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The newly formed Rangoon University Students Union will call on the Burmese government to rebuild the Student’s Union building that was blown up by the military under dictator Gen. Ne Win’s rule in 1962.
At its launch event on 16 December, the group, whose stated objective is to campaign for students’ rights, said they will soon release a statement with their stance on the controversial National Education Bill.
Rangoon University maintains a highly symbolic status in Burma, particularly among students.
The Student’s Union building was blown up by the military during the July 7 Rangoon University protests in 1962, when students demonstrated against unjust university rules.
The demonstrations saw dozens of students being shot dead by government forces, and though the exact number remains unknown it is believed to be in the hundreds. The military brought the protests to an end by dynamiting the Student’s Union building where many protestors had been taking refuge.
Last July, students organised a peaceful demonstration at the university to mark the 52nd anniversary of the demonstration. The group carried flags, banners and laid wreaths of flowers, remembering those who had lost their lives 52 years ago.
In his visit to Burma in November, US President Barack Obama gave a speech at Rangoon University where he addressed the political reforms in Burma. He spoke to students about the importance of bringing about positive social change in their country as Burma’s democratic reforms continue to receive international scrutiny.
Considering the legacy of the 1962 protests and symbolism of the building, if the government were to rebuild the Student’s Union due to student-lead pressure this would be seen by many as the Burmese government’s commitment to renewed discourse with student activist groups.