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Burmese Straws (The Editorial which was published
in the Far Eastern Economic Review on July 19, 1962)

        Rioting by students and shooting by the police tend to have 
either an unpopular government or an emotional issue as cause: the riots 
at Rangoon University on July 7 do not quite signify either. What caused 
the immediate outbreak was new, unpopular hostel regulations, on the 
face of it a small irritant for a riot, but in fact the university has 
been a hotbed of trouble where the smallest grievance might have been 

        The following day General Ne Win, Burma's military dictator,
ordered the Students' Union to be blown up: though this sounds drastic, 
in fact the Union was an old headquarters of subversion (anti-British in 
the pre-independence days) and had allegedly been used by the White Flag 
Communists - one of several groups whih have been in a state of 
rebellion against the central government for the last fourteen years - 
to make underground contacts.

        Burmese students are notoriously unruly; strikes, violence and
contempt - often desereved - for their teachers are common. Last year in 
Rangoon in an anti-American demonstration two people were killed, while 
in Mandalay students sacked the vice-chancellor's house in protest 
against a new examination system. Previous governments of Burma have 
been accused of aggravating the problem by deliberately cultivating the 
students, fanning an already untoward interest in politics. The 
Revolutionary government has already tried,since it came into power, to 
bring them more under control by abolishing the ruling bodies of the 
universities and taking over their functions itself.

        This deplorable shooting - there were, after all, fifteen deaths 
as the result of the police firing into the crowd - is not necessarily a 
sign that strong-arm methods are being increasingly adopted by General 
Ne Win. He has, it is true, taken some forceful steps since the coup 
d'etat which brought him to power - rather different, it should be 
remembered, from his more or less constitutional accession to power in 
the previous caretaker government. Some fairly harmless amusements like 
and beauty contests have been forbidden by law; if these are straws in
the wind showing how rigid and moralistic the government may become, it 
should also be remembered how much bogged down in corruption,
inefficiency and idleness previous regimes have been.

        Furthermore, Ne Win's speech over the radio, after the shooting, 
though slightly military in style, was, where addressed to the student 
body, a model of good sense and its sentiments might with advantage be 
taken to heart by students all over Asia - the important thing being, as 
he said, not to pass exams and get degrees, but to acquire enough 
education to deal with the problems which will crop up in everyday work 

        Finally, on the credit side should also go the government's
perfect willingness to see an unfettered and critical press in action,
and also its gentle handling of the politicians it displaced. To say 
that this shooting presages the worst kind of military dictatorship is 
almost certainly untrue.

        On 7 July 1962 over one hundred Burmese students who were
demonstrating to protest against what they considered to be restrictive 
hostel rules were shot and killed by troops at Rangoon University.

          On 8 July 1962 the historic Student Union Building of Rangoon 
University was dynamited.

            Writing about these events, an   editorial  "Burmese Straws" 
of July 19, 1962 (Volume XXXVII. No.3) of the FAR EASTERN ECONOMIC 
REVIEW (reproduced in full above)  briefly mentioned the "deplorable 
shooting" and followed the then Burmese government official line that 
there were "fifteen deaths" (sic) "as a result of police (sic for 
military troops) firing into crowd".

             "Ne Win's speech over the radio, after the shooting
is slightly military in style"?  The  Editorial failed  to mention that 
Ne Win concluded his broadcast with these insolent and threatening 
words: "If the actions are intended to challenge us we will respond 
sword with sword and spear with spear". This arrogant remark was made a 
few hours after his troops massacred unarmed students with G3 machine 

           "Perfect and unfettered willingness to see an unfettered and 
critical press?". Soon after that July 1962 editorial of the Far Easten 
Economic Review  the Government "nationalized" all newspapers and 
allowed only one view to be expressed through their propanganda sheets, 
a practice which had  contiunued  for the past thirty-five years. Since 
the protege of (in the words of the editorial itself)   "Genereal Ne 
Win, Burma's military dictator'  the State Law and Order Restoration 
Council(SLORC)  came into power in September 1988 it have used literally 
milllions of words to express how excellent  a governemnt this side of 
heaven they are and how the 
opposition"maggots"traitors""destructionitsts', "minions of
colonialism" are subverting  the grandoise work they have done for  the 
country.Only a small percentage of those self-praise and the debased, 
vitrolic attacks against decent and partioitic persons such as Daw Aung 
San Suu Kyi and the democratic opposition appear on the Burma 
Net.Perhaps only Ceauscecu's Romania or Kim Il Sung's North Korea can 
compete with  the propaganda and self-praise and name-calling that is 
seen daily in SLORC print and other Media.

           "Deplorable shooting"?  Since July 1962 there has been at 
least half a dozen more shootings and killings with each shootings 
taking the lives by the dozens.  Among others: August 1967  "rice 
riots"(Akyab); June 1974 Worker's strike,Rangoon;  Shootings at U 
Thant's crisis of December 1974,Rangoon;  Shootings, beatings and 
killings  of 13-18 March 1988 at Rangoon including the "White Bridge" 
massacre near Rangoon's Inya Lake; June 1988 shootings at Rangoon; the 
massacre by the hundreds if not thousands during  8-12 August 1988 in 
Rangoon, Sagaing,Moulmein and many other cities  and the SLORC  
massacres during and after its takeover of of 18 September 1988.

          "To say that this shooting presages the worst kind of military 
dictatorship is almost certainly wrong"?  In retrospect, what sort of 
worse and long-lasting series of military dictatorships had "flourished" 
in the past thity-five years in  Asia and the Far East?

           Thirty-five years later, cannot we now and  without any
reservation say that what was written in the editorial of 19 July 1962 
was at the least "gloriously wrong", offensive to the memory of the 
fallen students and martyrs of 7 July 1962 and that  the way the Burmese 
Army (not "police" as stated in the editorial and not "fifteen deaths" 
as stated there also)  "suppressed" the "riots" of 7 July 1962 was a 
painful,albeit (only in comparison) a  minor harbinger or "presager" of 
"the shape of things to come"?

by A Burmese People.

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