Campaign Calls for Resuming Martyrs’ Day Siren Tradition

By Zarni Mann 15 July 2013

RANGOON — A charity group has begun an online campaign that calls on the Burmese public to play a siren on their mobile phones on Burma’s Martyrs’ Day, which will be commemorated this Friday.

The campaign wants to revive interest in the event and reestablish the national tradition of ringing a siren on television, radio and in public areas in order to commemorate Gen Aung San and other independence heroes who were killed in 1947.

This custom was ended in 1989 after the military took control of the country in a coup. It decided to downgrade the status of Burma’s national heroes.

Before 1989, high-ranking officials would visit the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Rangoon on Martyrs’ Day, but since then the city’s major is the most senior official to attend the commemoration.

A Burmese charity called Holding Hands recently started a campaign on social networking site Facebook, where it uploaded a 66-second sound file recording of a siren. It called on the Burmese public to download and share the file and play it on Martyrs’ Day, July 19, at 10:37 am.

At that moment it will be exactly 66 years ago that Prime Minister Gen Aung San and eight other members of his cabinet were shot dead by a political rival group.

Bo Bo, a member of the charity, said the group wanted to promote public interest in this chapter of Burma’s history.

“Since the government has no plan to resume playing the siren on Martyrs’ Day, we did this to bring back long-lost awareness among the public and to show to the government that the citizens want to play the siren again,” he said.

The siren recording had been shared on Facebook hundreds of times by Monday afternoon.

“Young students are not so keen to commemorate national heroes and don’t know how we commemorated them in the past,” he said. “Since people do not hear the siren, the day has simply been wiped away from public interest.”

Some Facebook users said they appreciated the campaign and would join to play the siren on their mobile phones.

“I’ve downloaded the tune and already set the alarm. I will go to the Mausoleum on that day before 10:37 and will honor General Aung San and the others. I hope there will be many people like me,” said Soe Moe, university student from Rangoon.

“I believe this is good idea to say to the government that we, the people, want to sound the siren again on Martyrs’ days,” said Thein Win, a Mandalay resident. “The spirit of Martyrs’ Day is still deeply rooted in our hearts.”

Earlier this month, Thein Nyunt, an opposition member of the New National Democratic Party, had asked the government whether it planned start playing the siren again. The government said it had no such plan, but the deputy speaker of Parliament said the legislative would support resuming the tradition if the public desired it.

Thein Nyunt said on Monday that he was delighted by the campaign of Holding Hands. “I’m so glad to hear that the youths are organizing such a campaign to show their honor for the martyrs. I believe that the president will know this and will allow the siren to be played again,” he said.

“We should not forget the national heroes who have fought for our freedom. When the siren was wailing in the past, everyone, even those who are working in the paddy field, could hear it and honor them.”