Activists in Myanmar marked the 60th anniversary of a military crackdown that killed at least 100 students in the commercial capital Yangon with protests in more than a dozen townships on Thursday, despite increased security measures by junta authorities.
The protests commemorating the July 7, 1962, crackdown were held in the Sagaing region townships of Salingyi, Yinmarbin, Tamu, Kani, Kale and Ayadaw; Tanintharyi region townships of Dawei and Launglon; Bago region’s Taungoo township; Kachin state’s Hpakant township; Mon state’s Thanbyuzayat township; as well as the cities of Yangon and Mandalay.
Speaking from Yangon, where more than 30 students joined protests at around 11 a.m., a member of the Botataung Strike Group named Jewel told RFA Burmese that anniversary activities took place unhindered by authorities.
“The July 7 protest is very important for every student movement and we observe it as a reminder to others so that people will never forget,” she said.
“There were surprise checks in earlier days but fortunately there were none today. [The soldiers] came to the spot where we held the protest only after we left. There were no arrests today.”
Thet Oo, a protester in Yinmarbin township, said people observing the anniversary event had to disperse after only 15 minutes of shouting slogans due to tight security.
“The slogan ‘Do not forget 7.7.62’ refers to the many students and youths who bravely gave their lives in the fight for the truth,” he said.
“In memory of that day, and to instill courage in people’s minds to fight like the fallen heroes for the freedom of the country, we members of the All Villages of the North Western Plains Strike Committee held this protest on the streets [despite the risk of arrest].”
On March 2, 1962, Gen. Ne Win led the military in a coup to control Myanmar, appointing himself prime minister and dissolving the country’s legislature. On July 7 of that year, troops were sent to restore order as students protested tuition increases at Yangon University. The troops fired on the protesters, killing at least 100 people, and arrested thousands of students, according to local media reports. The following day, the military blew up the Yangon University Students’ Union building, which had stood as a monument to the anti-colonialism movement in Myanmar since the 1920s.
Call to action
In a statement issued Thursday in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the crackdown, the All-Burma Federation of Students’ Unions called on people of Myanmar to take action in whatever way possible to overthrow the current military regime, which seized power in a Feb. 1, 2021, coup.
Myat Min Khant, chairman of the Yangon District Students’ Union, called the announcement “a signal to end military rule.”
“There are two reasons that the All-Burma Students Union issued the statement. The first is to remind people that it isn’t just now that the fascist military is killing people in cities and towns without hesitation. They have done so in the past,” he told RFA.
“The second reason is to remind people we are still in the middle of the ‘Spring Revolution,’ fighting against the fascist military. We want to remind them that the fascist military and the 2008 constitution, which is the backbone of the fascist army, must be removed if they want real freedom.”
A spokesman for the Yangon University Students’ Union, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said students have always been at the forefront of the opposition to military rule in Myanmar.
“The July 7 protests we are commemorating now were also a fight against the Ne Win regime, which also seized state power,” he said.
“And then there were student protests in ‘74, ‘75 and ‘76. Students also joined hands with the people in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising. And now, in the 2021 anti-coup protests, students have actively participated in the ‘Spring Revolution’ against the military along with the people,” he added.
“Myanmar’s students are still fighting the military dictatorship in various ways.”
Junta authorities have killed at least 2,069 civilians since seizing power and arrested more than 14,500 others — mostly during peaceful anti-coup protests, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Thailand-based NGO. At least 11,443 people remain in detention, the group says.
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.