All Burma Federation of Student Unions
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The All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) is the umbrella organisation for all the student unions in Burma (also Myanmar) and is an active voice for academic freedoms and student rights throughout the country. ABFSU offers a reliable source of information to the outside world, reporting regularly on the attempts of the military government (SPDC) to intimidate and silence those involved in the pro-democracy movement.
Since 1988 a new arm of ABFSU has been working outside Burma specifically to inform the international community of rights violations in the country and of the crisis in education taking place there. The ‘All Burma Federation of Students Unions - Foreign Affairs Committee’, or ABFSU-FAC, hopes to expose issues (for example) in Burma to a wider audience, accelerate the development of international student organizations and promote worldwide student activism.
A forum for debate and a platform to those speaking out for the rights of students, ABFSU has been at the forefront of resistance to the forces of political oppression in its various guises for more than 70 years. In that time hopes of achieving democracy have taken shape and been strengthened through resistance to British colonialism, to fascism, and to the current military dictatorship. Over time the group’s interests have inevitably shifted focus from the struggle for independence to one for democracy, justice and national reconciliation.
The roots of ABSFU extend back to the Burmese independence movement of the 1930s. In 1931, the Rangoon University Students’ Union (RUSU) was formed as a social organization by Aung San, the later military General and so-called ‘father of Burmese independence’, and, indeed, paternal father of 1991 Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1950505.stm).In 1931, the Rangoon University Students’ Union (RUSU) was formed as a social organization. In 1935, our independence hero Aung San and his friends U Nu(later the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Burma), U Thein Pe (later the General Secretary of Communist Party of Burma),UBa Swe(later the Prime Minister)and U Kyaw Nyein (later the Deputy Prime Minister) became the leaders of the RUSU and led the second university students’ strike against British colonial rule. In 1935, RUSU leaders led the second university students’ strike against British colonial rule (the Pacific War hampered progress but independence finally arrived on January 4, 1948). On May 8, 1936, the first students’ conference was held in Rangoon. Organized by RUSU, it marked the formation of the All Burma Students’ Union (ABSU). In 1951, the All Burma Students’ Union (ABSU) changed its name to the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) to represent all students in Burma. ABFSU became active in both educational reform and peaceful campaigning for the establishment of democracy and protecting the right to education. During the Sixth Conference of the ABFSU in 1960, the so-called ‘five policies’, and ‘three flags’ of the organization were adopted unanimously in order to work towards a democratic educational system, safeguarding student rights, democracy, and national peace and reconciliation.
Burma's fledgling democratic process came to a grinding halt in 1962 when General Ne Win (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1581413.stm) staged a bloody coup d'etat in which hundreds of protesting students were killed. The turbulent political situation since this time, characterised by kleptocratic and paranoid authoritarian rule, has forced ABFSU and its members underground on a number of occasions.
In 1988, as calls for democratic change brought civil unrest and mass demonstrations to the streets of the capital Rangoon once more, ABFSU publicly re-emerged under the direction of leading dissident Min Ko Naing (a nom-de-guerre meaning ‘conqueror of kings’), where the group helped to coordinate waves of pro-democracy action, culminating in the '88 Uprising (see 8888 Uprising, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7543347.stm, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/19/AR2008071901609.html and http://www.johnpilger.com/page.asp?partid=101). Since 1990 ABFSU have thrown their support behind the National League for Democracy (NLD), Burma’s foremost political party which won a landslide victory in the general election of that year. The Generals were not prepared to hand over power, however, and instead chose to place the party leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest.
Some within the ranks of Burma's student protestors have criticised the NLD for not implementing a strategy for taking control after the 1990 elections and, despite overwhelming support, allowing the Generals to continue acting with impunity.
The main five basic of principles ABFSU are
- National Politics
- Democracy Education
4#Protection Of Student's Right and
ABFSU’s prominent leaders
Many of those associated with ABFSU over the years have been hugely influential in Burma’s ongoing political struggles: a continuing pedigree of politically astute and socially responsible individuals, committed to social justice and freedom. However, their links to ABFSU make them increasingly ‘marked men’. Always the target of the military government, the outspoken leaders of ABFSU are regularly imprisoned where they are invariably beaten, tortured and denied medical treatment. Such human rights violations are reportedly widespread in Burma today but, significantly, they appear not to have had the desired effect of permanently silencing or disbanding ABFSU or, indeed, given Burma’s recent Saffron Revolution, quelling the wider calls for democratic change.
Some of the more notable individuals associated with ABSFU over the years are:
- Aung San (became military General and known as the ‘independence hero’, father of the nation and paternal father to Aung San Suu Kyi)
- Ko Nu (U Nu - became first democratically elected Prime Minister of Burma)
- Thein Pe Myint(became General Secretary of Burmese Communist Party)
- Min Ko Naing (1988) leader of ABFSU and Burma's leading political dissident)
- Kyaw Ko Ko (2007) the President of ABFSU which has re-established in 2007 (during the Saffron Revolution)
- "BBC News - Asia-Pacific - Burma government arrests opposers".
- "Burma crisis".
- "Brief History of All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU)".
- "Historic Student Union ABFSU Revived in Burma".
- "Bogyoke Aung San of Burma (Myanmar)".
- "BBC NEWS - Asia-Pacific - Suu Kyi's house arrest 'extended'".
- "A New Generation of Activists Arises in Burma".
- All Burma Federation of Student Unions: http://abfsu.net/
- Burma Campaign UK: http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/
- US Campaign for Burma: http://uscampaignforburma.org/
- All Burma IT Students’ Union: http://www.abitsu.org
- YouTube - ABFSU anthem and photo gallery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9WZhIKxtcg
- Facebook - Min Ko Naing info and supporters page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Min-Ko-Naing/26868008342