Historic Student Union ABFSU Revived in Burma
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Friday, May 24, 2019

Historic Student Union ABFSU Revived in Burma

By Khun Sam Tuesday, August 28, 2007


After nearly two decades, during which many of its members were imprisoned or driven out of Burma, the influential All Burma Federation of Student Unions has resumed its struggle against the country’s military government, according to members of the group.

“Today we reestablish the ABFSU to take on the shifting roles of former students in a new generation to fight for freedom, justice and the building of a democratic country,” a spokesperson for the group, who gave his name as Kyaw Ko Ko, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

The ABFSU is much admired in Burma for its historic role in opposing British colonial rule, fascism during the Japanese occupation in World War II and the rise of Burma’s military dictators.

Kyaw Ko Ko said the group is now organizing among university and high school students in Rangoon and other major cities across Burma.

“Student unions must exist for the students in Burma,” said Kyaw Ko Ko. “We have organized many university students in Rangoon and continue to attract supporters.”

A statement released on August 23 by the underground organization, which announced its reemergence, said the current political and economic crises in Burma and the sad state of education, in addition to the recent arrests of leaders of the opposition 88 Generation Students group following demonstrations over a recent spike in fuel and commodity prices, have prompted students to stand up for the oppressed public in the country.

“In the last week, the 88 Generation Students group leaders and other opposition political parties have held protests,” Kyaw Ko Ko said, who currently studies economics at a university in Rangoon. “It is important that we students and the general public join them to stand up for the people of Burma.”

In the past, students’ groups have played a key role in opposition movements—from the colonial era to the present day. Students, as well as the main opposition party National League for Democracy, have adopted the symbol of the “fighting peacock” to show their commitment to freedom and democracy in Burma.

“I hereby encourage all students across the country to accept the shifting responsibilities on behalf of our former brothers and sisters,” Kyaw Ko Ko said. “We must hold aloft this historic “fighting peacock” flag to achieve the cause of democracy and genuine national reconciliation.”

Burma’s first student union, the Rangoon University Students’ Union, was founded in 1931 by national independence hero Gen Aung San and his friends, and the group led the second students’ strike against British colonial rule.

The group was renamed the All Burma Students’ Union in 1936 before switching to the ABFSU in 1951.

Following Gen Ne Win’s military coup in 1962, the office of the ABFSU in Rangoon was demolished and hundreds of students were killed by the army.

During the nationwide pro-democracy uprising in 1988, the ABFSU resurfaced under the leadership of Min Ko Naing and other prominent student leaders. It went underground in 1990 after more of its members were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms.

News of the group’s resurfacing was welcomed by former student leaders, including Aung Din, the policy director for the lobby group US Campaign for Burma and a former leader of the ABFSU in 1988.

“In history, and in 1988, students have stood beside the public and led the struggle [for freedom], and we are proud of that,” Aung Din said. “I am glad that my young brothers have now reestablished the ABFSU. I hope they will raise the fighting peacock flag and fight for the interests of the people of Burma.”

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