All Burma Students' Democratic Front

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All Burma Students' Democratic Front
Participant in the Internal conflict in Myanmar

Fighting Peacock Flag.png

ABSDF insignia.png
Top: Variant of the Fighting Peacock flag used by the ABSDF
Bottom: Insignia of the ABSDF
Active 1 November 1988 (1988-11-01)–present
Ideology Liberal democracy[1]
Political freedom
Leaders U Than Khe
Myo Win
Sonny Mahinder
Headquarters Several across Myanmar's borders, including foreign branches
Area of operations Myanmar-Thailand border
Myanmar-India border
Myanmar-China border
Strength 600[1]–1,000[2]

Kachin Independence Army
Karen National Union


Myanmar Government of Myanmar

Union of Myanmar (until 2011)
Battles and wars Internal conflict in Myanmar

The All Burma Students' Democratic Front (Burmese: မြန်မာနိုင်ငံလုံးဆိုင်ရာကျောင်းသားများဒီမိုကရက်တစ်တပ်ဦး; abbreviated ABSDF) is an opposition group in Myanmar (Burma). It was founded on 1 November 1988, after the 8888 protests in Yangon. The group's leadership is mostly run by former student exiles.

The ABSDF operates an armed wing, which has fought together with other armed opposition groups in Myanmar, such as the Kachin Independence Army and the Karen National Liberation Army.


The aims of the group are to free the people of Myanmar from the oppression of the military, to create a democracy with political freedom and respect for human rights, to obtain nationwide peace, and to introduce a federal system in the country.


The ABSDF elects its leadership democratically, with leaders of the organisation serving for three year terms in accordance with the ABSDF constitution. Its first leader was Htun Aung Gyaw, a leader in the December 1974 student protests following the U Thant funeral crisis. The following is the list of the organisation’s current leaders who were elected in ABSDF’s Eight Conference convened in December 2006, to serve for a three-year executive term.

  • U Than Khe - Chairperson
  • Myo Win - Vice-Chairperson
  • Sonny Mahinder - General Secretary
  • Myint Hein - Joint-General Secretary
  • Khin Kyaw - Joint-General Secretary
  • Salai Yaw Aung -Central Leading Committee
  • Kyaw Ko - Central Leading Committee
  • Soe Htut - Central Committee Member
  • Moe Kyaw Oo - Central Committee Member
  • Wai Lynn Zin - Central Committee Member
  • Maung Oo - Central Committee Member
  • Aye Lwin - Central Committee Member
  • Thant Chain Myint - Central Committee Member
  • Kyaw Kyaw Lin - Central Committee Member
  • Dee Yu - Central Committee Member
  • Mya Win - Central Committee Member (Reserve)
  • Aung Win Tin - Central Committee Member (Reserve)
  • Thein Lwin - Central Committee Member (Reserve)


The political movement and the struggle for democracy has been a unique issue in Myanmar. Students were a mobilising force at the forefront of the struggle for freedom against British colonial rule. This role has continued over the past four decades of military rule in the country. Thus, the student movement is inseparable from the historic struggle for Burma’s independence from both colonial power and dictatorship.

The Burmese military staged a coup d’etat in September 1988, following its crackdown on peaceful demonstrations concerning democracy and human rights. Soon after seizing state power, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the then-military regime, announced that it would hold a free and fair election, to the surprise of the country and the world. It encouraged the public to register political parties. However, at the same time, regime officials were suppressing political expression and opposition throughout the country.

It was in this atmosphere that serious discussions and debates took place within the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), at the vanguard of the student movements, to find ways to continue the struggle. Finally, leaders of the ABFSU reached a decision: the struggle would consist of three practical strategies. Those strategies were maintaining semi-underground networks, forming a political party, and taking up arms.

To pursue this decision, thousands of people, mostly students, youth and intellectuals, left for the border areas near Thailand, India, China and Bangladesh and founded the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) on November 1, 1988 on the Myanmar-Thailand border. Thus, the formation of the ABSDF and its Student Army followed closely on ABFSU’s decision. In other words, its formation was a strategic decision of the student movement inside Myanmar.

To fulfill its aims and objectives, the ABSDF upholds the strategy, “Armed struggle in combination with political activities.” From 2001 to 20 December 2010 ABSDF was on the US terror list.[3]

Name Origin[edit]

The ABSDF is an organisation representing all students and social classes throughout Myanmar in their struggle to achieve democracy and human rights. The students of Myanmar were recognised as the leading force fighting against the dictatorial military regime, and the Front indiscriminately counts all Burmese ethnic nationalities and classes among their membership. The ABSDF is at the forefront of the popular struggle for democracy and human rights in Myanmar; hence the name “All Burma Students’ Democratic Front”. The Front’s motto is born out of collective experiences: “Our Heads are Bloody But Unbowed”.


The ABSDF is a combatant in the civil war in Myanmar, which is a long-running conflict with government forces on one side and various armed factions on the opposite. People who are struggling against the military dictatorship to overthrow its oppressive nature constitute not a single stratum but a cross-section of all people regardless of social class, gender, ethnic origin, religion, education, and political ideology. Based on that ideology, the ABSDF believes in national politics and applies it as political strategy.

Membership and Camps[edit]

The ABSDF currently holds seven camps on the Myanmar-Thailand border, one camp spread over three separate locations on the Myanmar-India border, and one camp spread over three separate locations on the Myanmar-China border. It also has foreign branches such as in the United States and Australia.

The ABSDF is a member organisation of the National Council of the Union of Burma, an umbrella organisation of the border-based opposition.

The ABSDF is also a member organisation of the Asian Students’ Association, the International Union of Students, and the World Federation of Democratic Youth.

Ceasefire talks[edit]

ABSDF had held two formal discussions and three informal gatherings with the government in 2012 and 2013. On 5 August 2013, the Kayin State government and ABSDF signed a state-level ceasefire agreement in Yangon.[4] On 10 August, the Burmese government and ABSDF signed a 13-points preliminary ceasefire agreement. The agreement includes continuation of political dialogues to reach ceasefire agreement, formation of independent monitoring committee for ceasefire, opening of liaison offices, and setting a date to hold union-level political dialogue.[5]


In 1991-92, 35 ABSDF members died in custody in Kachin State, 15 of them executed as spies on 12 February 1992, and 20 others tortured to death while undergoing interrogation. Another 80 members were also detained on similar charges. The killings were allegedly motivated by internal power struggles within the organisation. That incident has attracted growing attention in 2012 on social media sites, which has long been a source of anger among former members of the student army and their families, who claim that no one has yet been held accountable. Naing Aung, who was the chairman of the ABSDF Southern Myanmar at the time, has denied the allegations and said that he is ready to co-operate with any inquiry into the incident.[6][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b MMPM: Stakeholders - ABDSF
  2. ^ Burma: Prospects for a Democratic Future, by Robert I. Rotberg
  3. ^ Student army taken off US terror list
  4. ^ Nyein Nyein (5 August 2013). "ABSDF Signs State-Level Ceasefire Agreement". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  5. ^ "Myanmar gov't, student rebel group reach agreement". Xinhua English. 10 August 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Myat Su Mon (30 May 2013). "ABSDF Visits Burma to Investigate Its Killings of 'Spies' in 1990s". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  7. ^ Nyein Nyein (31 August 2012). "Exiles Return a Day after Being Taken off Blacklist". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 

External links[edit]