Published on Thursday, 15 August 2013 16:43 Written by Than Htut Aung
On August 19, 1988, Dr Maung Maung became President of Burma and the Burmese Socialist Programme Party changed its strategy. The Party ran under guidance of General Ne Win.
At that time, a special commission called "People's Desire Assessment Commission" was formed and Tin Aung Hein, a well-known judge, was made its chairman. Tin Aung Hein then proposed to dissolve the commission on grounds that there was no need to find out the people's desire with available information from ongoing public demonstrations across the country.
The move provoked General Saw Maung, who was the military junta leader; and he put Tin Aung Hein in jail for years after the military took power.
On August 24, 1988, Dr. Maung Maung's administration was dissolved by the military regime.
Every time I hear the opening of President Thein Sein's public speeches "The people, sir", I recalled marathon speeches used to be delivered by Dr. Maung Maung.
Dr. Maung Maung's speeches did not seem to have effects on public demonstrations back in 1988.
I have grown up reading his books such as "A Trial in Burma", "Burma's Constitution", "Burma and General Ne Win", and "To a Soldier Son". I used to like his writings and thoughts.
While the Sein Lwin presidency was just 17 days, Dr Maung Maung's presidency was a little more at 30 days but full of lessons. Dr Maung Maung was the key person behind the drafting of the 1974 Constitution. The socialist legal system dismantled the good legal system installed by the British, where for example, even a trishaw driver may become a judge (if qualified).
After reading "1988 Uprising (in two volumes)" by Dr. Maung Maung and propaganda books organized by Major General Khin Nyunt, it became clear that Myanmar's professional historians need to write factual history about the period from 1962 onwards. Dr. Maung Maung's writings were so twisted that the history during that period needs to be rewritten correctly.
Students were the arch-enemy of General Ne Win during his 26-year dictatorship. In fact, Ne Win, also known as Thakhin Shu Maung, had not been part of the historic Students Union with Thakhin Aung San, Thakhin Nu, Thakhin Ba Hein and Thakhin Ba Swe, whose courageous fight against the British colony made them outstanding personalities of their time. Ne Win and his successors loathed the students. They suppressed them, and destroyed the education system. Schools were relocated to paddy fields outside the urban areas, and many millions of Myanmar people had to go abroad in search of work – with some living lives like slaves in other countries.
They military has not learned any lesson from history. They remain biased against the students union or students as inherited from the era of Ne Win and Khin Nyunt.
Dr Maung Maung’s book did not reveal acceptance of errors under the Burmese Socialist Programme Party, and dictatorship committed under Ne Win.
His use of mixed correct and incorrect words - such as “fight sparked from a tea shop, violent protests, anger due to swallowed unfulfilled feelings, grudge, good time to take revenge, looters and opportunists, those who make chaos”.
He presented some truths but he did not mention who was behind the violence, destruction and the killings. For example, the military itself broke warehouses and kept them open. When hungry mobs came into the warehouses, the soldiers opened fire on them, and the state-owned media reported soldiers attacked the violent mobs that were looting the warehouses. Dr Maung Maung did not mention such things. But what he also wrote carries some true facts.
I imagine the way I would urge the students and the country’s leaders on that September 10 if I were then in a position [in media] to write and speak and if there were strong media. To fight against the dictatorship in a peaceful way, negotiations and unity are required. At that time, there was no one defined as the leader. Extremism, anger and ignorance stained the purity of revolution spirit. Dr Maung Maung’s book slightly touched upon that.
The photo carried from Independence Daily Newspaper Vol.1 No.2 issued on September 10, 1988
Mandalay formed a region-wide strike committee on August 19, 1988. Venerable monk U Kaveinda from Masoeyein Monastery acted as chairman, and U Rayvata as secretary.
At that time, I was fearful of throwing my life into the strike or politics. I could not decide what to do; I would enter medical profession, I would not serve as a government employee, I would go to England for PLAB exam. I was studying as a surgeon over the entire year. I was thinking about joining a political party but I was not able to go to England. I thought I had to do business. But I had never thought I would become a journalist or publisher.
The 8888 Uprising changed the lives of thousands of young people, including me, and the fate of Myanmar. History is like taking a bath in a river. History cannot be rewritten. We can write it only once at one time. It is our own decision to write good history or bad history. Shall we walk out of history or remain in it? Shall we live in good history or walk out of bad history? Over the past 25 years since 8888 uprising, I have encountered those doing wrong things, those who could not write correct history, those who could not save face because of writing bad history, and those living in embrace of correct history. My history is that I had just done my bit in the uprising like those from different backgrounds. No one urged, no one organized, and no one led me. There was no leader in the 8888 uprising. But the event gave birth to leaders.
On August 24, Dr Maung Maung lifted the military rule. On the very same day, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi entered politics and gave a speech at Yangon General Hospital strike camp. On 26, she made a landmark speech at the middle terrace of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. One stroke of luck we got from the 8888 uprising was emergence of a public leader.
Suu Kyi, a mother of two sons, one of whom was then just 10 years old, sacrificed her family life and everything to serve her country and people. It is now 25 years she has shouldered the responsibilities. She may have some weaknesses and face some critical remarks. However, while the country needs her, she would not flee the country and the people in a coward manner. She was never an irresponsible leader. Her courage and accountability, along with the 8888 Uprising, will be remembered for the rest of my life. She has to be respected even by the military dictators and their community. During the 25 years after 1962, Burma Communist Party and the students were targeted and suppressed. Then, the next 25 years was for Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy.
(PS: I delayed for five days in continuing my article 'After 25 years' because I was disappointed to hear that the 8888 Silver Jubilee would not be held in the form of a commemoration but something else less honorable)
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