Open Schools Campaign
Campaign Committee for Open School Statement 2000
Students have always been deeply involved in Burma’s politics. The students of Burma also initiated the pro-democracy
movement of Burma. Due to the outspoken and rebellious nature of the students, the military regime
has viewed students as an obstruction to their totalitarian rule. Oppressing students’ movements have
been a top priority for the regime and they have been using every tactic possible to silence the students’
The schools closure in Burma is an example of the junta trying to abolish students from
assembling. The Education system of Burma has rapidly deteriorated after the junta came into power. Since
1988 until now, the major universities of Burma have only been opened for thirty months. The major
universities have been exclusively closed since December of 1996 until now.
It is a frightening ordeal for Burma when considering its future. Schools have been virtually closed so
often that the number of educated people within Burma is decreasing. The curriculum has been changed so
often to fit the government’s needs that the students’ standards of education have declined. The Burmese
Education system has deteriorated so much it is no longer recognized by the world’s standards. It is
essential that in order to ensure a bright future for Burma; the Education system must be improved. In order
to improve Burma’s Education system, the schools of Burma need to be re-opened and its standards raised
to meet the international level.
We the Campaign Committee for Open School have vowed to work on behalf of Burma’s future generations and
for oppressed students everywhere to open the schools of Burma and improve the future Education system. The
Campaign Committee for Open School consists representatives of Assistance Association for
Political Prisoners (AAPP), All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), Burmese Women’s Union (BWU),
Democratic Party for New Society (DPNS), National League for Democracy-Youth (Liberated Area) [NLD-Youth
(LA)], and the Students and Youth Congress of Burma (SYCB).
The Committee for Open Schools believes that because of the oppressive SPDC regime, the future of Burma has
become very bleak. The future of a country is its youth, and education is a way of ensuring the youth’s
future. However, in Burma the youth have been denied their universal right to Education, merely because
they are viewed as a threat to the military’s totalitarian rule. Abuses of Human Rights have gone on
too long in Burma; everyday people live in fear of being crushed merely for their beliefs. The Committee
believes that the world needs to know about Burma and the Junta’s inhumane treatment of its people. We want
to shed the light on Burma’s bleak future and its youth. The only way to ensure the youth of Burma’s
future would be if the schools were re-opened and the educational system improved. This is the reason why we
are calling upon colleagues and friends around the world, to join hands with us in this cause for
Campaign Committee for Open School
P.O. Box 132
Mae Ping Post Office
Chiang Mai, Thailand 50301
Phone: +66 53 233-043/ +66 1 950-9533/ +66 1 961-6566
Date: 28 April, 2000.
For Further information please contact:
Open Our Schools, Enlighten Our Future
Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history
of liberty is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is history of limitations of governmental
power, not the increase of it.” (Nadia Boulanger)
90 per cent of the universities and colleges in Burma have been closed since 1988. Some of them were opened
on and off in last twelve years. Students, a country’s future leaders are yearning for education under the
military junta known as State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in Burma. From 1988 until now, the
schools and universities of Burma have been opened for only thirty months.
Since the bloody military coup in 1988, the junta has been systematically ruining the education system of
Burma. Students are the most effected class in the country because not only have they been denied of
their education, but they also have been denied of fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and
The military main objective has been to prolong its power. Militarization has been top priority for the
SPDC instead of providing education for the population. Students have always been viewed as a
threat to the military regime and are considered the most vocal group of opposition. Therefore, the
military is sacrificing the youth’s future in order to prolong its tyrannical reign. Since the closure of
universities, colleges and schools, the regime has opened several military institutes in order to produce
well-qualified and loyal personnel. By opening these facilities, the military has admitted the poor state
of the educational situation. These institutes were prioritized, well equipped and despite the closure of
other schools, they have remained opened. Due to these circumstances, there have been only two options for
Burma’s youth: either join the army and receive education or stay idle with no future. Although small
numbers of colleges were reopened in 1998-99, students are forced to attend the classes under the closed
surveillance by the Military Intelligence. All students had to sign the agreement in which they
promised that they would not involve in any political activities or would be expelled.
Educational rights of students are as crucial to the young’s existence as air is to the breathing lung. In
Burma, the educational system has been deteriorating beyond comprehension that several generations have
been lost. From 1988 until now, the schools of Burma have been opened for only a mere thirty months. The
closures of schools have been a systematical objective of the military to deprive the youth of knowledge
thereby sealing the fate of the students?future.
It is obvious that the Burmese Education System has been deteriorating over the years. However, there is
no room in the military’s agenda to improve the educational situation because all the universities are
closed. If we were to implement any improvements or change whatsoever, the first step essentially needed
would be to open our schools. Several generations have been lost under this brutal military regime, please
don’t let another generation suffer the atrocities anymore. Join us in taking back our educational rights
because we need to enlighten our future by opening our schools.
Why Do Students of Burma Need Your Help
“Any existence deprived of freedom is a kind of death.”
(General Michel Aoun)
Students have no freedom of speech and expression. like other oppressed people of Burma. There is also no
room for criticism of the brutal regime.
SPDC is closing universities as a mean of silencing the voice of youth and preventing any activities
calling for a democratic change.
The junta’s main objective has been to maintain its power no matter what the consequences are. Youth and
Education of Burma are not viewed as crucial to the country but instead as a potential threat. The SPDC’s
lack of concern can be demonstrated in the way they allot their National Budget. 41.1% of the 1999 budget
has been dispersed towards Ministry of Defense while a mere 7.7% is dedicated towards the Ministry of
Education. The substantial amount of funds towards the fuelling of Burma’s arm forces is ludicrous for a
country with no external threats.
Even out of the trivial 7.7%, majority of the funds is dedicated towards construction of new facilities
and renovating buildings rather than supporting teachers and providing proper school equipment. The
military’s motive for the construction have mainly been a political one, for it was effort to break up
student solidarity by keeping students geographically dispersed throughout the country. Schools are never
adequate to the needs of the students and are poorly equipped. There are never enough textbooks for the
students let alone laboratory equipment and reference materials.
Lack of education results in lack of knowledge. The regime has purposely not promoted education in order
to put people in the darkness deprived of knowledge. The SPDC has implemented changes to the curriculum
several times. After the 1988 uprising, the SPDC shorten the one year school term to a mere four months
in order to graduate as many delayed students as possible. Shortening the academic terms and
curriculums seriously compromise the standards of education.
The military regime has admitted themselves as to the poor state of the Burmese Education system. In
order for them to produce well-qualified and loyal personnel, the SPDC opened several military
institutes. The current students of Burma have only two choices; its either they join the army and receive
education or remain idle while the schools remain closed. The military institutes have been prioritized
and are well equipped. These schools have remained open even though the general universities have
“Common sense and education are highly compatible; in fact, neither is worth much without the other.”
(Donald G. Smith)
Due to the current system, education is no longer viewed as a necessity by today’s youth in Burma. It is
a dangerous sign for the future of Burma where today’s youth is no longer value education. In a civil
society, education is given the first priority as an investment for the future generation. The current
situation of Burma is leading the country to be unable to build up the civil society.
Some students, who can afford to study abroad, attend school but the majority of the youth aren’t as
fortunate. It is estimated that between 800,000 and 1,000,000 migrant workers from Burma are working
illegally in Thailand. Among them 60% is below the age of 25 according the research conducted by the Burmese
Women’s Union. The country is facing brain-drain due to the young people leaving the country to pursue
other options such as work.
Academics, scholars and professors who are unable to withstand the suppressive circumstances in Burma have
left to go abroad. Those who are remaining in Burma are facing extreme restrictive rule by the
authorities. Rather than teaching the students, the SPDC assigns them to monitor and report the political
activities of the students.
The current education system is no longer promoting knowledge and wisdom but a medium to promote
propaganda and the regime’s objectives. Students are not encourage to use their knowledge instead must
comply with the regime’s educational guidelines.
Cost of education has also been increased severely. However, a university education no longer guarantees a
better work opportunity after graduation. This is very discouraging for people to spend a substantial amount
of money only to attend school where there is no promise of a potential career. Many instead decides to
work than go to school.
“The love of liberty is the love of others; the love of power is the love of ourselves.”
In the history of modern Burma, students are symbolized as patriots who are righteous and pure with
love for their country surpasses all including life itself. Since the time of British colonization,
Burmese students have always been the vanguards of the country’s freedom and liberty. The first student
protest began in 1920 opposing the Rangoon University Act that the British government enforced, in order to
discriminate against the students and to prolong their colonial rule. This University Boycott received
overwhelming support from people all across Burma.
Following this event, students represented the voice and hope of the people and it led them to play an
instrumental role in the struggle for Independence from British colonialism as well as from the Japanese
Imperialism. Burma gained her independence from British in 1948 and
parliamentary democracy system was introduced. Soon after the independence, civil war broke out.
Parliamentary democracy did not last long as General Ne Win staged a military coup in 1962. Burma’s
parliamentary system was replaced with absolute military rule. Once again the students of Burma
bravely opposed this military take-over. The military brutally cracked down on the students?demonstrations
and tried to eliminate student activism by jailing many as well as outlawing student unions. The one and
only historical student union building of the Rangoon University campus was blown up with explosives by the
military on July 7, 1962 while student leaders were having a meeting inside.
After this incident, the student movement went underground under the military’s totalitarian rule.
However, as time progressed new generations of students grew and experienced the injustice as those
before them. No matter how oppressive it had been, students took every opportunity to stand up against
the military rule and fight for justice and for their rights. Following the protest of 1962, series of
student protests took place in 1964, 1969, 1974, 1975, and 1976. These student protests rose in conjunction
with other people’s movement such as labor movement and peace movement. All these civil protests were
suppressed abruptly by the military resulting in the student movement going further underground in 1976.
Since then, Burma remained silent under the rule of military dictatorship.
Since General Ne Win’s regime introduced Burma to the Burmese Way to Socialism, the educational system
together with economic and political systems began to deteriorate. The educational policy was frequently
changed and the standard of education declined as a result of the regime’s mismanagement, lack of
perception and its close-door policy of the country to the outside world. The situation eventually led to
frustration primarily on the part of students and youth.
In 1987, the government’s depreciation of several well-circulated bank notes led to a tremendous
economic hardship for people from all walks of life. Students, already frustrated by the system, were
outraged by this action and stood up again for the people by staging demonstrations. In March of 1988, a dispute took place between a group
of students from the Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT) and some local youths nearby the campus that was
resolved unjustly by the authorities. Students from RIT were outraged with the authorities came together
on the campus to protest. Instead of resolving the conflict, the riot police surrounded the campus
without any just cause and opened fire into the student crowd. Several students including Ko Phone Maw
and Ko Soe Naing were killed as a result. This incident eventually led the students all across the
country to join hands and call for the end of military dictatorship and for democracy and human rights.
Sooner people from all walks of life also joined the students?call for a General Strike on 8.8.88 (known
as the four eights) and peaceful demonstrations spread all over the country.
However, another generation of military came into power in September 1988 and brutally crushed down the
demonstrations by killing more than three thousand peaceful protesters including young children.
Thousands of students were detained, imprisoned or vanished without a trace. Thousands went into exile
crossing the border of neighboring countries, in order to keep up with their fight for democracy and human
rights. The military regime currently known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) called for
a multiparty democracy and held general elections in 1990. However, to this day the SPDC refuses to honor
the election results in which the National League for Democracy won the majority with 82% of the seats.
Closure of Universities
Universities were closed in June of 1988. They were reopened in September 1991, so the high school
graduates of 1987-88 were allowed to attend classes. However, a strike on December 11, 1991 in support of
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi receiving Nobel Peace Award again led to the closure of universities. In June of 1992,
students from the class of ?1 were allowed to take their exams, but as soon as the exams were over, the
schools were closed again. Towards the end of 1992, universities were opened again but only for four
months. In order to get through as many delayed students to graduate; the school term of one year was
shortened to a mere four-month period. The educational standard was seriously comprised as a
After the water festival of April 1993, universities were reopened in order to allow the high school
graduates of 1991 to attend the university but as before, after four months, the school term was over
for the whole year. Like its predecessor, the 1994/1995 school year lasted only for four months and then
the Institutions were closed again. When the military opened the universities in September of 1996, students
protested against the unstable education system as well as to request for students rights to be safeguarded by the students unions. This time the
students?activism went on until December 12, 1996 when the military regime crushed the protests and
again closed the universities. From 18th to 25th August 1998, the junta ordered the students to take an
exam in the townships, but not at the school. Several hundreds of students staged strikes on August 14, but
the exams were carried out.
Fearing protest from students, the military has closed the universities,
which remains shut to this day.
How You Can Support Us
1. Join this campaign and spread this information through educational secessions as well as to the
2. Organize your local community at grassroots level
including Student Unions, local organizations such as
Women’s groups, Church groups, along with local
activists to stage mass campaign aimed at opening the
schools of Burma all across the country.
3. Perform speaking tours at your local schools,
colleges, and universities to participate in the ‘Open
4. Set a campaign date in your region to carry out
awareness raising activities.
5. Conduct letter campaigns and petitions to your
local and central government officials to pressure the
military junta to open our schools.
6. Write to the United Nations, special investigator
in charge of Education, requesting mediation on
Educational changes inside Burma.
7. If corporations such as TOTAL and UNOCAL are
collaborating and trading with the junta, they are
prolonging the military’s legitimize rule. Exercise
your right to protest these trade investments by
launching boycott campaigns.
8. Join us and participate in the activities of Global
There is a list on Burma Education and it can be subscribed to at:
We urge everyone to subscribe so that you will better
understand the education system of Burma and this
Excerpts regarding Education and closure of the School
“5. Expresses its grave concern:
(b) That, despite the partial reopening of some
courses, most institutions of higher education have
remained closed for political reasons for over three
UNCHR: Text of 2000 Human Rights Resolution on Myanmar
” We are going to get poorer in terms of human
resources. This is mainly because this regime pays so
very little attention to the education of our people.
For the military regime, the most important thing is
to keep their hold on power, not to lose their grip on
power. In order to keep their grip on power they are
prepared to sacrifice the future of our young people.
Universities in Burma have been shut over the last few
years. Some universities, some faculties were opened,
reopened for a short period. Some are opened at the
moment. But in general the universities of Burma
remain shut. There is also the dangerous development
that members of the armed forces are educated
separately. Medical colleges and engineering colleges
are kept opened for members of the armed forces while
the civilian population is deprived of higher
education. This does not augur well for the future of
We will become a house divided. We will become a
nation made up of two classes, the military elite and
the rest. This does not augur well either for the
Aung San Suu Kyi: Message to the UN Commission on
Human Rights (56th Session)
“As politics and education are inseparable, so are
democracy and student affairs. The closure of
universities and colleges since 1996 was an immense
national loss. The government should resolve the
students’ affairs through dialogue and negotiations,”
Excerpt from the NLD statement on National Day
“The current student unrest proves the regime is not
sincere in its desire to effectively solve the
country’s social crisis, particularly in education.
Whenever they deal with international
pressure, the regime is clearly fishing for quid pro
quo benefits of an up front financial nature. Finally
these superficial quick fixes turn out to be failures
and in some cases damage the situation.”
U Maung Maung Aye
General Secretary, National Council of Union of Burma
(7.2.2000: Excerpt from the statement regarding
student demonstration after opening of the Government
“The ABSDF strongly condemns the university closures
in Burma. These closures constitute the regime’s
desperate attempts to put down student demonstrations,
instead of responding to underlying problems. The
ABSDF therefore demands that all universities be
reopened, and that basic student rights, including the
right to assembly and the right to free expression, be
respected. The ABSDF supports the students’ calls for
better education. ” We believe that education is a
vital investment in Burma’s future, especially given
the effects of globalization”,
Aung Thu Nyein, General Secretary of ABSDF.
Excerpt from the statement of All Burma Students’
Democratic Front. (6.2.2000)
“Presently, the military regime has complete control
of the education within Burma, and has been actively
implementing a military education in support of their
military machine, with its overwhelming bureaucracy.
They are successfully cultivating a military society
by opening only military universities, while the
civilian universities must remain closed
Excerpt from the statement of All Burma Federation of
Student Unions. (2.12.99)
[……] Education is also a major concern. Official statistics
indicate that a quarter of school age children never even enroll in primary school, and that drop out rates
are very high. Of those who begin the primary education program, only a third complete the full 5
Published budget figures show that per capita spending
on the military is 9 times that of health services and
twice that of education services, and the trends have
Education.. As I mentioned earlier, low enrolment in
primary education is a serious concern. It is
impossible to provide good quality education services
with the substantial erosion in education spending
over the past decade, Current government spending in
education as a share of national income is among the
lowest in the world. Official data shows that real
public spending per child has fallen from about 1200
Kyats per child (5-9 years) in 1990/91 to a dismal 100
Kyats in 1999/2000. Education financing is further
confounded by the lack of affordability at the
household level. The cost barrier is compounded by the
poor quality of infrastructure and little adaptability
of schooling (including schedules and curricula) to
* A number of long-standing, and well-known, basic
issues need to be addressed to improve education
outcomes in Myanmar:
i) reversing the trend of declining public resource
allocations for primary education;
ii) exempting the poorest children from school fees
and other substantial contributions while providing
additional support to help cover such direct costs of
schooling, as textbooks and uniforms;
iii) developing flexible school hours to enable
participation by children who need to contribute to
iv) increasing teacher salaries in real terms, and
v) reviewing transfer and departmental policies that
encourage teachers to move out of rural areas.
Excerpt from the World Bank Report printed in
December 18, 1999 edition of International Herald
1. Everyone has the right to education. Education
shall be free, at least in the elementary and
fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be
compulsory. Technical and professional education shall
be made generally available and higher education shall
be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
2. Education shall be directed to the full development
of the human personality and to the strengthening of
respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It
shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship
among all nations, racial or religious groups, and
shall further the activities of the United Nations for
the maintenance of peace.
3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of
education that shall be
given to their children.?
The right to education: Universal Declaration of Human
Rights Article 26.
The situation in Burma is getting worse, and I would
like to point out only one thing, because in Burma
today everything is in a war situation, Economy, Human
Rights violation, political repression.
But what I would like to say is very important, in the
sense it is the future of Burma. The young people in
Burma have now no chance to take part in educational
activities. The schools have been closed since 1996
December. And we still don’t know how or when they
will be open again. So this we would like the
international community to know about, the real
situation in Burma.
The Burmese young people and we would like to support
our efforts for opening the universities and schools
Dr. Sein Win, Prime Minister of Exile Government of
Transcript from Open School Campaign Video Message.
Frankly I find it extraordinary that the rulers of a
country should close down the institutions that are
the guarantee of the future of the country, The
Universities, the school system.
It is extraordinary that the army in Burma close down
the universities, deny their own country, deny a
future for their own country, only for political
reasons, in trying to suppress the students, the voice
of the generations to come.
Even in the worse dictatorships around the world that
we can think of, such as in Iraq, or in North Korea, I
have never heard of a regime closing down completely a
university. This is a crime, A crime against the
country, A crime against the future of the country.?
Jose Ramos-Horta, 1996 Nobel Peace Laureate
Transcript from Open School Campaign Video Message.
Sample for Petition letter
Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt,
Secretary 1, State Peace and Development Council
Chairman, National Education Committee
c/o Director of Defense Services Intelligence (DDSI)
Ministry of Defense, Signal Pagoda Road
Dagon Post Office
Union of Myanmar
Telegrams: General Khin Nyunt, Yangon, Myanmar
Faxes: +95 1 229 50
We have an honor to address you on the subject of the
long-term closure of the universities and colleges in
In view of the information available to us concerning
this long-term closure, youth and students are
deprived of their right to education, in violation of
the Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, which says “Everyone has the right to
education” Education shall be directed to the full
development of the human personality and to the
strengthening of respect for human rights and
fundamental freedoms.” It is extraordinary that in
your country, institutions that are the guarantee of
the future of the country are being closed down and
youth are being denied a future for their own. A whole
generation, and the country itself, is being deprived
of the knowledge, intellectual development and
expertise which a country badly requires for its own
development and human welfare.
Educational rights of youth are as crucial to the
young’s existence as air is to the breathing lung. The
closures of schools will lead to country’s youth of
knowledge thereby sealing the fate of the students’
We call upon the Government of Myanmar to take urgent
and meaningful measures to open all universities and
colleges in accordance with the desire of youth and
students in your country. We therefore request you
look into this situation urgently with a view to
opening all universities and colleges unconditionally.