November 29, 2002 marked the 82nd National Day in Burma. Eighty two years ago in 1920, Rangoon University students boycotted an educational system introduced under British colonial rule. The strike touched off anti-colonial uprisings nationwide eventually leading to independence from Britain in 1948. Henceforth, the tenth waning day of the Burmese month of Tazaungmon (which falls in November) has been observed as the National Day.
At a celebration commemorating the day on Friday in Rangoon party headquarters, some 400 National League for Democracy members and guests attended. NLD central executive committee member U Than Tun read a statement.
Among other things, the statement says: “One of the steps to achieve national unity and national reconciliation is for the NLD and the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to start a meaningful political dialogue as soon as possible.” The party also called for “the unconditional release of all political prisoners.”
Last week the military government released 115 political prisoners, the biggest single release since 2000 when United Nations-brokered reconciliation talks began.
In a short speech, NLD party leader Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed some of these freed prisoners by saying: “This particular occasion is also to honor and to welcome them.”
She also stressed the importance of education in future Burma. She said: “We need to change the future of the nation, and for this, education is of paramount importance. We need education for sustained development and to stand proud and dignified among the nations of the world. Only a democratic system can bring about such quality education.”
Meanwhile, government-controlled newspapers carried the national day message from the ruling military leader Senior General Than Shwe, who also talked about promoting the cause of education.
Saying the number of universities which stood at 32 in 1988 --when the pro-democracy mass uprising took place leading to a military coup—has grown to 151 now, Than Shwe called for “perpetuating the independence and sovereignty of the nation not only by improving (children’s) education standards but also by inculcating them with the quality of stalwart sons and daughters.”
Information for this report is provided by AFP.