Friday, October 27, 2006

96 uprising – Further protests

After December 3 incident, the regime brought in more troops into the city and had close eyes on the students. Although the situation was tense, no street demonstration was held on 3rd and 4th Dec. With the Burmese National day holiday on 5th Dec, Rangoon witnessed no further demonstrations for a couple of days. However, on 6th Dec, with the regime’s refusal to meet any of the students’ demands, which included punishment of the policemen involved in Sawbwargyigone incident, the reinstatement of two students who had been subsequently suspended and the forming of student union.

The junta responded by closing all exists and circling the YIT compound with troops. Only those who would want to return home were allowed to take buses. With no other options, the students made secret plans. They would leave the compound and took buses pretending to go home. However, they would all to meet again at Hledan Junction to continue the fight.

By the time the first group of YIT students alighted at Hledan, there already were hundred of students from other universities and schools. The combined students staged the protest at Hledan as before. Between 2 and 3 pm Insein Road was blocked by riot police and army troops. The students displayed banners and made speeches, repeating their calls for the right to form their own union and the release from prison of 80 student leaders. Some students left the demonstration during the day, fearing intervention by riot police and armed troops, but by late evening some 500 remained, ignoring appeals from teachers to disperse. Local residents and other onlookers provided the students with water and food.

In the early morning hours of 7 December a group of some 250 students remained sitting at the Hledan intersection, surrounded by security forces. The group of students burned candles and prayed towards Shwedagon Pagoda. Onlookers, local residents and other students were gathered on streets and balconies nearby. Students from inside the YU campus also looked on. Riot police backed by armed troops were assembled on the surrounding streets.
As the riot police marched down Insein Road towards the Hledan intersection, people gathered on that road threw bricks and other projectiles at the riot police, who threw stones back at them. The similar incidents were reported happened near Sinyaytwin as well. Those were the first direct confrontations between the police and people since 1988.Demonstrations were finally broken up forcibly at about 3 am with the use of water-cannons and riot police who charged the crowd wielding shields and batons. All the students in the intersection ducked down to avoid the water cannon directed at them, but one student, holding the flying peacock flag, remained standing and was knocked over. Police sprayed water cannons for 20 minutes on the students in the intersection before arresting them, and riot police with batons and shields charged another group of 100 students gathered nearby. (Most of these events were shown on CNN and other news media around the world thanks to the journalist who managed to take the video from a high floor building where many Burmese shops, clinics, tuitions were situated.)
According to official sources, 180 students and 83 non-students were detained and taken away to the Kyaikkasan ground. The authorities later claimed that all of them were "handed over to their guardians". However, since the arrest happened on the early morning of Saturday and the subsequent closure of the University starting Monday, we were not able to confirm whether they were indeed released.

Universities were closed in Mandalay after student demonstrations broke out on 9 December. It was reported that forty students were arrested and put in jail, 32 male and 8 female students. In Rangoon, Demonstrations also happened at Dagon University, Kyimyindine College (RC-3), Botatang College(Workers College) and the Institutes of Dentistry and Medicine, all of which were broken up by the security forces. After the demonstration at Dagon University at least four students were arrested. Students staying in hostels were forced to return home by the regime since universities were closed. High schools were also suspended fearing more protests.

However, demonstrations continued. A small demonstration in front of the US Embassy was held the night of 10 December when about 20 students were reportedly arrested. Small demonstrations on that day also occurred at the Governmental Technical Institute (GTI), which was broken up by the riot police, and at the Number One Institute of Medicine, where a second demonstration was held on 11 December. The same day students from the Number One Institute of Medicine wrote a letter to the Rector concerning the continued detention of three medical students who had been arrested during the 11 December demonstration. The army responded by bringing in armored vehicles and aimed the guns at the IM-1 students sitting in front of the gates. It was not known how the standoff ended.

On 11 December there was a demonstration of some 200 people in front of the palace in Mandalay. On 12 December there was a student demonstration at the university in Moulmein, capital of the Mon State in southeastern Myanmar. On 14 December a demonstration took place at the university in Sittwe, capital of the Rakhine State in southwestern Myanmar. Both universities were subsequently closed by the authorities. Reports also indicate that students at Monywa high schools, Sagaing Division, Upper Myanmar, held demonstrations on 11 and 12 December.

On 13 December, army troops entered Thamine Textile Factory, which located near RC2 as well as YIT and changed the name to Tatmadaw Textile Factory. Whether the factory was continue running was not known but many army trucks and soldiers were seen stationed inside the factory compound throughout 1996, 1997 and 1998.

By the end of December 1996, there were news of more than 100 students still receiving treatments at Rangoon General Hospital. The students were being
treated for wounds sustained during the violent crackdown on their peaceful protests earlier this month. Rumors were that no house surgeons (medical students interns) were allowed to go into this ward - only senior doctors were permitted entry.

By mid-December, Rangoon was like a battle field. Tanks were brought in and stationed in public views at City Hall, Army Office compound, and Rangoon Military HQ to scare the people. YIT campus was surrounded by at least 32 army trucks fully loaded with soldiers and rice bags. Soldiers were stationed at the University Damayone field just beside Hledan Junction. At least 5 light army trucks were seen patrolling downtown Rangoon every hour.

(The protests insided YIT campus and Hledan was told by my friend who was involved in that incident. References were also taken from amnesty international and ABSDF reports for the reports of demonstrations countrywide. The IM-1 incident was rewritten as I heard in 96 and the rest of the scenes were my own experiences.)


Anonymous said...

Apart from some factual errors, this is the most comprehensive account on 96 riots. Thank you.

You have explained that some incidents were told to you by your friend so it is understandable that there were some errors.

The problem is I also cannot accurately remember these things.... though I was one of the followers within the group.

The error (I think is) the arrest about Kyike Ka San field detention. If I am not wrong, I think my fellow students were arrested in U Htaung Bo road then taken to Kyike Ka San... But I am not sure.

Anyway, the writing is very good. You seems to be a hournalist instead of an engineer...

Thanks again; pls keep up the good work. My comment is intended to make these facts correct as much as possible so that one day we can archive your article here.

generation96 said...

Hi, I have already mentioned about U Htaung Bo to Kyaikkasan in the other post named "96 uprising-at-the foot of shwe dagon". Looks like you confused these two days. However, good to meet another one of us again. :)