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Myanmar: Students Detained for Commemorating Historical Event

On July 7, 1962, the building of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) was bombed by the military in response to the opposition of students to government policies. Many students were killed and injured during the attack.

Fifty-years later, the ABFSU organized an event to commemorate the anniversary of the protest. But the Myanmar government arrested leaders of the group which it claims is not legally recognized by the state.

The arrest instantly educated the online community, especially young netizens, about the historical importance of the July 7 event.

Ma Nandar posted[my] a note explaining the background of the July 7, 1962 event:

ABFSU building

ABFSU building that was demolished by the military government. Photo from Wikimedia under CC Attribution/Share-Alike.

Though the words written with blood on the wall could be erased, it would not be possible to erase the history written with heart the blood of brothers from generation to generation.

Ernesto Kee Lin questioned[my] the motives of the government for arresting the students:

For me, just by this point, I even doubt if the current government is stepping towards democracy.

Some netizens expressed their anger towards the government for the unnecessary action which would not benefit any party. Wai Yan De Mo urged[my] the government to release the detained leaders.

Detained ABFSU leaders are not asking for fabricated history like some are doing. They are asking for the building of ABFSU which actually existed in history.

It's not a violent act, it's peaceful ceremony for remembrance.

They are not like those who are lying as citizens. They are true citizens who are sacrificing for the country.

Current situation is like throwing flowers to riot attackers (acting as flowers to enemies) and detaining true citizens who are sketching the country's history (acting as fire to citizens).

I urge the release of all the detained students as soon as possible.

Nway Nay Won defended[my] the ABFSU event:

Regardless of the duration of detention, be it 1 day or 1 hour, detention is detention. It's violation of human rights. They are not trying to steal the sovereignty of the country, they are not selling the country, they are not telling tall tales about history and killing people. They are just trying to remember an event peacefully.

A number of netizens quoted and posted the words of Min Ko Naing, one of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students:

If there was only one (member), that one person would continue (the event). The detention is an interference in the transition towards democracy and it's also a form of threat to the public

On the other hand, some netizens believe that the July 7 event is not important. May Thingyan Hein, editor-in-chief of Shwe Myit Ma Kha media group, posted[my] a note titled “Don't feel bad just because you can't hold July 7 event”.

Money that would be used for the event could be given to farmers who are facing difficulties with their farms. It would really be effective. Public would really feel thankful. Then there are lots of refugee camps in Myanmar. It would be great if money would be donated there.

For me, rather than those which happened 50 years ago, current issues such as riot victims in Rakhine and Kachin refugee camps are much more important.

The statement above received 145 comments because the people who supported ABFSU were furious about it. Ye Yint Kyaw, a member of the ABFSU committee for the July 7 event responded[my]:

Why did you choose only the cost of this event to talk? The July 7 event is not an event to celebrate and enjoy with food and drinks like other promotional events. For those who feel bad because the event is not allowed, they definitely would feel so, let me explain the value of July 7 first. You would understand that this (ABFSU) building is a historical building if you have ever read that General Aung San (as a student Ko Aung San) led (the university  students) to the chair of chairman in the building that was demolished. Why do we value the museum of General Aung San [Author Note: Museum of General Aung San is his home where he lived.]? It's because of “history”.

ABFSU always donated to (victims of) natural disasters. We always helped the public, the farmers and workers (when they are in need of help). You may have read our efforts as you are an editor. What I wish to mean is that we would donate money when we should and we would do other events when we should. We also spent money for civil war victims in Kachin and acting against the Myit Sone Dam project.

Despite threats from government, ABFSU successfully organised the event. Wai Yan De Mo blogged[my] about it and posted a statement of ABFSU. Kyaw Swar posted[my] a copy of the speech of Aung San Suu Kyi that was given on July 7, 1989 which affirms the importance of the event. ABFSU (Mon Ywa District) uploaded the flag of their organisation in black color to symbolize the sadness and remembrance for the student victims

Most of the detained ABFSU members and leaders had been released on the evening of July 7. Si Thu Maung, who was on of the detained members, explained[my] the process of their release:

They said that we couldn't do such event as ABFSU is not an association that is formed legally. And they didn't use the word “detaining”. They just called it as “discussion”. They promised that they would release us once the event is finished. But they interrogated us till 3 a.m one by one. Those are mainly mental attacks to us.

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