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.


Anonymous said...

Carry on... I was one in the group but left early.... I love the story. Oh, the history.

Yangon Thu said...

I remember that day, I think. I was 15 years old, coming back to Yangon to visit my family and I was planning to go to Taung gyi later because I had never been. As we drove from the airport, we passed Hledan and I saw the crowd. I remember feeling all prickly and hopeful and I wanted to stay, i said I wanted to watch, join in the fervour. My uncle and my aunt looked at me appalled and they said, "but you could killed and you will not be able to go to school in Singapore anymore" and that was it, we drove past like it was just an auction or soemthing. What was left unsaid was that not only could I be killed but that I probably would get my whole family killed and more. I didn't care about not being able to study in Singapore. But then I cared about my parents who had given up everything they had (all the glamour and nice things of being an upper middle class Burmese family to live in singapore as a struggling poor one) to give me a life they never had. And I said, "ok, I didn't want to anyway, I was just wondering". And I turned away. And it dawned on me, just how hard it was for everyone because very often, getting involved with politics in Burma meant that you have to decide who you love more. Your family or your country. And though it might seem that it's often one and the same, however, it's never clear cut, is it? I think it was a good and brave thing all of you did and I do wish more people did join you but as one who didn't, I just wanted to share my story. And everyday, I do wish all the madness could have ended then.