All Burma Students' Democratic Front
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The All Burma Students' Democratic Front (Burmese: မြန်မာနိုင်ငံလုံးဆိုင်ရာကျောင်းသားများ ဒီမိုကရက်တစ် တပ်ဦး; ABSDF) is a resistance group against the military regime in Myanmar, the former Burma. It was created after unrest in the year 1988, in November 1988 in Yangon. It is a group of Burmese students living in the exile. The ABSDF operated an armed force, which fought with ethnic minority armies, particularly the Kachin Independent Army and the Karen national against the Burmese military regime SPDC in the past.
The All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) is the largest student and youth organisation on Burma’s borders. It was founded on November 1, 1988. The ABSDF is fighting for democracy and human rights in Burma alongside other democratic and ethnic nationality forces.
Aims and Objectives
- To liberate the peoples of Burma from the oppression of military dictatorship
- To achieve democracy and human rights
- To attain internal peace
- To bring about the emergence of a federal union in Burma
Born of Struggle: ABSDF’s History
The political movement and the struggle for national liberation have a unique character in Burma. 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 brutal crack down on peaceful demonstrations crying for democracy and human rights. Soon after seizing state power, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the then military regime, surprised the country and the world with the announcement that it would hold a free and fair election. It encouraged the public to register political parties. But, 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, in order 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 1. To maintain semi-underground networks, 2. To form a political party, and 3. To take 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 Burma-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 Burma.
Origins of the Name
The ABSDF is an organisation representing all students and social classes throughout Burma in their struggle to achieve democracy and human rights. The students of Burma are 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 fights in Burma; hence the rightful name “All Burma Students’ Democratic Front”. The Front’s motto is born out of collective experiences: “Our Heads are Bloody But Unbowed”.
The ABSDF considers the primary conflict in Burma as that which exists between the military regime on one side, and the various ethnic nationality groups comprising the citizens of Burma on the other. People who are struggling against the military dictatorship in order to overthrow its oppressive nature constitute not a single stratum but a cross-session of all people regardless of social class, gender, ethnic origin, religion, education, political ideology -in short, this fight is for each and every citizen of the country. Based on that ideology, the ABSDF believes in national politics and applies it as political strategy.
In order to fulfill its aims and objectives, the ABSDF upholds the strategy, “Armed struggle in combination with political activities.”
Membership and Camp Information
The ABSDF currently holds seven camps on the Burma-Thailand border, one camp spread over three separate locations on the Burma-India border, and one camp spread over three separate locations on the Burma-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 (NCUB), anumbrella organisation of the border-based opposition.
The ABSDF is also a member organisation of the Asian Students’ Association (ASA), the International Union of Students (IUS) and the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY).
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. 1. Than Khe - Chairperson 2. Myo Win - Vice-Chairperson 3. Sonny Mahinder - General Secretary 4. Myint Hein - Joint-General Secretary (1) 5. Khin Kyaw - Joint-General Secretary (2) 6. Salai Yaw Aung -Central Leading Committee 7. Kyaw Ko - Central Leading Committee 8. Soe Htut - Central Committee Member 9. Moe Kyaw Oo - Central Committee Member 10. Wai Lynn Zin - Central Committee Member 11. Maung Oo - Central Committee Member 12. Aye Lwin - Central Committee Member 13. Thant Chain Myint - Central Committee Member 14. Kyaw Kyaw Lin - Central Committee Member 15. Dee Yu - Central Committee Member 16. Mya Win - Central Committee Member (Reserve) 17. Aung Win Tin - Central Committee Member (Reserve) 17. Thein Lwin - Central Committee Member (Reserve)
From 2001 to 20 December 2010 ABSDF was on the US terror list.
ABSDF had held two formal discussions and three informal gatherings with the government in 2012 and 2013. On 5 August 2013, Karen State government and ABSDF signed state-level ceasefire agreement in Yangon. On August 10, Burmese government and ABSDF signed 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 date to hold union level political dialogue.
In 1991-92, 35 ABSDF members died in custody in Kachin State, 15 of them were 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 organization. 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 say that no one has yet been held accountable. Naing Aung, who was the chairman of the ABSDF Southern Burma at the time, has denied the allegations and said that he is ready to cooperate with any inquiry into the incident.
- Htein Lin, Burmese artist and activist
- Moe Thee Zun (US)
- Myint Thein †2008
- Chit Hlaing †1992
- Pascal Khoo Thwe (London)
- Student army taken off US terror list
- Nyein Nyein (5 August 2013). "ABSDF Signs State-Level Ceasefire Agreement". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
- "Myanmar gov't, student rebel group reach agreement". Xinhua English. 10 August 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
- Myat Su Mon (30 May 2013). "ABSDF Visits Burma to Investigate Its Killings of ‘Spies’ in 1990s". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
- Nyein Nyein (31 August 2012). "Exiles Return a Day after Being Taken off Blacklist". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 30 May 2013.
- Official website
- The ABSDF Split 1991-1996
- Embassy gunmen flee, BBC News, 2 October 1999.
- Burma, Voices from the Resistance