Information on demonstrations in September 1988 and a student group known as the ABSDF, Rangoon, Burma [BUR0840]

A series of demonstrations involving students took place in Rangoon during the month of September 1988. Following the military coup that brought Saw Maung to power on 18 September 1988, student demonstrations were violently supressed by the armed forces. According to some reports, more than one thousand deaths occurred when troops opened fire on the demonstrating crowds. Four hours after taking power, Saw Maung established a strict nighttime curfew and banned all gatherings of more than four people. It is reported that participants in small demonstrations which took place outside Rangoon following the imposition of the curfew were allegedly detained by government forces.

Thousands of students left the country fearing reprisals by the government; many fled to Thailand, from where they were later forcibly returned. Various reports indicate that students returning to Burma under a government amnesty were detained and tortured; at least one died soon after his release. Street demonstrations in Burma are reported to have resumed six months after the events following the military coup of September 1988, but on a smaller scale (see the attached source: "On the march again", from Far Eastern Economic Review, 13 April 1989, p. 19).

No information on a student organization named ABSDF is available to the IRBDC at present. However, students representing most of the country's universities met at the Institute of Medicine in Rangoon on September 12, 1988, and agreed to disband all existing organizations and to form a new united front group, the All-Burma Students' Organization, headed by U Min Zay Ya and a 114-member committee.

In another source, reference is made to the Rangoon-based "All-Burma Federation of Students' Unions" (ABFSU) which, in October 1988, was led by a student known as Min Ko Naing. Although the ABFSU is reported to have contacts with Burmese rebel groups, it registered as a political party in late 1988 to participate in any future elections.

Attached are copies of documents which provide more details on the demonstrations and military coup of September 1988 and the events that followed. They include:
-Burma: the 18 September 1988 military takeover and its aftermath, (London: Amnesty International, december 1988).
-"Opening up to the World", in Asiaweek, 3 February 1989, pp. 27-29.
-Keesing's Record of World Events, October 1988, pp. 36224-5.
-"On the march again", in Far Eastern Economic Review, 13 April 1989, p. 19
-"Inside Bloody Burma", in Newsweek, 3 October 1988, pp. 30-32.
-"The students struggle on", in Asiaweek, 28 October 1988, pp. 28-30.