In the US students are preparing for the beginning of a new school year. In Burma, students are preparing to test the limits of the authorities. This is no small resolution. 269 student activists remain in jail in Burma because of their activism.
Students have always been at the forefront of action in Burma. The All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) has been engaged in Burma since the 1930s and were foremost leaders in the 1962 and 1988 uprisings. After the 1988 protests, many of the student leaders were locked away or were forced to flee. In 2007 during the Saffron Revolution, a new generation of students decided to reorganize the ABFSU to join in with the renewed momentum in the country
Most student activists have had to maintain an “underground” presence in the country, since their members get hunted down by the regime. Many ABFSU members are in jail, some serving sentences of 65 years. They are people like Phyoe Phyoe Aung, a 22 year old female who had been studying civil engineering before she was arrested. She had been a part of the Saffron Revolution and then went into hiding afterwards. She emerged from hiding during Cyclone Nargis in 2008 to go help deliver aid to the people effected. Her car was stopped on the way back and she was thrown in jail. She is still serving her 4 year sentence.
“I, on behalf of the all students in Burma, just want to say it is true that we, students, have been and are still losing our rights, including freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of thought.”
– Phyoe Phyoe Aung
ABFSU has now decided to test how sincere Burma’s authorities are about change. If they start operating publicly, “above ground”, what will officials do?
There are many active student organizations in Burma, like ABFSU, that have to do their work in secret in order to protect their members. They do training sessions on human rights, democracy, and development as well as a myriad of other activities. They risk their lives in order to gather and release information about what is really happening in the country. They surreptitiously spread leaflets, posters, and spray graffiti on walls, sing resistance songs – all proclaiming their disdain for the regime’s actions.
In another post we’ll tell you what students in America can so to stand in solidarity with the students of Burma.