Tuesday, October 17, 2006

96 Uprising - Inside Saya San Hall and the release

We were still singing our national anthem and student union songs on our way to Kyait Kasan ground. The injuries suffered from the beatings didn’t kick in then. We could still smile and talk and laugh right in front of the watchful eyes of the soldiers.

Lines and lines of soldiers were waiting for us inside Kyait Kasan ground. The trucks stopped outside Saya San hall, where the National Convention was held then, and unloaded all of us. We had to file in between two lines of soldiers who held their guns like you always see on TV while they were marching. Their bayonets shinning with the sunlight, their faces stern like a rock. Inside the hall, they another line of soldiers guarding the whole hall in all 4 direction as well as yet another line guarding the hall from outside. I had never seen that much security in my life. It was like we were some kind of very dangerous terrorists.

All of us were told to sit on the floor initially and had to fill in our names, NRIC, father’s name, etc, for the school, for the MI (Military Intelligence), and for the SB(Special Branch). We were then separated and asked to sit in our respective schools. By then we noticed Ko Soe Tun was taken to other place. The regime was very good in wicked ideas in deed. They placed YIT students on the white wooden chairs the NC representatives used to sit. All other students were left to sit on the floor (The hall was emptied before we arrived with very few chairs left on the side nearest to the soldiers standing guard on the left of the hall). This was the discrimination, the apparent attempt to put unrest between YIT and other school by giving favor to us. MIs, SBs were busy recording videos and taking rolls of photos of us. We waited and went down to the ground and sat on the floor as others.

By then, many of the students, girls and boys, were passing out on the floors. Some lying on the floor, some holding each other, none of us could sing or laugh anymore. The pain was unbearable then. The students had to find inhalers and water bottles among us to help those who were passing out. No help was received from the regime. Not even a drop of water. It was 2 hours later, at around 8am, that we received our first bottles of water. Even then, the bottles were provided to YIT students only. We had no choice but to rolled it down to the front as a sign of rejection (Saya San hall ground was not flat. It was a slope). They picked up and placed the bottles beside us again and we rolled these again. It was not funny. We were thirsty and hungry. Our last food intake was around 6 or 7pm on 2nd Dec evening at Hledan junction. Yet, we fought on with our hearts even in the custody. It was so encouraging to see all of us had strong determinations.
I didn’t remember when all of the students got the bottles. I didn’t remember whether they provide us any solid food. I only remember I didn’t (most of us didn’t) take any food from them. I did remember they provide Danbauk (I think) to high school students and non-student protestors around noon. I passed my time by staring at a young soldier (he seems to be not more than 15 years old) standing nearest to me. Around noon, we were declared released. They asked YIT to go first but we insisted we be the last group(which we were not). By the time we left, the high school students and ordinary people were having their lunch inside the hall. We were told that they would be released after the lunch. It was later confirmed that they were indeed released.

Thanks to those at YIT, who threatened to go on the streets again if we were not released by noon, we were able to see the world again. Those at YIT managed to gather the list of YIT students arrested and welcomed us warmly. There was a large crowd waiting for us under our famous Building One and we were greeted by loud cheers. I felt overwhelmed by the event. I was almost in tears to see that we cared for each other so much. I couldn’t imagine what would happen to us if the school were closed. We shared our stories with those waiting. Many of us had black marks all over the bodies as a result of the beatings. One of us had a couple of black lines on his face and many more on his face which he got by trying to cover a girl who were beaten when she was boarding the truck. It was the first time in my life I stayed awake for more than 30 hours. With my fellow students beside, I believe I could go more. I will always remember my friends, my fellow students and my fellow protestors which I got to know on that day.
Note: Overall 424 students and 172 non-students were arrested on that 3rd Dec morning.