Friday, September 29, 2006

96 Uprising - Hledan Junction

It was so unexpected for the junta. Even most of us didn’t expect the strike to be that united and that strong. We had hundreds of students marching, shouting the demands and occasionally singing the national anthem. Hundreds of students were greeted heartily by hundreds of people along the way. Donations of food, water and even cash pour in even though none of us asked for any of them. The food included bananas, biscuits, bread and even chocolates. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of the people and the support we received. It was good to have bananas coming in because many of us didn’t really have any food in our stomach since the strike started in the morning.

The calls to British Embassy and US Embassy were made once we left the school. It was not because we were the followers of them. It was because we need the world to know what we were doing as well as for all the students’ security. Due to large present of international journalists in Rangoon that time, which was a blessing for us, the junta didn’t dare use the force in front of them.

The students arrived the Hledan junction, turned onto Pyay Road and gathered in front of Marlar hostel and Judson college where we were joined by more students from RC2 (Hlaing campus), GTI, Eco, and master students from Rangoon University. Embassy cars from Britain and US were present with us along with another one which country I was not so sure (South Korea I think).

Around 6pm, we moved towards the centre of Hledan Junction. More donations were received and we ate more bananas. (Honestly, I had only bananas and water in my stomach for more than 24 hours.) It was declared around 8pm that we already had more than 400,000 kyats. For a country with average salary of modest 1500 kyat a month (probably even lower), the figure was tremendous.

By the night fall, we experienced many unhappy scenes. One after another, students were pulled out of the group by their mothers, most of them crying badly. Most of the students pleaded their parents to let them stay but in vain. Although we all knew their actions were for the good of their children, we felt that we had to set aside our fears to achieve the goal we were seeking for. (Thankfully, my parents didn’t come for me and I thank them everyday for letting me do what I believe.) In within a couple of hour, we lost more than half of the strength. Some went back with parents, some left on their own. Yet, we still had nearly a thousand and the strike continued.

The news about the junta placing blockade on Pyay, Inya and Innsein roads leading towards Hledan since evening and rumors of imminent strike by riot polices reached us throughout the night. Nevertheless, we hold our ground and continued our strike under the dancing peacock flag(which we managed to fly upon reaching Hledan) and under the watchful eyes of our beloved Bogyoke. We didn’t feel sleepy at all and the demonstrators (we were joined by high school students and ordinary people then) listened to the speeches, sang the national anthem and shouted the demands. (These events were recorded by some journalists and shown on CNN.) At around 4 am, the march started towards downtown via Kann Narr Road.

Disclaimer: My views were added because I still can’t hide my feelings of disappointment until today. I strongly believe the reason 96 uprising fell short was mainly because ordinary people were too afraid to join as well as too afraid to lose their children. Having said that, I do not mean to attack any parents for their acts but I want them or anyone who read this to learn or to analyze what it should have been otherwise. There is always a chance Burma could face the same situation again and hence it is always good to learn from past mistakes.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

96 Uprising - Out of School

The comment made by the junta during the press conference resulted outrage among students. They called the regime to release true facts and to take action against the officers involved. Although demonstrations were suspended since the release of the arrested students, papers asking for justice were still sending to the junta. However, there were no response whatsoever from the junta. To make situation worse, leaflets accusing YIT students of being problem makers and arrogant were sent to the hostels. These letters bear no reply address and no signatures. Many more leaflets were seen pasting on the walls of YIT, on which the writer claimed people hate YIT students for what we were doing. The complaints were made but the Head of school didn’t take any action.

After weeks of waiting, the students acted on the morning of 2nd December 1996. Crowds were gathered under the famous building one, where Ko Phone Maw was shot on 13th March 1988. We were sitting at the place where Ko Phone Maw and his friends might have sat then. We were again fighting the injustice like they have done so. This problem was no longer students’ problem. The injustice placed above the people for so long has to be removed.

The head of school U Kyin Soe met us around 9:30am and told us to disperse. However, his words could not break the students’ determination. Our anger and dislike against the regime was long been in our hearts and we all knew that was the moment. At around 10am, we were told that Education Minister U Pan Aung was on his way to the school to talk with us. At that time, building one was totally full with almost all the students gathered around it. The minister didn’t arrive. Every half hour, the secretary or the person-in-charge of students’ affair came out and told us that he was on his way. They did have the nerve to lie even in the face of hundreds of students. At 12:00 it was decided we should no longer wait. Since he didn’t dare meeting the students, we should rather go and meet him instead.

The decision to go out of YIT campus was made but the gates were already locked by the lecturers. A group of us still proceed right to the main gate and negotiated with the lecturers there. We couldn’t get them open the gate and sat in front of the gate until 2pm. Some of the students started trying to climb the gate and the situation was getting worse. At last we pushed open the main gate. With a hundred person strength, the lock broke and the gate was open. Once we were out, those sitting under building one marched out as well and joined us. By now, YIT campus was a deserted place. We were buoyed by the unity of the students. The march started along Insein Road leading towards Hledan Junction where the historic Rangoon University situated.
Disclaimer:Again, all the events mentioned inside here except the hostel events were my personal experience and hence they are all true and correct up to my memory is allowed. If anything is wrong(which I doubt so, except for the exact hour and minute), that is not intentional and I welcome every single correction and comment.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Events before 96 Uprising

Ten years ago in September(Correction:October) 1996, a group of YIT students had dinner at a restaurant at Sao Phwa Gyi Gone highway gate. They were having some drinks as well and happened to crush a couple of bottles accidentally. The shop owner made the scene and arguments broke out between the students and the owner which died down after the students agree to compensate every single cent. When they came out of the shop, a few policemen and some people believed to be stationed at highway gate were waiting for them at the restaurant’s entrance and started harassing them with an accusation of creating problems.
(At that time, no one knows they were students. The students later learnt that the restaurant was run by a connection of MI(military intelligence). The students, being done nothing wrong, confronted. The beatings started and all but one was arrested.

Once the YIT students at the hostels learnt the incidents from their friend who managed to escape the arrest, they marched towards the police station and demanded the release of their friends and to do everything according to the law. However, the police responded by raising guns and switching off the road lamps. The order to disperse and retreat to the hostel was issued with a warning that the shooting will start otherwise. Having very low number and with almost no eye witnesses available, the students withdrew to their hostels. The news spread like wild fires the next morning. Later in that evening, YIT hostel students from Hlaing campus marched towards Hledan Junction and demand justice and the release of the students. These students chose late evening purposely in order to avoid inconvenience for the people going back from work. With so many foreign journalists in town for Visit Myanmar Year 1996, which was recently launched, the military restrained to use force for the first time. The heads of the hostels were given order to keep the students inside by all means including showing adult films all night long starting 6pm. The demonstrations continued for a few days and at last the junta responded the students’ action by cordoned off the Hlaing campus from 6pm to 6am by army trucks and barb wires.

The arrested students were at last released (time and date which I couldn’t remember). During their arrest, one has to be sent to hospital due to injury. When they finally came back, the marks of the beatings can still be seen on their chest and backs, one of them notably had a mark of military boot. The junta was forced to call press conferences in front of the foreign media. They blatantly denied the nightly demonstrations. In stead they described these events as evening walking exercises. To the surprises of many people, they admitted that they were wrong for what had happened and comment that they would not have arrested them if they had known them as students.

To be continued….

Disclaimer: Although I was involved in 96 uprising, I was not a hostel student and hence all events related to hostel students were based on what I had learnt from my hostel friends throughout the course of September and October 96 and prone to some little errors. Anyone who found errors is welcomed to correct me through comments


Friday, September 22, 2006

Nazi & SPDC

These few days, I have been reading The Penguin History of the Second World War and found some interesting sentences and paragraphs and couldn't help but smile.

Here they are...

‘The will of the Führer (Leader) is Law.’ His (Hitler) authority was not only absolute but he himself was irreplaceable: he could have no true successor.P-25.

Yes! The will of Than Shwe is indeed Law and I don’t think he would ever want a successor.

The heads of the government did not govern by talking or working together,….
What mattered to Hitler was the obedience of his lieutenants to himself. They did not have to agree among themselves.P-26

Again, how true it is for SPDC. They did not agree among themselves really but they followed what Than Shwe wants.

Through it techniques it perfected the elimination of opposition. It was not a party in the ordinary sense of the word since it could never be satisfied with partial allegiance or partial dominance.P-27

This should be their favorite. SPDC has been trying to eliminate all sorts of opposition especially NLD and boy, how they hate to share power with people.

Hitler used fear and persuasion to an unsurpassed degree….
Books, plays, the press and broadcasting were brought under Nazi control and censorship. Justice became a farce. It was, said Hitler, ‘a means of ruling’. The courts were used to complete the suppression of the individual; the legal profession was regimented, the Führer had the power to quash proceedings, his deputy the power to increase inadequate sentences in cases involving offences against the Führer, the state or the party; illegality was legalized by the invention of the principle of ‘hidden right’; an advocate who got his client acquitted would see him being bundled into a police van as he left the court. P-28

Bring in censorship board of Burma. Bring in our a thousand over political prisoners. No justice? Burma would laugh.
Nazi rule? Burma would laugh. We are in fact living under them for 44 years now.

Goethe wrote:
(Man must rise or fall, He must win and rule
Or lose and serve, Be the anvil or the hammer.)

We will win and rule and we will show what real justice is.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Our neighbor has done it (Thailand Coup)

Just a day after 18 years anniversary of military coup in neighboring Burma, Thailand has followed suit in a bloodless coup. Martial law was imposed and political gatherings were banned.

None of the world leaders expected it. The western democracy countries condemned the coup while the Asian leaders decided just to express shock. However, no comment was to be heard from Burma so far. May be they knew it beforehand... (may be)

September 11, 2006 (from International Herald Tribune)
Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratkalin, making his second visit to Myanmar in just over a month, met with Senior Gen. Than Shwe, the regime's supreme leader in Myanmar's new administrative capital of Naypyidaw, 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of Yangon, diplomats said.

The diplomats asked not to be named because they were not authorized to release information to the press, and the government provided no details of the talks.
(they were not authorized to release information?? Hmm…)

Another senior Thai military officer, Supreme Commander Gen. Ruengroj Maharsaranond, visited Myanmar and met Than Shwe in Naypyidaw early last month.

Look at the newly formed reform council. Both Generals who visited barely a week before the coup were in it with Sondhi the head.

September 20,2006 (from Bloomberg)
Sondhi, 59, gave his address flanked by the other military leaders, including Supreme Commander Ruangroj Mahasaranon, Royal Thai Navy Chief Sathiraphan Keyanont, and Royal Thai Air Force Chief Chalit Pukbhasuk and the country's police chief.

And the similarity with the process.
(from channelnewsasia)

Sonthi said the government to be appointed by the military would be tasked with drafting a new constitution that would provide the framework for new general elections

(sounds like our national assembly and road map?)

The similarity of the speech
(from channelnewsasia)

Sonthi said their provisional council "needed to seize power to control the situation, to restore normalcy and to create unity as soon as possible."

He vowed the council "has no intention to rule but to return power to the people as soon as possible."

(“The army will return to barracks”. General Saw Maung speech to Burmese people before 1990 election.)

may be(may be) Genral Sonthi and Co went to Burma to learn how to put a country under the military rule.

Oh well, we wish our neighbors all the best. They might be luckier than us.
The apology:The spellings of the names are different from one web site to another. I have no idea which one is correct either.


Monday, September 18, 2006

18 years and we live on..

“When the army shoots, it shoots to hit.”
Ne Win addressing Burmese people on 23 July 1988.

Myenigone, Yangon, Burma. September 1988…
Pyay road was filled with people. A few were sipping tea in front of the tea shops, some talking under the shady trees, some selling privately published newspapers and others wandering around the various street sellers to find anything useful for the use at home. It was sunny and with tree trunks blocking the Pyay road, the air was free with smoke smell.

With Parliament height on one side and Maharmyaing height on the other, I wonder why our place was named Myenigone (Red Hill) while it actually was a low lying area between the two heights. I was with my dad and his friend sitting in a tea shop. Suddenly we saw army trucks moving down from People’s Parliament side. I heard a few shouted “Army! Army!”. For the 11 year old with months of experience living the life under the sound of gun fires, I knew exactly what would happen in a moment and stood up and ran together with every single one in the shop.

Loud G3 assault rifle fires together with G4 machine gun fires were heard and bullets rained down before the trucks were halted to a stop at the road blocks. Our teashop was nearest to the soldiers who were enjoying shooting everything they see and sending out abusive words at the same time. Luck was on our side. We were hiding at the back of the teashop but the soldiers gave a miss to our shop. They continue shooting and marched straight down until they reached the junction of Sanchaung street and Pyay Road where they sat and shot aimlessly again into the streets.

It seemed to me like they had a lot of ammunition to use. The shooting went on for nearly 20 minutes. The soldiers then raided the two teashops near the junction. The captain shot and killed one of our neighbors in cold blood for not coming out from where he hid right in front of the people he captured as porters.

We were left smelling the gun powder. The beautiful scenario about half an hour ago was gone. Everywhere I saw people with worried faces. We didn’t know exactly who were killed how many were killed. Uncertainty loomed everyone in Burma.

(This was exactly what I experienced back in 1988 as 11 years old. The aim to relive this memory is to let the world and our next generations get an idea of what exactly happened in Burma then. The army didn’t choose who to shoot and when to shoot.)
It has been 18 years since the military took over the power by killing hundreds of thousands of people including students and monks countrywide. May our heroes rest in peace!

“We will never forget. We will never forgive!”