[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

Is there a chance for another upris

Subject: Is there a chance for another uprising in Burma?

Is There a Chance for Another Uprising in Burma?

        Pro-democracy activists inside the country and outside are planning to
hold nationwide demonstrations on September 9, 1999, which is the copycat
of August 8, 1988 known as the 8888 movement.  The "four eight" movement
toppled the Burmese socialist regime but could not succeed in producing a
democratic government.   The coming 9999 movement has a better chance than the
previous one.
        A few months ago workers from the Korean Daewoo car factory staged a
protest to demand higher wages because of skyrocketing consumer prices, but
they were fired by the company with the full support of the regime.  This
act outraged the workers in the entire country.  In Pegu students spread
anti-regime leaflets in the famous pagoda compound Shwe Mawdaw.  When the riot
police arrived, they found no one, because the local residents hid the
from the authorities.  In Mandaly Buddhist monks peacefully demonstrated in
Phayagyi for freedom of expression and the freedom to take their religious
examinations; they too were shielded and protected by the local people.  In
Myedae 4,000 farmers marched to the local State Peace and Development
(SPDC) office and demanded free trade for their own farm products.  Recently
more than a hundred high school students from Mergui and Rangoon staged a
demonstration and demanded student rights and called for 9999 action.  Things
are getting hot in Burma again.  This time it is like a sleeping volcano that
could wake up and explode at any moment.  Many Burmese watchers and activists
think that the time is ripe for the people's revolution, that it is the moment
for the power of the people to unseat the regime.

The Opposition and the Generals
Since 1989 the National League for Democracy (NLD) party has been struggling
against one of the cruelest regimes in the world.  It is not yet victorious,
but it has maintained steady opposition over the past decade.  However, the
length and difficulty of the struggle has led to some confusion among the NLD
party members and has resulted in disagreements among some elected MPs and
their leaders.  It seems that the NLD is weaker than it has been in the past
and some are worried that the party is losing the support of the people.  Many
local and regional party offices have been forced by the regime to shut down,
many of its members were threatened and forced to resign, and many of its
elected MPs have been detained since the party formed the CRPP (Committee for
Representing the People's Parliament) in 1998.  It is, in fact, true; the NLD
is weaker than in the past, and so is the SPDC.

The SPDC has sought to promote the country's economy, but nepotism and the
of skilled technocrats in the administration have only worsened a financial
crisis, which has widened the gap between a small, rich elite and the majority
of the people.  In addition, partial economic sanctions imposed by the US and
Western countries hit the SPDC?s long and short-term economic plans.
the Asian financial crisis hit the regime hard and has proven to be the final
straw that broke the general's dreams of economic growth.  It is clear that
SLORC/SPDC has failed in its economic goals.  Its goal of improving the
country?s economy and thereby holding onto political and economic power is not
going to be achieved any time soon.  On the other hand, the chance for another
large-scale social movement is very likely to occur in the near future.

Comparisons between 8888 and 9999
The student generation of 1988 has been tirelessly committing their lives and
their dreams for their motherland and as a result have produced fruitful
opportunities for the generation of students coming of age in the years
        1.  In 1988 there were no political parties that truly stood for the
Burmese people, but after the momentous events of 8888 many political parties
emerged, including the NLD, which won a stunning victory in the 1990
parliamentary elections.  The NLD party's General Secretary, Aung San Suu Kyi
won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, which gave enormous encouragement to the
democratic movement in Burma.  Now the Burmese people have the political party
and the world-known leader whom they can rely on and trust.

        2.  Another advances that the generation of 8888 accomplished was the
bringing about the breakthrough of the news about Burma to the outside world. 
The socialist regime and its successors had blocked contact between the
people with the news and media outside the country.  The regime's mouthpiece
newspapers and the only broadcasting station daily assaulted the eyes and ears
of the Burmese people with a barrage of propaganda without a single voice in
opposition.  The Burmese people had been listening to foreign broadcasting
services such as Voice of America (VOA) and the British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC) as their trusted news stations since the 1960s.  Now, with
the support of the US Congress, Radio Free Asia has emerged as the most
listened-to radio station in Burma.  Furthermore, activist radio stations such
as Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), supported by the Norwegian government, and
the Internet radio station Voice of Burma (VOB), from Australia, have become
established and counter the propaganda from the regime.
        In addition, after prolonged armed struggle in the jungle against the
300,000-strong Burmese army, activists and students alike realized that armed
struggle alone is not the answer, and many have chosen alternative paths: they
have chosen non-violent struggle.  They educate the people in the countries
where they resettle.  They organize the Burmese and native people in their
countries.  They have contacted the Western news media and informed them about
what is really happening in Burma.  Thanks to their tireless efforts, more
about Burma has been in the media in democratic countries such as Thailand,
India, the US, Canada, Australia, Norway, Japan, Germany, and Sweden.
of these countries, many of whom never heard about the terrible massacre in
1988 and gross human rights violations committed by the Burmese army, were
shocked to find out the truth.  The results have been stunning.  The world is
being awakened to the reality of the military regime, which is losing its
of anonymity.
        3.  The Army (the Tatmadaw)
The Burmese army (Tatmadaw) has been the backbone of the government since the
coup d'état in 1962.  The army is the only entity that has remained united
since Burma gained its independence.  Every army in the world makes a pledge
that it will protect its own people and defend its borders from foreign
invasion.  But the modern army in Burma changed its course like the armies in
many other authoritarian regimes.  It no longer protects its people, but seeks
to rule the country.  The mentality of the modern army leaders is to rule the
country by any means, not protect it as dutiful soldiers like their honest
predecessors once did.  In Burma soldiers have to shout the four oaths every
morning.  The last oath is, "We will sacrifice our lives for our country, the
people, and our army."  This oath has been actively contradicted because they
have to kill people who did not do any harm and because they have to force the
villagers to build roads, bridges, and railroads.  Furthermore, for their own
survival the soldiers often resort to robbery when their rations run out.  The
generals want them to obey the third oath only, which is, "We will follow the
orders from our superiors and do our duty."  Burmese soldiers who lost the
battle with the ethnic rebels were put in prison.  The Burmese soldiers are
ashamed of themselves, they feel uneasy and unhappy when they look into the
eyes of the people, who show them fear and hate.  The morale of the Burmese
army changed dramatically after the 1988 uprising.  
In the 1990 elections the army voted for the opposition party because the
soldiers were tired of civil war, which has been raging since 1948.  They
that with a NLD victory, they would no longer have to fight each other.  But
the generals ignored the results of the election and issued the order that
government employees have no rights to become members of any political party
but could vote as they wished on election day.  This order revealed that the
generals were worried about losing their grip on the army.  It was intended to
prevent the soldiers from swelling the ranks of the opposition party.

The State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)'s founding members,
generals Tun Kyi, Kyaw Ba, Myint Aung, Maung Hla, and Maung Thint, had their
legs knocked out from under them when they found themselves sacked last year. 
Even though the generals in power either transferred the discharged generals'
followers from their original units or outright fired them, tensions still
exist within the army.  Some army officers are waiting for the right moment to
join with the people.  Indeed, in 1988 some soldiers did join the movement.
The economic downturn has left the generals unable to feed their troops, which
has led to the soldiers' looting villages and properties belonging to various
ethnic minorities.  The expansion of the Burmese army from 300,000 to 400,000
has only increased the burden on the generals.  As a result, the generals have
given their tacit permission to the army to "find food on their own," i.e. by
looting and robbing.  One regiment normally contains 1,000 soldiers, but at
present most of the regiments in the frontiers have no more than 250 troops. 
Where are the rest?  Most of the soldiers missing from the regiment are either
dead or have become deserters.  Any person who persuades a young man to join
the army is rewarded with 3,000 kyat, one sack of rice, and a bottle of army
rum, which attests to the unpopularity of the army among the people. 
One stunning piece of news came from the Defense Service Military Academy
(DSA).  By tradition, every army cadet officer is to eat his dinner plus one
egg each day for their health.  But as of late, even these rations have been
stolen by the academy's administrators to sell on the black market.  The
themselves have been too afraid to complain about this policy of theft.  When
they do see eggs on the dining table, it is only because some high-ranking
officials are due to visit the academy that day.  The administrators of the
academy make a big show to the VIPs to demonstrate that they take good care of
the cadets, but it is clear that even future military officers are being
exploited by their teachers.  One wonders what kind of officers the cadets
become after undergoing such treatment at the hands of their instructors.  
The DSA cadet story is a shocking experience for all Burmese soldiers.  It is
very hard for the ordinary soldiers to complain about the living conditions of
their families under military rule.
In short, the army is suffering from mismanagement and corruption that is
pervasive on every level in the army hierarchy.  The generals' relatives and
close associates grow richer and richer, while the soldiers from frontier
regions suffer malaria and other lethal tropical diseases.  Furthermore, the
relatives of the generals receive regular promotions while living in the towns
and cities rather than fighting on the frontiers, but the majority of the
officer corps have no chance at getting promoted.  That kind of unfairness has
created the rift between ordinary soldiers and the generals of the army.  One
army corporal told his son not to join the army when he passed the high school
exam.  The father said:"Son, this organization is not good for any Burmese; no
one respects us because our leaders have no dignity at all.  I do not want you
to suffer like me.  I want you to get some advanced degree in college and
get a
respectable job.  Our job is to kill our own people and force them to work for
us without pay. I hate this job very much".  Young people do not want to join
the army, but there is no higher education available for them.  Schools have
been closed since December 1996.  Three hundred thousand students have been
waiting to enroll in the university with little patience.  Burma is slipping
rapidly into the dark ages.  Without educated people the country's development
and its future is, at best, uncertain. 

The Political Wavelength of the Student Movements in Burma

Since the military coup in 1962 student movements have been systematically and
brutally suppressed. Generation by generation Burmese students have been
opposing the military rule.  The first movement took to the streets on July 7,
1962.  Twelve years later the next movement took place in December 1974, which
was followed by a third in June 1975 and then a fourth in March 1976.  After
1976 the student protest movement stalled for twelve years.  But then the
and the largest movement in Burmese history occurred on August 8, 1988, known
as 8888.  When we look at this series of protests, we see a clear pattern to
the student movement in Burma.  There were twelve years between 1962 and 1974,
and then three movements in succession in 1974, 1975, and 1976.  Then there
a pause for another twelve years, to be followed by the massive protests of
1988, which toppled the socialist regime.  Now almost twelve years have passed
from 1988 to 1999-2000, and it looks likely that there will be another wave. 
9999 has tremendous resonance for the Burmese people, whose rulers have
the numerological powers of the nine.  Now the opposition is planning for 9999
to use nine as its lucky number.

The Reaction of the Regime
Now the regime is scanning all the mail from abroad and sometimes cuts off
telephone communication without explanation.  Buddhist monks' identification
cards have been taken away by the regime.  Without their ID cards the monks
cannot visit other towns and cities.  Now activists and former activists are
being detained by military intelligence to prevent the 9999 movement. The
generals are scared to death.
It seems certain that a mass uprising will occur in the near future.  If
not in
1999, it will be in the year 2000, because the army is not united as in the
past; the economy is far worse than in 1988; every class hates the regime
because of unfaithfulness, and dishonest and brutal actions.  If a mass
uprising occurs in Burma, there will be bloodshed.  If the people win in this
battle, the generals will not only face the military tribunal and be severely
punished, but their relatives will also suffer the consequences.  The only way
to avoid the bloodshed is to negotiate with the leading opposition party, NLD,
and transfer political power peacefully.  The generals will be granted
and the country will be freed from under military boots once and for all.

Htun Aung Gyaw