A prominent student army formed in the wake of mass protests in 1988 marked its 22-year anniversary this week with calls to maintain political and military pressure on the Burmese junta.
Armed struggle continues to play an important role in Burma’s fight for democracy, said Than Khe, chairman of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF). At its height, the group comprised some 10,000 students who had fled to the jungle to take up arms following the uprising.
“By looking at the political process in Burma, we see that ethnic peoples’ fight to protect their rights fall into the category of armed struggle. The military dictatorship must be eradicated and armed struggled such as these are needed for this.”
He said that the lack of political decision-making made the multiple ceasefire agreements between the junta and armed ethnic groups “meaningless”. Continued pressure on ethnic armies to assimilate into the Burmese army meant that “armed struggle is not finished yet”.
The ABSDF, which was formed on 1 November 1988, fought alongside the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) in an effort to topple the regime. Many of its members now live in exile in Thailand.
Than Khe said that efforts to create dialogue with the ruling generals, who are preparing for elections on 7 November, were futile. “It doesn’t work to just make demands, whether under the banner of dialogue or national reconciliation. There has to be work beyond [just words]”
He added that national reconciliation is impossible without political, military and diplomatic pressure on the Burmese junta. The ABSDF has diminished in size since its heyday but still maintains a presence along Burma’s border with Thailand.