On This Day

The Bloody Day on the Rangoon University Campus

By Wei Yan Aung 7 July 2019

YANGON—Exactly 57 years ago today, the military regime led by General Ne Win violently suppressed students protests in Rangoon University’s Students’ Union building, enforcing stricter campus regulations and the end of the system of university self-administration.

On the evening of July 7, soldiers led by Lieutenant-Colonel Sein Lwin carried out a ruthless clampdown of student protests on the Rangoon University campus. The government announced that 16 students were killed and 86 injured. Eyewitnesses, however, said that more than 100 were killed. Later, in 1988, when the Lieut-Col became president of Myanmar, he led another bloody crackdown on popular protests calling for the overthrow of the Ne Win’s single-party rule. For his involvement in violently suppressing the country’s historic, bloody movements, he was internationally dubbed the ‘Butcher of Yangon.’

The July 7 crackdown also led to the dynamiting of the Students’ Union building on the campus— a historic building that had played an important part in Myanmar’s independence struggle—the next day, as Gen. Ne Win said he had suspected it a hotbed of rebel associates, referring to communists.

The Students’ Union building on the campus of Rangoon University.

However, students said the military’s ruthlessness was in response to massive protests they’d led against the military coup in March of that year.

Since the events of July 7, students of successive eras were at odds with Gen. Ne Win’s government and the military regimes that succeeded him.

Student unions under successive governments have called for reconstructing the building, but to date the goal remains unrealized. 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 every year.

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