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Ne Win Military Rule - Student and Sangha Reactions

Ne WinPopular reaction to the coup had been ore of passive compliance, tinged with a sense of relief that the military had seemingly stopped the deterioration of national unity that had occurred during the last days of U Nu's rule. Yet in July 1962 the military confronted the Rangoon University Student Union. Protests by the Student Union against strict new university regulations turned into a riot on July 6; General Ne Win ordered in the army, which fired on the students, killing at least 15. The following day the Student Union building, the stage for the fateful student strike of 1936, was demolished by the military. Protests continued, and the university was closed down by the government. It was clear that it would no longer tolerate the students' political activist role.

The government moved quickly to establish control over the media and education. The Printers' and Publishers' Regulation Act required that all publications apply for an annual government license. Opposition papers, such as the Nation of Rangoon, were shut down. A government newspaper, Working People's Daily, was set up. The importation of foreign books and periodicals was placed under the control of a government firm. The 1963 Private Schools Registration Act laid down textbook and curriculum requirements for these institutions, which carried much of the burden of educating the country's children. In December 1965 all private newspapers were banned. The pluralistic society of precoup Burma was gradually brought under state control.

Despite the reliance of The System on Buddhist concepts and its rejection of Marxist dialectics, General Ne Win was secular in outlook, believing that the government ought not to favor any particular religious community. The military did not support the recognition of Buddhism as the state religion and sought to distance itself from religious affairs. This proved extremely difficult, given the traditional closeness of state and sangha, which U Nu had promoted. Many monks were suspicious of the government's intentions. One fear was that the Revolutionary Council's program of nationalization of the economy, labeled "communist," would make it impossible for people #o donate funds for the support of monastic communities.

One monk, U Kethava, a leader of the pro-AFPFL Young Monks' Association, Negan preaching against the military in late 1963, even predicting that U Ne Win, like Aung San, would be assassinated. The government, fearing sangha ire, dared not arrest him. Overall, it followed the precarious course of, on the one hand, carrying out the disestablishment of the sangha and, on the other hand, of restraining the monks from taking an active role in politics. In January 1965 the 1949 Ecclesiastical Courts Act, vesting authority in sangha judges, was repealed, along with other measures providing for state support of Buddhist missionary activities and education and examinations in the Tripitaka.

Yet the government in April 1964 ordered all sangha groups to register with the government. This measure was taken in order to purge it of "political" monks. In March 1965 some 2,000 represeutatives from all sects gathered in Rangoon to discuss the government's proposal that a new Buddha Sasana Sangha Organization be established by the clergy to regulate its affairs. Widespread opposition within the clergy was spurred by the proposal that the organization issue identity cards for all monks. There were massive demonstrations in Mandalay, and 92 leading monks, as well as over 1,W0 luddhist laymen, were arrested. Although the organization was established, its impact on the satggha was minimal. After 1965 there were so confrontations, and an uneasy truce existed between the government and the monks.

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Page last modified: 08-10-2011 12:16:45 ZULU