Student leader urges India's support for restoring democracy

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Guwahati, Sep 21 (UNI) Myanmar's student leader Kyaw Than, who had been living in India in exile since 1989, today urged the people of India to mobilise pressure on its leaders to help Myanmar in restoring democracy, ''after India went soft on the military junta since 1994 following a shift in India's foreign policy.'' Talking to reporters here, Mr Than said, ''India is the only secular and democratic neighbour of Burma and it was the first country to denounce the military regime during the time of Prime Minister Narashima Rao in the early 1990s.'' ''But the present Foreign Minister of this same India, Pranab Mukherjee, terms the utter violation of human rights in Burma as an internal affair. It is totally reckless and disappoints the people of Burma,'' he added.

He said the people of Burma have'' high expectations from India in helping build a democratic Burma, but the present policy of the Indian government was in sharp contradiction of the policies and ideologies propagated by Jawaharlal Nehru.'' Mr Than said, We urge the people of India to ask their leaders to help Burma in turning back to democracy as a peaceful and stable Burma will also be helpful for India's interests.

Mr Than had participated in the Burma Uprising of 1988 as a student and had arrived in India in January 1989 to mobilize international support for the country. He is the president of the All Burma Students' League (ABSL), the umbrella group of all splinter students' groups of Burma, and Student and Youth Congress of Burma.

He clarified that the new name of 'Myanmar' was forced into common use by the junta rulers and the people of the country preferred the name of 'Burma', which was indicative of their historic roots, because of which he referred to his country as 'Burma'.

Commenting on the shift in India's stand on the military junta in Myanmar, Mr Than said it is an outcome of the competition between the countries of the world and Myanmar was caught between India and China in a display of strength.

''We cannot understand how mature democracy like India is playing such trivial games for small benefits,'' he added.

The military rulers had always been close to the Chinese leaders and about 70 per cent of the country's economy was controlled by people of Chinese origin, he pointed out, adding that in such a scenario India cannot hope to gain much influence over the junta leadership in Myanmar.

He said, India's interests will be better served if it helps Burma in restoring democracy.

The student leader said a mass uprising was in the offing in his motherland as was evident in the protest rally on August 19 last against rise in fuel prices, in which about 300 people were arrested and many were incommunicado since then.

He said the religious leaders, the Buddhist monks, who have a great influence in Burmese society, have now started taken the lead and it was positive sign for restoration of democracy in the country. Myanmar had tasted democracy for a short time after it gained independence from British rule in January, 1948, to 1962, when the democratic government was overthrown by the military. The 1988 uprising had signalled return of democracy but the military suppressed it brutally.

Mr Than also visualised a problem for leading the new movement against the junta as its best known leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was under house arrest. The other leaders who had played important roles in 1988 were in prison and were fast aging.


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