On This Day

Independent Myanmar’s First Deadly Student Crackdown

By Wei Yan Aung 22 March 2019

Seventy-three years ago today, Harry Tan, a seventh grader, was shot dead by police who forcibly dispersed a group of students staging a protest against the government’s cancellation of the seventh grade State examinations. The death of the 16-year-old student on March 22, 1956 signaled the government’s first bloody crackdown against students in post-independence Myanmar.

Blaming a leak of exam questions, the government cancelled the examinations in their fourth day. Students staged a protest in front of the offices of the education minister and the Bama Khit (Burma Times) newspaper which was responsible for publishing an exam question. Harry Tan, who had been studying at St. Paul’s School, was killed and two others were injured as police shot into the crowd of youths who were staging a protest in front of the newspaper’s office at Boundary Road, which is now called Dhammazedi Road.

On March 29, 1956, students traveled around Yangon in protest of the death of Harry Tan.

The government later formed an investigation commission and passed all seventh graders without asking them to re-sit the examinations. The students set up a monument in honor of Harry Tan in front of the Bama Khit office in commemoration of the incident which was seen as a milestone in the history of student movements in Myanmar. According to some records, Harry Tan’s monument was demolished during the time of the Union Revolutionary Council government.