
oppressive military regime, were led by the students and youth of the
country.   Thus,  the students and youth  of Burma play a dynamic and
decisive role youth of the country.  Thus,  the students and youth of
Burma  play  a  dynamic and  decisive  role in  shaping  the nation's
destiny. They enjoy a dignified status which the people entrusted for
their  fight  against injustice,   oppression and  repression.  They,
always with the people and for the people, are still fighting against
the  current military  dictatorship which  has been  rooted for three
decades in Burma.  It is for the first time in the world history that
the  students of  a nation  has a  well-trained and  disciplined army
fighting  against a  well-experienced and  equipped forces  of a only
inside  but also  outside the country  to fight  against the military
dictatorship. In the following paper of "National Students Movement in
Burma',   I have presented three periods of modern Burma in which the
students  relentlessly have been  fighting for the  liberation of the
people from the yoke of successive oppressive regimes.

Brief background history of Burma

Burma  is  a country  which  is situated  in  the Southeast  Asia and
located  in between the  world's two largest  and populous countries,
India and China,  Burma has an area of 676,551 square kilometers with
the  population of 45  millions.  It is  a country rich  in human and
natural resources with high cultural heritage. It shares borders with
Bangladesh and India in the west, China in the north and Thailand and
Laos in the east. It has a 1,600 miles coastline at the Bay of Bangal
and  islands in the Andaman Sea.   The majority of the people,  about
88.6%  are Buddhists and the rest are Christians, Muslims, Hindus and
animists. Burma was once known as "Rice Bowl of Asia", exporting both
rice and oil.  It held 80% of world's teak reserves.  The majority of
the people, more than 75% work in agriculture.

It  is  a  country  where  many  indigenous  people  (more  than  130
nationalities)  are staying and speaking  over one hundred languages.
Each  of these people belongs to one of three major racial groups the
Mon-Khmars,   the Tibeto-Burmans and the Thai-Shans.  The Chins,  the
Kachins,  the Karens, the Mons, the Arakanese, the Shans, the Burmans
are the major indigenous national races of Burma.

Burma  was under the British colonial  rule for more than one hundred
years  and Burma achieved its independence on 4th January 1948.  From
1948 to 1962,  Burma practiced a parliamentary democracy system under
the  premiership of U Nu.  However,  the newly democratic independent
Burma  was  inherent many  political and  economic problems  from its
history.  As  John  F.  Cady  wrote,  "the  launching  of  the  newly
independent  state of  Burma was  the preclude  to the  outbreak of a
series of rebellions, which narrowly missed destroying the government
of  Premier U Nu within little more than a year".  With the political
turmoil  and lawlessness prevailing in the country,  U Nu also failed
to  resurrect the country's  economy which was  devastated due to the
Second World War.  And at last,  "the western parliamentary democracy
as  operated in Burma  had brought the  country to the  very brink of
disaster" and U Nu had to surrender the Army's demand for state power
in 1958 amidst the domestic instability. Thus, Burma had an army rule
as "caretaker government" under a democratic parliamentary system for
two  years.  Although Burma returned to the democratic system in 1960
after  U Nu's triumph  in the elections,  the  Army which had already
tasted  the  power once  staged a  military coup  on 2nd  March 1962,
overthrowing  the democratically  elected government  and imposing an
oppressive  military rule.  The coup  team,  namely the Revolutionary
Council,   led  by General  Ne Win,   abolished the  constitution and
suspended all the democratic rights.  All the legislative,  executive
and judicial powers were vested on General Ne Win.  The military used
the  gun to control the country according to their wishes,  keeping a
tight  lid on  political activity  of opposition  inside the country.

In  1974,   the  military  regime transformed  itself  into  a ruling
political party,  Burma Socialist programme Party (NSPP).  Therefore,
from 1974 to 1988,  Burma was under the one party-dominated political
system with so-called "Burmese Way to Socialism". In this 14 years of
socialist  regime,  Burma became one of  the poorest countries of the
world and in 1987 Burma was listed as a Least Developed Country (LDC)
by the United Nations.

In  1988,  due to the deteriorating economic situation of the country
and  oppressive rule of the one party rule,  the people of Burma from
all  walks of  life took on  the streets,   demonstrating against the
government. On 8th August 1988 (8.8.88), the people of Burma from all
strata  of life  participated in this  nation-wide peoples' movement.
The  peoples' movement  which was  mainly led  by university students
demanded  for  political and  economic changes  in the  country.  The
demonstrators demanded for abolishing of the present political system
and for the restoration fo democracy and human rights in the country.

However,  the military responded the people's desire with bullets and
thousands  and  thousands of  demonstrators,  most  of them  were the
students  and youth,  were killed on the streets of the cities of the
country.  The military headed by General Saw Maung took over power on
18th September 1988 by a bloody coup and installed a military regime,
namely  State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).  Martial law
was declared and various oppressive laws and by the repressive methods
of the new military junta.

The  students and youth who led  the demonstrations became the target
of  the  military government  and most  of  the student  leaders were
arrested.   Daw Aung  San Suu  Kyi who emerged  as the  leader of the
people's  democratic movement and founder  of the National League for
Democracy (NLD) was put under house arrest.  Although the multi-party
elections  were allowed to be held  in May 1990,  the military regime
did  not hand over power to  the National League for Democracy (NLD),
the party which got landslide victory in the elections. Instead, more
repressive  methods were  practiced to  crack down  the NLD  party in
particular and the democratic movement in general.

As Burma virtually turned into SLORC's killing fields,  many students
and youth of Burma decided to leave the country and fight against the
military  junta from the  border areas of  the country.  Many elected
Members  of Parliament  who were  able to  escape from  the arrest of
military  junta came over to the border  areas of the country to join
the  students and youth in the fight against the government in Burma.
These  Members  of  Parliament  grouped  themselves  and  formed  the
government-in-exile,   namely  National Coalition  Government  of the
Union of Burma (NCGUB). With this, the democratic forces of Burma who
are outside the country continue the struggle with the support of the
international community.

After  her release from house  arrest in 1996,  Daw  Aung San Suu Kyi
reactivated her party, National League for Democracy (NLD), which was
virtually  inactive because of the crack down of the government.  She
got  the wholehearted support from  the democratic forces both inside
and  outside the country.   With this strong  support,  she leads the
struggle  for the restoration of democracy and human rights in Burma.

Students Movement in th Independence Struggle (1930-1948)

Since  the time of independence movement,   the students and youth of
Burma  played a leading role in the affairs of the country.  Students
took  part  actively in  the  struggle for  independence  against the
British  colonial rule.   The University  Act of  1920,  which placed
Rangoon  University under  the University of  Calcutta without taking
consensus  of the people  led to the students'  first ever strikes in
Burma.   There was widespread public support for the students' demand
for  national school,   free from  British control  which would teach
Burmese  language,  literature and history.   As a American historian
Joself Silverstein noted, the protest marked the students' entry as a
potent force in national politics and this date is still commemorated
as Burma's National Day.

The  Students'  Boycott Council  claimed:  "We  believe that  at this
juncture,   nothing can save  the nation but  a proud and indomitable
stand on the part of Young Burma with the wholehearted cooperation of
the  Burmese  people".   This  spirit  of  the  students  during  the
independence  movement  became  the source  of  aspirations  for many
student activists who took part in the people's uprising in 1988.  By
1930s,  Rangoon University had become the focal point of independence
movement  with  student  leaders  like  Ko  Nu  (later  become  first
democratic prime minister of Burma) and Ko Aung San (later became the
Father   of  the  Nation)  who  were  eventually  to  lead  Burma  to
independence.   Thakhin  Thein  Phe Myint  who  later  became General
Secretary  of Burma  Communist Party (BCP)  was a  student leader.  A
student  leader Ko ba Hein  in 1938 strike defied  the British in his
booming  voice,  "If the colonial police horse kicks once,  it should
set  the country aflame".  He and  other student leaders were able to
arouse  the entire  people of  the country  to fight  for freedom and

Students Movement in Burma (1962-1988)

The  military led by General Ne Win took over the country on a brutal
coup on 2nd March 1962 and ended the democratic system in Burma.  The
Revolutionary  Council, the coup team, abolished the constitution (of
1947)  and  suspended  the  democratic  rights  of  the  people.  All
apolitical  parties  were banned  and  the whole  country  became the
breeding  ground for the military.   Militarism came down into modern
Burmese   history  along  with  the  dreaded  Military  Intelligence.

The  intellectual students  who were always  in the  forefront of the
movements  fighting  against the  oppression,   stated to  show their
resistance.   After the  coup,  the students  from Rangoon University
started a peaceful protest in the university compound.  However,  the
military   gunned  down   hundreds  of   students  and   crushed  the
demonstrations  that resisted the  military coup.  On  7th July 1962,
thousands  of students from  Rangoon University who  had assembled in
the  Union Hall were trapped inside  and blown up.  The military also
took  to indiscriminate firing  on the hundreds  of students who were
assembled  outside  the  Union  Hall  building.  Many  students  were
arrested  and some student leaders were ousted to an island and given
life imprisonment. That was the beginning of genocide, mass massacre,
ruthless and indiscriminate killing of innocent citizens all over the
country by the military regime.

However,   the heroic students of Burma have not taken the oppressive
on-slaught  of the military  lying low.  The  student activists again
challenged the military regime over the funeral arrangement of former
United  Nations General Secretary U  Thant (a Burmese statesman).  On
December  5, 1974, a large crowd of students seized the body in front
of  50,000 mourners,   shortly before  it was due  to be  buried at a
public  cemetery.   The  students viewed  that  military government's
arrangement  for site  of bury  was an insult  to the  dignity of the
nationally  and  internationally respected  statesman.   The students
wanted  more fitting funeral  and a special  mausoleum in his honour.
The students hurriedly built up a new mausoleum at the place where the
Students Union Office was located before it was blown up in 1962. The
heavy  armed forces raided the university  and recovered the body and
buried at the officially designated mausoleum.  In the process,  they
killed many students.

The   protest  later  joined  by   workers  and  became  the  biggest
anti-military regime demonstration in the country.  It continued till
mid-1975  resulting  in  the closure  of  universities  and colleges.
According  to government's own admission,   nearly 3,000 students and
2,000  workers were arrested between December  1974 and June 1975 and
tried   by  special  military  courts.   Workers  were  sentenced  to
imprisonment  from 10 to 14 years and students were sentenced between
4 and 6 years.

In March 1976,  the last major demonstration in the 1970s against the
military  government was broken  out on the  100th Anniversary of the
Birth  of Thakhin Ko Daw Hmaing,   the much revered leader of Burma's
Peace Movement. While the student activists of Rangoon University were
preparing  a new series of demonstrations  to mark his birthday,  the
hostels  of  the students  were raided  by the  military intelligence
personnel  and students were  arrested.  Ko Tin  Maung Oo,  a biology
student from Rangoon University,  was secretly hanged on 3 April 1976
by  a  special  tribunal.  After  this  crackdown  on  the  students'
demonstrations,   hundreds of student leaders  left the cities of the
country  to the  jungles where armed  struggle was  waged against the
military  government  by  various ethnic  minority  nationalities and

Students Movement in Burma (1988-1997)

Undeterred  by the  military's all  out crackdown  on each  and every
sections of Burmese society,  the students of Burma carried out their
relentless struggle against the military dictatorship in the country.
In  September  1983,  all  25,  35  and  75 Kyats  (Burmese currency)
banknotes  were demonetized  by the ruling  Burma Socialist Programme
Party  (BSPP) regime.  The decree eliminated approximately 70% of the
currency  and with it the savings of rich and poor alike.  The people
found themselves holding worthless banknotes and students without even
fees for hostel mess. This event of demonetization ushered the people
of  Burma  to  come  out  on  the  streets  to  protest  against  the
government.   The  students  led the  demonstrations  and  with these
demonstrations,   "8888" people's uprising broke out in a notion-wide
scale in Burma.

On August 8, 1988, the people of Burma led by the university students
rose  up  as one  to call  upon  the military  rulers to  abolish the
ill-reputed one party system, demanding democracy and human rights in
the  country.   A  Student  demonstration  at  Rangoon  Institute  of
Technology  (RIT) on March 13, 1988, preceded this historic event and
it  was the spark of the outrage of  the people.  At 8 minutes past 8
o'clock  on the morning  of the auspicious date  of 8.8.88,  the huge
demonstrations  began in Burma's cities and towns and villages.  Tens
of  thousands of demonstrations  led by the  students marched through
the  streets of the country  demanding political and economic changes
in the country.  The demonstrations of the people continued for weeks
throughout  the country and the military  opened fore on the peaceful
demonstrators. It is estimated that in the five days from August 8 to
12, more than 3,000 demonstrators were shot and killed throughout the
country by the security forces.

However,  the concerted efforts and relentless struggle of the people
in  their show of strength  through peaceful,  unarmed demonstrations
led  to the resignation of three Presidents of the country in a short
period.   The general  strike of  the people  on a  nation-wide scale
brought  the administrative machinery to a standstill.  Several towns
had  passed into the  control of Strike  Committees in which students
took in charge of. The All Burma Federation of Students Union (ABFSU)
was emerged again on August 28, 1988 as an umbrella group for student
organizations  in  Rangoon  and  other  cities.  The  General  Strike
Committee  (GSC) in Rangoon issued an  ultimatum to the government to
install an interim government of face an indefinite general strike in
the country.  The students supported the demand with a 40-hour hunger
strikes  in various  places of  Rangoon,  Mandalay  and other cities.

However, the military intervened again with guns. The military led by
General  Saw Maung took  over the country on  18th September 1988 and
installed  a military regime,  namely State Law and Order Restoration
Council  (SLORC).  After the coup,  students continued their striving
for democracy under the banner of newly-formed and legally registered
Democratic Party for New Society (DPNS). On January 2, 1989, hundreds
of  thousands of people  led by students and  youth attended Daw Khin
Kyi's  (Daw Aung  San Suu Kyi's  mother) funeral in  the first street
march  in Rangoon since the military  coup.  On March 16,  about 1000
students  protested against the SLORC at which the soldiers prevented
them   at  gunpoint  from  floating  wreaths  on  the  Inya  Lake  to
commemorate  a massacre in 1988. On March  24, 1989, Ko Min Ko Naing,
the most prominent underground student leader was arrested and jailed
for 20 years.

After  the coup  in 1988,  the  students divided  themselves into two
sections: a section of the students to stay inside Burma and continue
the  struggle against  the military  regime with  nonviolent ways and
another section to leave the country and join with other revolutionary
groups  in the jungles  in their armed  struggle against the military
regime. With this plan, thousands and thousands of students and youth
left for the jungles, the bordering areas of the country. The general
plan  of these  students was to  get military training  and then come
back to Burma to fight out the forces of the junta. Most of them left
for  the Thai-Burma border areas,   particularly to those areas where
about  ten  ethnic  minorities  have been  carrying  on  the struggle
against the Burmese government.  Besides,  about hundreds of students
and  youth arrived  at the bordering  areas of  India and Bangladesh.

In  1989,  those  students and  youth who  arrived at  the Thai-Burma
border  areas formed  themselves into  All Burma  Students Democratic
Front  (ABSDF) and established  camps along the  border areas.  Since
that  time,  the ABSDF has been waging its armed struggle against the
military  regime  from the  border areas  of  the country.   Those of
students  who arrived at the  Indo-Burma border areas also themselves
formed  into  student  organizations  to  fight  against  the  ruling
military government in Burma.

The  All Burma  Students League (ABSL)  was formed on  30th July 1994
when  India-based democratic forces of  Burma namely,  Burma Students
League  (ABSL),  All Burma  Students Union (ABSU),   Students Army of
Burma  (SAB),  United Democratic  Front (UDF),  Mizoram-based Burmese
students  and other individuals who were scattered in different parts
of  India, came together. It was the first ever historic event in six
years in India that all the students activists joined their hands and
souls together, and pledged to fight for the restoration of democracy
and  human rights  in Burma by  any means possible.   On 15 September
1994, the Burmese students and youth in Thailand also formed the ABSL
(Thailand)  to conform the  political objectives of  ABSL against the
illegitimate rule of military junta inside Burma.

In January 1006,  the Students and Youth Congress of Burma (SYCB) was
formed  as  an umbrella  students  and youth  organizations  of Burma
representing  various nationalities  of Burma.  It  consists of eight
students and youth organizations which are currently fighting against
the ruling military government in Burma.

ABSDF, ABLS, DPNS, Chin Students Union, All Arakan Students and Youth
Union  (AASYU),  All Kachin Students  and Youth Organization (AKSYO),
National League for democracy (Youth), Liberated Area (NLD-Youth/LA),
Overseas Mon Students Union (OMSU) and Karen Youth Organization (KYO)
are the members of the SYCB.

While  the students outside the country continue the struggle for the
restoration  of democracy  in Burma and  to get the  support from the
international  community,   their  counterparts  inside  the  country
revolts  against  the military  regime.  The  largest protest  of the
students  against the military government broke out in the first week
of November 1996. The student demonstrators demanded an end to police
brutality, the right to form a students union and civil liberties and
political  freedom in the country.  Protesting students eluded police
roadblocks  and staged a  sit-in outside Rangoon  University for four
days.   Up to 1,500 students sat in at a key intersection of Rangoon.
The military regime responded this week-long demonstrations by closing
most  schools,   arresting some  students and  members of  NLD party,
sending  students back home,  blocking off roads with troops and riot
police and stationing tanks in central Rangoon.

        News and Information Bureau, All Burma Students League.

******************************(THE END)****************************** 

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