Teacher Forced to Resign for Attending ’88 Uprising Commemoration

By Lawi Weng 21 August 2013

A schoolteacher in Naypyidaw was sacked last week for attending a commemoration of the 25-year anniversary of Burma’s 1988 pro-democracy uprising earlier this month.

Soe Soe Khaing told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that Myint Zaw, director of High School No. 5 in Naypyidaw’s Zabuthiri Township, ordered her to resign from her position on the grounds that she had violated a school rule prohibiting teachers from involvement in politics.

“He told me that I’d violated three points of the regulation. The first one is that I attended one meeting with members of the 88 Generation Students group in Rangoon in June. Second is I did not inform the school that I went to the meeting and the third is that I attended the anniversary of the ’88 uprising in Mandalay,” Soe Soe Khaing said.

Soe Soe Khaing said the ban on political involvement could not be reconciled with a government policy during the 2010 national elections, which required that civil servants vote, and she questioned how the school’s regulation could be enforced if a similar voting requirement were to be put in place for the 2015 elections

“Politics pertains to all issues, including the economy. So, how can they say that we should not get involved in any politics? They forced me to resign, but I did not do anything wrong; I did not kill anyone or bomb the country,” Soe Soe Khaing added.

School authorities informed the 48-year-old of her dismissal on Thursday and offered a small severance pension.

Despite democratic political reforms that have been praised by many over the last two years, remnants of the former authoritarian regime persist, according to Soe Soe Khaing, who was a student involved in the pro-democracy protests that swept the nation in 1988.

“They have closely watched wherever I go, and what I do,” she said. “I had to use another person’s identity card to attend the ’88 anniversary in Mandalay.”

She said she was worried about the job security of other civil servants who might also be involved in politics, adding that the school did not pay her salary for the month of July.

Tun Myint Aung, who is in charge of education in Zabuthiri Township, told The Irrawaddy it was true that school officials had ordered Soe Soe Khaing to resign from her post, but he refused to provide details of the dismissal.

“I do not want to say all the details because you are better off asking her why she had to resign, as we mentioned this already in the letter we sent her,” Tun Myint Aung said.

Burma’s political activists in Rangoon, Mandalay and other parts of the country this month celebrated the Silver Jubilee of the historic popular uprising on Aug. 8, 1988, when hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets demanding an end to the military dictatorship of Gen Ne Win.

Widely known as the “88 Uprising,” the nationwide pro-democracy movement drew hundreds of thousands of Burmese from all walks of life to join a protest in the former capital Rangoon. The movement sought an end to Ne Win’s oppressive 26-year single-party rule, but the military ultimately crushed the protests with a heavy hand, killing at least 3,000 peaceful demonstrators.