LEAD: ''WE have no leader, we have no arms,'' said a Burmese student,
lifting the bandanna that masked his face as he marched through Rangoon on a
recent day of anti-Government protests. ''But one day we will remove this
Government,'' he went on. ''They are shooting at us and we will die. But we
will not die in vain.
''WE have no leader, we have no arms,'' said a Burmese student, lifting
the bandanna that masked his face as he marched through Rangoon on a recent
day of anti-Government protests. ''But one day we will remove this
Government,'' he went on. ''They are shooting at us and we will die. But we
will not die in vain.''
The students have been in the vanguard of a national uprising that drew
support from workers, civil servants, the influential Buddhist clergy and,
last week, in formal statements from the nation's lawyers and doctors.
Unlike student movements in many parts of the world, students in Burma have
always been close to farmers and workers, accepted as their forward ranks.
This month it is the students who, for the most part, have given their
lives for political change. Hospital sources have estimated to diplomats in
Rangoon that more than 1,000 people died in five days of demonstrations two
Most scholars and diplomats who watch Burmese events from neighboring
Thailand believe that the movement the students have unleashed will not stop
until broad political and economic changes are achieved.
Loosely organized in cells that mimic the structure of the nation's
closed Government, the students succeeded in bringing down Burma's new
leader, U Sein Lwin, on Aug. 12. On Friday, U Maung Maung, one of only two
civilians in the Cabinet, was named to replace him in what was seen as an
attempt to mollify the protesters. But the students called immediately for
The student movement has roots that go back to the early decades of the
century. A student strike in the early 1920's set in motion an independence
movement that reached a peak in 1938, the ''year of revolution'' that marked
the beginning of the end of British colonial rule. In that year, oil field
workers marched on Rangoon to support the students, much as the population
has rallied behind them this month.
The students have commonly shared the poverty of the rest of the people,
living in hostels and rented rooms in marketplaces and sheltered by their
neighbors when the authorities clamp down on them. Together with the bulk of
the population, Burma's university students have remained separated from the
country's small elite, whose children travel abroad to study. For the most
part, graduates of Rangoon's colleges of arts, engineering and medicine face
joblessness or work as taxi drivers, tourist guides or fortunetellers.
With this potentially rich nation's shrinking wealth reserved for the
elite class, the students have become desperate and angry. The current
protest clearly caught the Government by surprise. Since the 1970's, when
student uprisings were crushed by force, the Government has succeeded in
keeping order with rifles and bayonets. It plainly expected to succeed
again. The first of the current round of student riots, last September,
fizzled when the frightened population ignored the students' call to join
them. It was at that time, say those who watch Burmese events from Bangkok,
that the students began to organize the loose groupings that have proved
successful in organizing recent rallies.
The groups fall under an umbrella called the All-Burma Democratic
Students Association, whose leaders are not known. Another group, the
Rangoon Students Union, is a secret revival of an organization crushed in
According to Westerners and Burmese here who are in touch with Rangoon,
the students have organized separate groups to prepare leaflets, to collect
money and food, to give first aid and to maintain security. But the cells
have remained distinct from one another and apparently difficult for
authorities to penetrate.
After an outbreak of protest in March, some students were sent into the
countryside to organize support. Buddhist monasteries became clandestine
shelters where placards and flags were made and plans were laid for
The flashpoint came in July when U Ne Win, Burma's leader since 1962,
resigned and was replaced by Mr. Sein Lwin, a former general who had carried
out brutal suppressions of student uprisings. The anger was palpable among
the students when the protests came to a head on Aug. 8.
As soldiers stood by, the order to fire not yet given, students carrying
red flags, symbolizing courage, marched in the city center, ripping off
their bandannas to scream their protests. Wherever they went, crowds
applauded, tossing bunches of bananas and handfuls of cheroots in what had
become a ritual of support for the students. The killings, far from ending
the uprising, appeared only to have stoked the anger of the students, and
that of the Burmese people now once again following their lead.
BURMA RULES OUT NEW CONCESSIONS
LEAD: Confrontation between the Burmese Government and its people
intensified today as huge crowds filled the streets to demand
democratic elections and the President responded on radio that no
further concessions would be made.
Confrontation between the Burmese Government and its people
intensified today as huge crowds filled the streets to demand
democratic elections and the President responded on radio that no
further concessions would be made.
Diplomats in Rangoon, the capital, said that the demonstration
was one of the largest they had seen and that it included protesters
from outside the city.
They said it was also significant because of the large
participation of members of Government departments, notably the
Ministry of Defense, who identified themselves with banners.
After the crowds had dispersed, the President and leader of the
nation's only political party, U Maung Maung, said on radio that the
Government would not alter its plan to hold a meeting Sept. 12 at
which he would propose a referendum on the protesters' demand for
''This arrangement is the most that we can concede,'' he said.
Interim Government Rejected
Mr. Maung Maung, a lawyer who helped draw up the nation's
Constitution, said creation of an interim government to oversee
elections, a step that has been widely demanded, would be
In what diplomats said might have been a useful gesture at an
earlier stage, Mr. Maung Maung said he welcomed the formation this
week of a student union that revives an organization banned in the
He said the Government would build a union headquarters to
replace the building that was dynamited in July 1962 in retribution
for student protests.
Diplomats said they believed that none of this would have much
effect on the masses of people who turned out in a monsoon downpour
The diplomats said they had heard unconfirmed reports of a
similar demonstration and strike in Mandalay, the nation's
second-largest city. Bank Official Reportedly Protests
An indication of the boldness of the protesters was a report that
an official of the Foreign Trade Bank had participated at a rally in
central Bandoola Park. Reuters said he appealed to the people to
protect the bank from officials who were trying to withdraw $6
million. The Associated Press quoted an unnamed bank official as
saying people close to the former Burmese leader, U Ne Win, were
trying to withdraw about $3 million.
The Guardian, a Rangoon newspaper that has shrugged off
censorship to take the lead in publishing news about the opposition,
carried a statement on its front page credited to the staff of the
Foreign Ministry demanding ''a true people's interim government.''
''We solemnly pledge to bring back the dignity Burma once had in
the world community,'' the statement said. Opposition Tries to
Another statement in The Guardian said that representatives of
the official News Agency of Burma, the Government magazine Myawdi
and the newspaper agreed to support the protesters.
Mr. Maung Maung's statement appeared to leave the fragmented
opposition few options except to continue its strike and protests.
And if these continue, diplomats warned, the result will soon be
serious shortages of food and fuel.
But the Government, too, faces difficulties in carrying out its
plans to propose a referendum. Even the first step, the Government
meeting set for Sept. 12, appears to be in question, a diplomat
said. Resignations of party officials around the country and
reported death threats against others if they attend the sessions
could make it difficult to gather a quorum.
The diplomat said it appeared that the only alternative to
continued Government control would be a move by the military. But
despite many rumors, there was no reliable information on how the
armed forces, the country's most powerful institution, might act.
DISORDER IN BURMA LEADS U.S. TO DRAW EVACUATION PLANS
LEAD: Looters raided Government offices and warehouses in Burma
today, as the United States and other countries drew up plans to
evacuate relatives of diplomats endangered by growing turmoil in
Looters raided Government offices and warehouses in Burma today,
as the United States and other countries drew up plans to evacuate
relatives of diplomats endangered by growing turmoil in Rangoon.
Leaders of the Burmese opposition, who have called a nationwide
general strike for Thursday, vowed to bring hundreds of thousands of
demonstrators into the streets to protest repressive one-party rule.
But the new President of Burma, U Maung Maung, resisted demands for
his resignation. His Burma Socialist Program Party seized power in a
military coup and has ruled for 26 years.
The State Department spokesman, Charles E. Redman, said there was
''a continuing deterioration of the law-and-order situation'' in
Burma, with ''increasing reports of looting and robberies.'' Orders
to Shoot Looters
As the Burmese Government appeared headed for another
confrontation with its political opponents, it ordered security
forces, armed with rifles and automatic weapons, to shoot looters
but not to interfere with peaceful demonstrators. The state-run
Rangoon radio reported that Burmese soldiers had killed five people
ransacking food warehouses.
But there was growing evidence of discontent in the armed forces
as 10 army battalions and an air squadron stationed in the town of
Hmawbi, near Rangoon, pledged their support to students and other
demonstrators seeking the resignation of Mr. Maung Maung. There are
more than 100 battalions in the Burmese Army, which has a total
strength of 170,000 soldiers.
Reports reaching the State Department indicated that the
authority of the Government was breaking down as violence and
looting spread through the capital. U Aung Gyi, a former brigadier
general who is now a leader of the opposition, said, ''The situation
in Burma is near anarchy.'' He spoke in a telephone interview with a
Japanese television station.
Mr. Redman said the State Department was ''considering procedures
for the departure of Americans from Burma, in light of the present
conditions.'' Diplomats at the American Embassy in Bangkok,
Thailand, said dependents of American Embassy employees in Rangoon
would be evacuated as soon as possible.
Mr. Redman said there had been ''no final decisions regarding the
time or number of people'' to be evacuated. He added, ''Regardless
of who or how many are withdrawn, we intend to maintain the
operations of our embassy in Rangoon.''
Representative Stephen J. Solarz, Democrat of Brooklyn, who
visited Burma over the weekend, said the upheaval there was a
spontaneous manifestation of ''people power.''
''There is wall-to-wall support for the establishment of genuine
multiparty democracy in Burma,'' said Mr. Solarz, who is chairman of
the Asia subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. ''The
Government there has completely unraveled,'' he said. ''We are at
the dawn of a new era, and it is very much in the interest of the
United States to make it as clear as possible, as quickly as
possible, that we are strongly on the side of democracy rather than
dictatorship in Burma.''
Mr. Solarz said that U Ne Win, who led Burma into isolation and
economic ruin during 26 years of authoritarian rule, ''continues to
call the shots'' even though he stepped down as chairman of the
Socialist Program Party on July 23. ''He seems to be the pre-eminent
leader of the country,'' the Congressman said.
On Aug. 11, the United States Senate approved a resolution that
condemned recent killings and mass arrests by the Burmese Army and
urged President Reagan to encourage restoration of democracy in
Burma. Mr. Solarz is introducing a similar resolution in the House.
'Revolution,' Moynihan Says
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, author of the Senate measure,
said: ''The protests in Burma are so widespread and so profound that
they can only be characterized as a revolution. After 26 years of
oppression, the people of Burma are now crying out to the world for
democracy and human rights, for dignity and the chance for economic
In an interview, Mr. Moynihan, a New York Democrat, said the
Reagan Administration ''did not welcome my initiative, did not
welcome it at all.''
The Administration was apparently concerned that the measure
might harm American relations with Burma. But a State Department
official said today that the Administration would probably not
oppose the resolution offered by Mr. Solarz.
The House resolution says the Administration should reconsider
the wisdom of American aid programs in Burma. The United States gave
Burma $14.3 million in aid last year. Half was for economic
development, and half was for antidrug programs.
Diplomats in Rangoon said Italy and Israel had decided to
evacuate dependents of embassy employees. Japan and Thailand were
said to be considering similar moves.
Even though there have been many violent incidents in Burma in
the last few weeks, American diplomats were not targets. Indeed, Mr.
Solarz said that crowds in Rangoon cheered when he and the American
Ambassador, Burton Levin, rode by in a car flying an American flag.
Burmese Revolt Seen as Spontaneous
LEAD: Experts on Burma portray the upheaval there as a
spontaneous revolution by people craving democracy, and they say
the only mystery is why it took the Burmese so long to rise up
against an oppressive, authoritarian Government.
Experts on Burma portray the upheaval there as a spontaneous
revolution by people craving democracy, and they say the only
mystery is why it took the Burmese so long to rise up against an
oppressive, authoritarian Government.
Prof. Josef Silverstein at Rutgers University, one of the few
Burma scholars in the United States, said: ''This is one of the
few examples of a pure popular revolution that we are seeing
anywhere in the world. There are no leaders, there is no
organization and there is no international movement outside the
country pushing the people one way or the other.''
''What surprised me is that the Burmese Government has held
on for so long, that this upheaval did not come at an earlier
point,'' said Mr. Silverstein, a political scientist. U.S.
Evacuates Dependents American experts assessed the situation
there as the United States today evacuated 46 relatives of
American Embassy employees in the midst of growing instability.
They flew from Rangoon, the capital, to Bangkok, Thailand, on a
commercial airliner. State Department officials said that
another group of about the same size would leave Burma on
Saturday. Before the evacuation, there were about 150 American
embassy personnel and dependents in Burma.
Charles E. Redman, the State Department spokesman, said,
''I'm not sure that there are any ministries functioning these
days'' in Rangoon. Nevertheless, he said, the American Embassy
will continue to operate so it can send information to
Demonstrators in cities and towns across Burma, including
many students, are demanding the immediate resignation of the
president, U Maung Maung, and the establishment of an interim
government to pave the way for multiparty democracy. Mr. Maung
Maung is the leader of the country's only political party, the
Burma Socialist Program Party, which seized power in a military
coup and has ruled for 26 years.
John H. Badgley, curator of the Southeast Asia collection at
the Cornell University library, said Mr. Maung Maung would be
lucky to retain power for another week. Government 'Basically
''The Government is basically defunct,'' Mr. Badgley said.
''There is a genuine collapse of government as we know it.'' In
Mandalay, he said, a committee of students and monks under 30
years old is maintaining order and performing other functions of
Many people, including employees of Burmese embassies in
Singapore, Japan and other countries, have resigned from the
Socialist Program Party. Information reaching the State
Department here indicates that scores of Burmese Government
employees and at least several hundred members of the Burmese
armed forces joined anti-Government demonstrations in Rangoon
Mr. Badgley visited Burma last December and again in January
and February of this year. ''I got a sense of a very short fuse
on a stick of dynamite, and I was surprised that it had not
exploded long ago,'' Mr. Badgley said in an interview.
U Ne Win, who ruled Burma from 1962 until his resignation in
July of this year, led the country into isolation and economic
ruin by following what he described as ''the Burmese road to
socialism.'' Mr. Badgley said this was ''an autarkic ideology
patterned after the economic systems of Czechoslovakia, Hungary
and Poland.'' Stalin's 'Ideological Framework'
It became clear as early as 1963 that Mr. Ne Win did not want
to bring Burma into the mainstream of the international economy
through trade and development projects with other countries, Mr.
Badgley said. For the last quarter-century, he said, ''Burma's
leaders have been anti-Communist, but they viewed the economy
with the ideological framework of Stalin.''
American experts on Burma said they believed some type of
provisional government would soon emerge, probably with
political and financial backing from Japan.
''Key Japanese officials want to stabilize the situation in
Burma, hope Burma will open its markets to foreign investment
and have indicated a preference that U Tin Oo should emerge as
the leader of Burma,'' Mr. Badgley said. ''In foreign policy,
this may be the most aggressive political maneuver Japan has
engaged in since World War II.'' Mr. Tin Oo was chief of staff
of the Burmese Army when he was removed by Mr. Ne Win in 1976.
Several Burmese opposition leaders said today that they had
established a provisional government under the leadership of U
Nu, who was ousted in the military coup 26 years ago, but
diplomats in Rangoon said it was not immediately clear whether
the maneuver would succeed.
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said today that President
Reagan should take immediate action to withhold American aid
from the Government of Mr. Maung Maung.
''At such time as a democratic government is established, we
should release the monies and offer increased support as well,''
said Mr. Moynihan, a New York Democrat.
The United States gave Burma almost $14.3 million in aid last
year: $7 million for economic development, $7 million for
anti-drug programs and $260,000 for military training. Moynihan
Urges Aid Cutoff
Mr. Moynihan said the United States should not provide any
more money to the Burmese Army because it had ''murdered
peaceful demonstrators.'' He also said the Burmese armed forces
''use our assistance'' to spray carcinogenic herbicides on
members of ethnic minority groups in opium-growing areas of
Diplomats at the Burmese Embassy here did not return
telephone calls asking for comment on Mr. Moynihan's charges.
Discontent has been spreading in Burma for years. But Mr.
Silverstein said the situation became intolerable for the
Burmese people last September, when the Government took currency
measures that had the effect of reducing the value of assets
that many people held in cash by 70 to 80 percent.
The Government said the step was designed to curb narcotics
traffic and the black market in Burma. But it set off protests
by students, who have been in the forefront of political
activity since they fought for Burma's independence from Britain
in the late 1940's.
ROAD TO UPHEAVAL IN POLITICS FOR BURMESE
LEAD: Following is a chronology of events leading to the decision
today by the Burma Socialist Program Party to end its 26-year
monopoly on power:
Following is a chronology of events leading to the decision today
by the Burma Socialist Program Party to end its 26-year monopoly on
March - Hundreds of students and others riot in Rangoon campuses
and streets, and unofficial reports say as many as 100 are killed by
June - Hundreds stage demonstrations and battle riot police in
Rangoon and other cities. The Government says nine people are
killed, but Western diplomats say the figure is higher. The
Government closes most campuses.
July 23 - Gen. Ne Win, who has ruled Burma since a 1962 coup,
resigns as chairman of the ruling Burma Socialist Program Party. He
cites the anti-Government riots and announces a referendum on
July 26 - Gen. Sein Lwin, who reportedly led forces that
suppressed the riots in March, is named to succeed General Ne Win.
July 30 - The authorities detain the most prominent Government
critic, U Aung Gyi.
Aug. 3 - Martial law is declared in Rangoon after thousands of
students protest the appointment of Mr. Sein Lwin.
Aug. 10 - The radio says 66 people have been killed, 160 wounded
and 1,500 arrested in Rangoon street battles over the preceding two
Aug. 11 - The radio reports another 15 killed in anti-Government
riots in Rangoon, bringing the official death toll to about 95.
Other sources say hundreds have died in rioting. The military
commander, Gen. Sau Maung, delivers a radio address warning of
anarchy. A guerrilla leader calls for a nationwide revolt.
Aug. 12 - Mr. Sein Lwin resigns as President and party chairman.
Aug. 19 - U Maung Maung is named Burma's first civilian leader in
26 years. Students demanding an end to one-party rule call for a
Aug. 24 - Mr. Maung Maung lifts martial law and curfews in
Rangoon and other cities and announces a Sept. 12 congress of the
ruling party to consider a referendum on multiparty elections.
Aug. 25 - The Government releases Mr. Aung Gyi and other
Aug. 26 - Insein Jail burns. Looting begins. Widespread
anti-Government protests continue over the following two weeks.
Sept. 9 - Former Prime Minister U Nu says he is forming a
provisional Government and calls for elections Oct. 9. About 500
servicemen leave barracks and join protesters in the first major
military defections. Embassies evacuate more than 230 dependents and
Sept. 10 - Ruling party declares an end to its monopoly of power
and calls for multiparty elections.
Many in Burma Say Ne Win Continues to Pull the Strings
LEAD: Shortly before the announcement Saturday that free elections would
be held in Burma, official cars were seen entering Ady Road, where the
country's retired strongman, U Ne Win, maintains a lakeside residence
behind heavy military guard.
Shortly before the announcement Saturday that free elections would be
held in Burma, official cars were seen entering Ady Road, where the
country's retired strongman, U Ne Win, maintains a lakeside residence
behind heavy military guard.
Mr. Ne Win himself has not been seen in public since he announced his
surprise resignation July 23, and it is impossible even to confirm that
he is still in Burma.
But after some initial confusion, few people in Rangoon now appear to
have any doubt that the 77-year-old former general remains as firmly in
control of the Government as he has been since he seized power in a coup
26 years ago. Growing Skepticism
Diplomats say this sense has fueled a widespread mistrust of the
Government and of the apparent concessions it is making in the face of
broad-based, nationwide protests.
On the streets of Rangoon, the diplomats find a suspicion among the
Burmese that such moves are little more than maneuvers by the men who
have manipulated them for so many years.
''Whatever changes they announce, it all means nothing as long as Ne
Win is still there,'' said a diplomat in describing the prevailing
attitude. Large Protests Continue
Underscoring this attitude, hundreds of thousands of people once
again marched in the streets of the capital today to reject the
Government's offer of the multiparty election the protesters had
Three opposition figures who have not always agreed in the past
issued a joint statement insisting that fair elections could only be
held under the supervision of a neutral interim government.
''The people have the feeling that their Government has tricked them
for too long,'' a diplomat said. ''They don't see these as concessions
but as traps.''
One of the few outsiders who has met the current Burmese leader, U
Maung Maung, was the Democratic Representative from New York, Stephen J.
Solarz. He said his visit last week convinced him that Mr. Ne Win
''continues to call the shots.''
''Virtually everybody I spoke to said he was not managing day to day
affairs, but there was the sense that no decision may be made without
his consent,'' Mr. Solarz said.
Unlike the final days of Ferdinand E. Marcos in the Philippines,
neither Mr. Solarz nor, so far as is known, any other foreign official,
has met with Mr. Ne Win in his time of crisis.
Because of this, Mr. Ne Win has isolated himself from the
international pressure that contributed to the departures of men like
Mr. Marcos when their populations turned against them.
Without such pressures, diplomats and other Burma-watchers say they
believe that Mr. Ne Win will seek to continue to exercise power through
the small group that has surrounded him since before his resignation.
Case of Sein Lwin
At the top of this group, they say, is U Sein Lwin, the former
general who was Mr. Ne Win's sergeant-major and aide in the postwar
Fourth Burma Rifles that formed his initial power base.
The closeness of the two men, between whom there is said to be a
father-son relationship, indicates that Mr. Sein Lwin was selected as a
surrogate when he succeeded Mr. Ne Win as party leader and President in
July, the diplomats said.
But his reputation as the man who carried out brutal suppression of
student protests on behalf of Mr. Ne Win aroused anger, and he was
forced by continuing demonstrations to resign after just 17 days in
His selection is seen by some diplomats as the first of a series of
blunders that demonstrate that if Mr. Ne Win is indeed, as Mr. Solarz
said, calling the shots, he is seriously misreading the national mood.
Mr. Sein Lwin was replaced by Mr. Maung Maung, one of two civilians
in the Cabinet, in what may have been an attempt to mollify the
But diplomats said his image as an honorable man and a moderate were
apparently not enough to overcome public rejection of him as a member of
Mr. Ne Win's inner circle. ''As long as the people think Ne Win is still
there, none of his front men are going to be acceptable,'' a diplomat
said. Loyalty Is Said to Pay
Mr. Ne Win has assured the loyalty of men like these over the decades
by bonds of gratitude and by outright payments of large sums of money,
which are said to have been deposited in Swiss bank accounts, according
to diplomats and Burmese exiles here.
He is also said to have provided for himself and his family - he has
married seven times, twice to the same woman - with property in Austria
and West Germany and Swiss bank accounts.
The many stories Burmese tell about Mr. Ne Win include the assertion
that he has first picks of the pearls, emeralds and rubies at the annual
gem auction in Rangoon.
Though the extent of his wealth is not known, some Burmese say,
probably with a good measure of exaggeration, that he could
singlehandedly pay off the national debt of $4.4 billion.
During a general strike and protest earlier this month, officials of
the Foreign Trade Bank said his associates were trying to withdraw a sum
variously put at $3 million and $6 million.
While assuring the loyalty of the men around him, Mr. Ne Win has
methodically removed any of his associates who might have become a
threat to him. Two such men, U Aung Gyi, a former brigadier, and U Tin
Oo, a former Defense Minister, are now leaders of the opposition.
Mr. Ne Win has similarly assured the vital loyalty of the top ranks
of the military, experts on Burma said.
''The top commanders in the army are all like Ne Win's children,''
said Bertil Lintner, a Bangkok-based Swedish journalist who is an expert
on Burma. ''He has fed them and raised them since they were young.''
Seen as Father Figure
In the population at large, one Burmese exile said, Mr. Ne Win is
seen as a godfather, but a capricious and frightening one. ''Even though
he is so awful, he is our father and we must respect him,'' the exile
Mr. Ne Win has relinquished formal power before with no apparent
diminishing of his authority, when he gave up the Presidency but
retained the chairmanship of the single party in 1981.
His warning to his colleagues then might apply today: ''Though I will
not be in the Parliament or the Council of State, I shall be watching
from the party and when I give advice where needed, do things with
discretion. I shall continue to do things, but all those who would be
directly concerned with the practical aspects of the work should
exercise utmost caution.''
The prevailing analysis of Mr. Ne Win's resignation from the party
leadership in July is now that he saw the coming Burmese crisis and
hoped to deal with it from behind the scenes in a way that would
preserve his good name for history.
Burma Unrest: A Chronology
LEAD: The coup in Burma yesterday was preceded by months of upheaval
that began last spring. These were some of the key events:
The coup in Burma yesterday was preceded by months of upheaval
that began last spring. These were some of the key events:
March and June - Street and campus protests break out in Rangoon
and other cities; security forces kill as many as 100 demonstrators,
according to unofficial reports.
July 23 - Gen. Ne Win resigns as chairman of the Burma Socialist
Program Party and announces a referendum on one-party rule.
July 26 - Gen. Sein Lwin, a hard-line ally of General Ne Win, is
named to succeed him.
Aug. 3 - To stem continued protests, martial law is declared in
Aug. 12 - Mr. Sein Lwin resigns as Burma's leader.
Aug. 19 - U Maung Maung, a civilian, is named the new leader, but
students persist in their demand for an end to one-party rule.
Within a week, martial law and curfews are lifted, and prominent
political prisoners are released. But the protests continue.
Aug. 26 - A jail is burned and looting begins.
Sept. 9 - Military defections are reported. A former Prime
Minister, U Nu, says he is forming a provisional government.
Sept. 10 - The ruling party declares an end to its monopoly of
power and calls for multiparty elections.
Sept. 12 - Mass demonstrations reject the party plan for
elections, which have been endorsed by Parliament.
Sept. 16 - Amid huge demonstrations, the ruling party announces
changes in membership rules that would loosen the party's hold on
Sept. 17 - The opposition rejects the latest Government move;
troops fire at demonstrators.
Sept. 18 - Rangoon Radio announces a military takeover.
Burma's Army, Despite Foe, Appears to Control Capital
The Burmese Army appeared today to be consolidating its control over
the capital, Rangoon, but opposition leaders remained defiant and
diplomats said militant students might be preparing for guerrilla
Gen. Saw Maung, the leader of Sunday's military takeover, was
named Prime Minister by his own nine-member Cabinet, the Burmese
radio announced. He is the third man to head the embattled Burmese
Government in two months.
Diplomats say they believe that General Saw Maung - like his two
predecessors, U Sein Lwin and U Maung Maung - is acting on the
orders of U Ne Win, who led the country for 26 years until he
resigned his as party chief on July 23.
The diplomats, reached by telephone, said sporadic shooting could
be heard throughout the city today, though the violence that they
said had killed hundreds since Sunday had subsided. Fighting
Reported in Mandalay
They said they had heard unconfirmed reports of heavy fighting in
Mandalay, the country's second largest city, which has in effect
been under the control of students and Buddhist monks for weeks.
A military spokesman, Kyaw San, said soldiers had killed 67
people, wounded 37 and arrested 100 on Tuesday and today ''in the
course of the Government's law and order restoration work.'' The
Rangoon radio reported Tuesday that 59 people had been killed that
The figure brought the Government's count of deaths to at least
144, since Sunday, according to U Sein Win, the former editor of The
Guardian, a Burmese newspaper, who now reports for The Associated
Press. Reuters quoted a Burmese radio report listing 170 killed
since the weekend.
Western journalists have generally been barred from entering
Burma, and accurate casualty counts are impossible to obtain in the
confused and dangerous situation. Diplomats say the Government's
counts have consistently been unrealistically low. Protests From the
Reuters reported that the United States Ambassador, Burton Levin,
called for the Burmese party leadership to condemn army killings of
unarmed civilians, including women and children. It also said the
Ambassadors of France, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands and West
Germany had delivered a note to the Foreign Ministry in Rangoon that
said, ''We must protest in the strongest terms at the renewed
killing of unarmed demonstrators in defiance of respect for human
The military takeover appeared for the moment to have succeeded
in halting the anti-Government demonstrations and in subduing much
of the civilian resistance.
Gunfire was reported at the campus of Rangoon University, but
travel in the city remained dangerous and the reports could not be
The Thai authorities reported that hundreds of Burmese students
had crossed into Thailand at border towns, saying the military was
rounding up students. Opposition Figures at Homes
But leading opposition figures remained at their homes, guarded
by cordons of militant students. They issued statements saying they
rejected the new military administration.
They said that they would not take part in elections administered
by the current Government and that although street demonstrations
had ceased, strikes would continue.
An aide to one opposition leader, U Tin Oo, said he was at home
awaiting a response from General Saw Maung to a request to meet him
together with the other main opposition figures, Aung San Suu Kyi
and Aung Gyi.
The military has moved back to Oct. 3 its deadline for striking
workers to return to their jobs. Diplomats said that date had now
become the latest in a series of confrontational deadlines set by
both sides over the last six weeks. BLOCK LEADERS ORGANIZED
NEW DELHI, Sept. 21 (Special to The New York Times) - Burmese
students and other protest leaders have organized networks in almost
every block of Rangoon to provide food to demonstrators and pass on
information about Government movements, travelers arriving here say.
''Every area has a leader who organizes food, there are different
leaders for different organizations and they get their supplies from
the business people,'' one of the travelers, Dari Keivom, the wife
of the ranking Indian diplomat in Rangoon, said today.
October 15, 1991
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the founder of modern Burma, always
understood that she had a special obligation to her father, U Aung San,
martyred by an assassin's bullet in 1947 when she was only 2 years old, and
to her country. But for many years the nature of that responsibility was
unclear to her.
In 1988, however, after nearly 30 years of isolationist, autocratic rule
under U Ne Win, a revolution swept her up and pushed her forward, until she
became its leader and most potent symbol. Paradoxically, she is even more
powerful today, after more than two years of forced silence and isolation
under a repressive military regime.
When she married her British husband, Prof. Michael Aris, in 1972, "I
made him promise that if there was ever a time I had to go back to my
country, he would not stand in my way," she said in an interview in December
1988 in Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon. "And he promised."
Listening then in the house of her mother at 46 University Avenue, where
Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi would be detained incommunicado starting in July 1989,
Professor Aris broke in to say: "That's true. She made me promise."
Separated From Her Family
But it is unlikely that Professor Aris could have understood at the time
the personal cost of the commitment and courage that would earn this year's
Nobel Peace Prize for Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Aris and their two teen-age
sons have not been allowed to visit Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi since Christmas
1989, and the Burmese authorities have tried to play on her love of family
to persuade her to abandon her political goals and leave the country
At the same time, the military has publicly scorned her marriage to a
foreigner, a national of Burma's former colonial power, and made other
derogatory remarks about her private life.
Aung San Suu Kyi was born in Rangoon on June 19, 1945. She left Burma in
1960, when her mother was named Ambassador to India. After studying in India
she attended Oxford University in Britain, where she took a degree in
politics, philosophy, and economics, and met Professor Aris, a scholar of
Tibetan anthropology. He is currently a visiting professor at Harvard
After their marriage in 1972, they lived in Bhutan, where he was a tutor
to the royal family, and in Japan, where she was a visiting scholar at Kyoto
University, before returning to in 1974 to Oxford, where her husband
accepted a teaching position. Returned to Burma in '88
It was family that drew Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi (pronounced awng sahn soo
chee) back to Burma, now called Myanmar, in 1988.
She and her husband had made a home at Oxford. But when her mother, Daw
Khin Kyi, became gravely ill, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi returned to Burma in
April 1988 to nurse her. She slept by her side every night for four months,
as protests against the regime of Mr. Ne Win gathered pace.
Her involvement was gradual. "I obviously had to think about it," she
said in the 1988 interview. "But my instinct was, 'This is not a time when
anyone who cares can stay out.' As my father's daughter, I felt I had a duty
to get involved."
She also felt her mother would have understood. "I'm sure this is what
she would have wanted," Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi said. She recalled that her
mother was attending a meeting when she was informed that her 9-year-old son
had died in a drowning accident. "She stayed and finished her work," she
After a harsh crackdown by the armed forces in August and September of
that year, in which more than 3,000 protesters are estimated to have been
killed, the military regime promised elections and a gradual return to
democracy, which had been stifled since a 1962 coup by Mr. Ne Win.
Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, a politician virtually by chance in the manner of
President Corazon C. Aquino in the Philippines, came to articulate the
aspirations of ordinary Burmese. Elegant and well-spoken in Burmese and
English, she often demonstrated her courage, facing down armed soldiers who
threatened to disrupt her rallies.
As secretary general of a newly formed National League for Democracy, she
described her political philosophy as a continuation of her father's hopes
for a democratic, progressive Burma, at peace with its ethnic minorities and
She portrayed herself and the League as an alternative to Mr. Ne Win's
distortion of her father's legacy. But when she began to criticize Mr. Ne
Win directly, she was put under house arrest, disqualified from running in
any election and kept incommunicado.
Despite the arrest and disqualification of most of the leadership of the
National League for Democracy, it won nearly 82 percent of the seats at
stake in elections finally held in late May 1990. Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi was
the party's central, silent symbol.
Startled, the military regime effectively repudiated the results. It set
extremely complicated conditions, including another round of elections.
Her trademark short jacket and Kachin longyi, or sarong, have become chic
fashion statements in a country where overtly political ones are dangerous.
Many Burmese wear miniature pins bearing her photograph, and young people,
especially in the countryside, often wear T-shirts showing the symbol of her
party, a peasant's hat. 'For My Father'
"I'm doing this for my father," she said in the 1988 interview. "I'm
quite happy that they see me as my father's daughter. My only concern is
that I prove worthy of him."
In an essay she wrote to be included in a volume published in honor of
her father, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi gives readers a glimpse of the mettle that
has sustained her. "Fearlessness may be a gift," she wrote, "but perhaps
more precious is the courage acquired through endeavor, courage that comes
from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one's actions,
courage that could be described as 'grace under pressure' -- grace renewed
repeatedly in the face of harsh, unremitting pressure."
Before they married, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi told her husband that her name
meant, "A Bright Collection of Strange Victories." To someone who was
tending her family in an academic town only four years ago, the Nobel Peace
Prize is a significant addition to that collection, but it is likely to
bring little pleasure to her unless it helps to shorten the suffering of
Even upon the news of his death, few people in Burma dared speak Ne Win's
name. On the streets of the crumbling capital of Rangoon, word of his
passing at the age of 91 circulated in whispers. "The Old Man,'' "the Puppet
Master,'' or simply "No. 1'' was finally gone. The ruling generals who keep
the country under lock and key—the very men Ne Win nurtured and promoted to
power—offered no comment and failed to attend his hastily arranged funeral.
Ne Win, the man who brought Burma back from the brink of disintegration only
to preside over its ruin, died friendless, though history will hardly forget
him. "He was the most important and influential figure in Burma since its
independence,'' says Professor David Steinberg of Georgetown University.
"But he was a disaster for his country."
Ruthless, licentious and seemingly on the cusp of madness, Ne Win ruled
the country from 1962 to 1988, wielding absolute power brutally, and
sometimes bizarrely. Even after stepping down, his choke hold on the
national psyche remained so unshakable that many Burmese believed nothing
could change—not military rule, not the repression of democratic icon Aung
San Suu Kyi and ethnic minorities, nor the country's ceaseless and abject
poverty—until he no longer walked the earth. Yet when he finally expired,
his passing seemed to portend little for long-suffering Burma. That's
because Ne Win, in terms of influence, actually died last March, when the
man who saw plots everywhere during his rule was himself suspected of
plotting against the government. His son-in-law and three grandsons were
subsequently convicted of treason. One of Asia's cruelest strongmen, feeble
and broken, died while under house arrest.
Ne Win was a child of mixed Chinese-Burmese descent, the son of a tax
surveyor and small businesswoman, although in his heyday he would sometimes
dress as a Burmese king. The Japanese trained him to fight the British
colonizers, and he chose to keep his nom de guerre, which meant Glorious
Sun. (His real name was Shu Maung.) Fellow freedom fighter Aung San, father
of Aung San Suu Kyi, became the leader of the young rebels. The two were
very different. Aung San was moral, thoughtful and straightforward; Ne Win
was cunning, calculating and passionate about drinking, gambling and women.
Aung San became Burma's shining hope at the end of World War II, until he
was assassinated in July 1947. Then it was Ne Win's turn. He rose to become
Commander in Chief of the army and took power in 1962. He then devised his
so-called "Burmese Way to Socialism,'' a political doctrine grounded in
xenophobia, puritanism and superstition. The country was sealed off to
foreigners, businesses were nationalized and most entertainment banned.
Burma—once prosperous with abundant timber and gemstones, a literate
workforce and booming rice exports—began to rot in tropical isolation.
The people suffered far more than their leader, of course. After he
banned horse racing, Ne Win was to be seen wagering at the Ascot races in
England. Likewise, while preaching moderation, he married seven times
(including an Italian actress and a descendant of the last Burmese royal
family). He eschewed public ceremony, and at times was a recluse. Some
doubted his mental health. He regularly visited a psychiatrist in Vienna
during the 1960s. To disarm his enemies he practiced yedaya chay, a Burmese
system of charms and numerology. His belief that nine was an auspicious
number, however, led to his demise. In 1987, he removed from circulation
much of the nation's money supply to introduce new notes in the
denominations of 45 and 90 kyats—because they were divisible by nine—thus
wiping out the savings of millions. By March 1988, students were flooding
the streets in protest. On July 23, 1988 Ne Win announced he was stepping
down. More violence followed, but also elections in 1990, won by Suu Kyi's
party. She had boldly told the military: "You don't have to listen to Ne
Win.'' She was wrong: she has spent most of the years since 1989 under house
In his retirement, Ne Win still held sway with Burma's ruling military
junta, but that relationship evaporated in March. Some say he drove around
Rangoon at night, a haunted figure surveying the capital's empty streets and
decrepit colonial buildings. His legacy is poverty, paranoia, fear of the
outside world—and a lost half-century that will haunt Burma for many years