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RYDER MAGAZINE: Escape Through Burm

Subject: RYDER MAGAZINE: Escape Through Burmese Jungle 

This article appeared in the Ryder Magazine(Nov. 17-Dec. 1 1995 issue).  
The Ryder is a local publication in Bloomington, Indiana.  It is issued 
every other week.  This article was written by Tun Myint, the campaign 
organizer for Indiana Campaign for a Free Burma.  This magazine also 
brought "Beyond Rangoon" to Bloomington for two and a half weeks.  A 
caption was at the top of the article and pictured seven refugee students 
from Burma in a Thai camp just before leaving to the United States.  The 
background is a small mountain.  
	[Editor's Note:  The author's original English text is presented 
         unaltered in order to preserve his natural voice.] 


  "I myself am a believer in justice, freedom and kindness toward other humans
       and other beings. Although I don't want to harm anyone, it was the 
	    call to me that I should take up arms and revolt against 
			unjust government of my country"

My name is Tun Myint. I am a Burmese student at Indiana University.  When
I was in Burma in 1988, I was waiting for university studies after I had
finished High School. There was people uprising emerged in Burma for the
restoration of democracy and human rights.  It was a nationwide
demonstration that was bigger than Tiananmin square in China in 1989. I
was thinking my country was going to be changed very soon and Burma was
going to be developed just like developing countries.  Suddenly, a change
occurred on the 18th of September in 1988.  But it was not the change that
I expected. That change was a tremendous transformation for my life but
not for my country. 
The change that took place on the 18th of September is that the Burmese
Army took the power by a brutal coup. It brought the country under the
dictatorship government. The military dictatorship government named itself
as "SLORC" (State Law and Order Restoration Council) and ousted all the
student activists by oppressing their pro-democratic movements.  I was one
of the students who actively involved in pro-democracy movements. There
was no choice for me rather than leaving my country, my family, and the
university that I intended to study higher education. Therefore, I had to
leave all the conditions that I expected to happen. 
It is a long story and very complicated situations that I passed through
the period of 1988 demonstrations and afterward.  I filed detail account
of my participation and activities when I applied political asylum here in
United States.  I am now granted asylum and I would like to take a moment
to extend my gratitude to all people in United States who help many of
"me" to be safe, and hopeful for both our future and our struggle for
democracy in Burma.  I myself is a believer in justice, freedom and
kindness toward other humans and other beings.  Although, I don't want to
harm anyone, it was the call to me that I should take up arms and revolt
unjust government of my country. Thus I decided to leave my country,
family and friends as many of my fellow students did in 1988 after the
brutal bloody coup. 
Believing that we, the pro-democratic students, could fight the military
dictatorship by guns, all the students activists around Burma left the
country for Burma-Thailand border, Burma-India border, and Burma-China
border areas. I am one of those students who left for the Burma-Thailand
border.  I, with two of my friends, left Rangoon in the early morning on
the 5th of November, 1988 from Rangoon harbor by boat.  Before I left, I
was living around my friends' houses where I could hide away from military
It was too bad. Usually, wherever I wanted to go, my father would send me
and my mother would tell me how to behave along the trip.  But for this
trip, I couldn't even dare to inform them that I was leaving for my
journey.  They would stop me if they knew that I was leaving for the
jungle to fight back the government.  Therefore, I couldn't let them know
this time. 
The journey took seven days on the sea to get to the border town called
"Ranaung" in Thailand.  Along the way in the sea, I sometimes had to act
as a crew member when the boat encountered the navy boats. In this way, I
avoided the danger of military disruption. I got sea-sick for the first
three days in the boat.  That was unexpected trip and very compelling
journey for my life.  Thus I arrived at a border city called Ranaung in
Thailand on November 11.  There were already about a hundred Burmese
students in Ranaung waiting to continue their journey to Jungle where we
expected to hold arms and fight the dictatorship.  Many students,
including me, worked as construction worker for about a week in Ranaung. 
That was my first time in my life working as a hard labor.  Sometimes,
when the police car came to the work site, we have to hide away from them. 
The owner of the work site will shout it out to run and hide.  There ware
some stories I had there, but I will leave them here and continue to my
On the 19th of November, 1988, I and 124 students were secretly brought by
the Thai authorities to go to the Three Pagoda Village.  We left Ranaung
in the midnight of November 19, and got Three Pagoda Village area in the
midnight of November 20.  It was the beginning of the cold season in
Burma.  Everyone got a piece of blanket and a dinner sack at midnight.
There was no water to drink, and we didn't know how to find it in the
night at a very new place.  Fortunately, the NGO (Non-Governmental
Organization) which donated a piece of blanket and a sack of dinner helped
to get drinking water after dinner. I had never have such a delicious
dinner in hungry time. I never forget that dinner I had.  It was Thai food
called "Khout Phart" similar to Burmese fried rice. 
The place that we got had just finished war between two ethnic groups
namely between Mon and Karen.  It was post war village with damages on
houses.  There were no native villagers in it. It is a border area now
blooming trade region between Burma and Thailand.  We, 125 students, took
those damaged houses and set up home away from home again.  We didn't know
what we were going to do, but we knew why we were here.  We survived in
that village for about two months with the help of local Mon ethnic
insurgents. And also we got some food donations from Non-Governmental
Organizations which were based in Thailand. I don't know who they were,
but mainly those NGOs were associated with some Burmese activists who left
Burma in 1974 and earlier for the same reason. 
Furthermore, my tale is not finished by this change. As day and night are
gone year after year, the changes which took place within my life were
happening one after another.  After about two months at the Three Pagoda
Village, we spread into different student camps to take basic military
training as a preparation for the revolution.  Our student camp were
mobile camps. We couldn't stay at one place for a long time because the
military government's troops were launching war along the border. 
Therefore, we got to move around. I and some of my fellow students moved
around and lived in at least 7 camps along the border.  When I was at the
student camps on the Burma-Thailand border, I took military training as a
student soldier to fight back the military dictatorship.  Students
established the student army called "All Burma Students' Democratic Front"
(ABSDF) which is still actively acting in the borders until now.  I would
say it is the world's largest student army that devotes for democracy and
human rights in Burma.  Some of my friends are still active in the jungle
until now while I am writing this journal.  I salute all of those people
who gave their lives along the borders during the battles or because of
malaria disease.  I didn't have any serious battles since I was acting as
an agent to contact inside student groups in Rangoon. 
My life didn't end in jungle as my parents and relatives would think I
might be already dead.  However, I faced a serious threat to my life
during I was in the jungle by malaria which is a kind of infected
diseases.  It killed my hairs and put away from my head.  I beg the death
to let me alive for my ambitions.  My body could just maintain the bones
under skin.  Fortunately, I could survive in the jungle for about two
years with the strength from the spirit of dedicated students who were
shot dead in front of me by military guns during the 1988 nationwide
demonstration.  I will never forget that scene and also never give up the
revolution that started with the spirit of students and people in Burma. 
I hold my fist to kick my goal and my soul must be for the benefits of
people who love freedom, human rights, justice and humanity. 
Here and now, I am taking granted for freedom of expression, the rights of
human, the justice under the laws of United States. I love these and I
admire people like Martin Luther King who told us "Injustice anywhere
threatens justice everywhere."  I know injustices committed by those
hypocritic military generals in Burma are threatening the humanity and its
dignity. Since I was born I regarded myself to be free. I love freedom
more than my life. That is why I am paying tragic feeling of losing
connection with my parents, relatives, and friends for seven years now
away from my native home.  Living in the United States make me free and
safe. Even though I finally gained freedom as in the honor of American
dream, I could never forget the suffering of 45 millions of people in
Burma and I will never give up the revolution that we established in a
time in 1988 in Burma. As far as they are not free in Burma, my soul is
not free either.  My soul gave me the goal. 
To continue the goal of 88 generation, we students must "neither do
anything extreme nor 'put their feet up' and wait for democracy to happen
in Burma" as the 1990 Nobel Peace Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in
last July, 1995.  With that in my heart, I started the Campaign For A Free
Burma at Bloomington, Indiana with a numbers of local activists.  It is
the beginning of a call to Americans to boycott Burmese brutal oppressive
regime SLORC.  This is another step to continue my journey in America for
Democracy and Human Rights in Burma.