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Burma ‘not yet independent’: 1948 veterans

Veteran politicians who took part in the campaign to liberate Burma from British colonialism in 1948 have urged Burmese to unite to bring about a complete end to lingering dictatorial rule in the country.

A group of elders involved in the independence struggle 64 years ago gathered in Rangoon today to mark Independence Day. One of them, Ohn Maung, told DVB that the people of Burma were yet to taste full freedom.

“For freedom from the military dictatorship system, national independence, peace and democracy, we all need to work together,” said the 86-year-old, who was a politician at the time of independence.

Today’s ceremony was held at the house of Thakin Thein Pe, who was a member of the Anti-Fascist Organisation and acquaintance of independence leader General Aung San, who led the effort to end 124 years of British rule. His daughter, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was also in attendance today, said in her speech however that there was little reason to doubt Burma would eventually gain full democracy.

A separate event was held at the headquarters of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in Rangoon. She told the crowd there that devotion had driven the 1948 heroes, and that must be mirrored by today’s pro-democracy forces.

“There were very strong beliefs and devotion driving our independence leaders’ struggle for independence. They believed that every person deserved their own freedom and their devotion was to show the world that they deserved it,” she said.

“We need to hold firmly to these beliefs and devotions. We need to carry on with the devotion that everyone deserves their freedom, they behaves as they deserve it and they are capable of showing the world that they deserve it.”

Suu Kyi is preparing to contest a parliamentary seat in the 1 April by-elections, and has praised the new government for the reformist measures it has enacted since it came to power in March last year.

Her enthusiasm is not echoed across the board, however. Htay Myint, a veteran politician from 1948, told DVB today that, “We are seeing more and more that the situation is getting even worse than under the colonialists … This is very sad.”

In his speech today, which was read by Vice President Sai Mauk Kham, President Thein Sein appeared to reinforce concerns that it is the army, locally referred to as the Tatmadaw, continues to heavily influence the country’s political arena.

“It was the Tatmadaw that directed the nation towards building a peaceful, modern and developed democratic one,’ AFP quoted him as saying, adding that it was the army that “took step-by-step measures for writing a constitution in order to practise multi-party democracy”.

Conflicts continue to rage in Burma’s border regions, while the government still refuses to release the majority of the country’s more than 1,500 political prisoners. Western governments have said the release of all jailed activists is a prerequisite for ending sanctions on Burma.

Additional reporting by Aye Nai

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