RANGOON — Construction was halted at the site of the historic Rangoon University student union building by the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABSFU), said ABSFU members who were working to organize a committee to oversee reconstruction.
On Feb. 22, Rangoon Division chief minister U Phyo Min Thein told members of student unions that his government would organize a place to be used as the committee office. On Sunday evening, photos showing nighttime construction of a building on the site went viral on social media, drawing strong criticism from ABSFU members.
On Monday evening, ABSFU members led a candlelit vigil against the construction. Students from other universities, as well as alumni, joined the vigil.
“We objected to concerned authorities. They stopped after we said that they should consult with all before constructing any building,” said Ko Nan Linn, one of the committee organizers.
Ko Mya Aye, a prominent leader of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, confirmed that construction had stopped following the ABSFU request.
In December, lawmaker U Oo Hla Saw from Arakan State’s Mrauk-U Township asked in the Lower House if the government planned to rebuild the student union building, and the deputy minister for education said that it would be built using the state budget in 2017.
The student union building was demolished with dynamite on July 8, 1962, following student protests the previous day against the government’s dissolution of university councils on the campus under the dictatorship of U Ne Win.
Officially, 15 students and lecturers were killed and 27 were wounded in the military’s crackdown on the demonstration. Unofficial sources, however, state that hundreds were killed.
Student unions under successive governments have called for rebuilding. Since ex-President U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government came to power in 2010, students and activists have publicly memorialized the July 7 event annually.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.