Authorities Block Plans to Commemorate Key Anniversary

By Yan Pai 6 July 2012

Members of a student group that planned to mark the 50th anniversary of the destruction of the University of Rangoon Student Union building were summoned by police in Mandalay Division on Thursday and warned not to “dig up the past.”

“We were told not to ‘dig up’ a traumatic episode from the past that could stir up trouble,” said Ye Yint Kyaw, one of seven members of the organizing committee of the All Burma Federation of Students’ Union (ABFSU) who were called in by Police Commander Than Win at around 7 pm on Thursday.

“He warned us that if we went ahead with our plans, we would be breaching the law,” he added.

The ABFSU, a group that was banned by Burma’s former military junta, is not officially registered as a legal organization. It said that it has a “historical duty” to mark the 50th anniversary of the dynamiting of the Student Union building on July 7, 1962, by former dictator Ne Win.

The authorities in other cities have also told students not to hold events to mark the anniversary. However, a number of groups said they will go ahead with plans to commemorate the incident, during which dozens of unarmed students were killed by soldiers.

Kyaw Ko Ko, a member of the ABFSU organizing committee, said that a commemoration event will be held at the office of the 88 Generation Students group in Rangoon’s Thinguangwin Township.

“We originally planned to hold the commemoration at the Royal Rose Restaurant, but the owner came under pressure and decided he didn’t dare let us use his place. The authorities seem to suspect that the students are planning to stage a protest or incite the public,” said Kyaw Ko Ko.

The purpose of the commemoration is in fact to honor the fallen students, commemorate the event and pass on lessons to a new generation, said Kyaw Ko Ko.

A few months ago, U Myint, Burmese President Thein Sein’s economic adviser, distributed an open letter calling for the restoration of the historical Student Union building in the Rangoon University campus.

“Restoration of the Student Union building is our expectation. But that alone is not enough—the Student Union must also be able to function freely,”  said Kyaw Ko Ko.

Members of the ABFSU led demonstrations against Ne Win’s March 1962 coup. On July 7 of the same year, the protesting students were killed and Student Union building was dynamited by the Burmese army under the command of Lt-Col Sein Lwin, who later served as Burma’s president.

However, neither Ne Win nor his deputy Aung Gyi took responsibility for the incident.