ABOUT 60 political act-ivists paid their respects at the late UN Secretary General U Thant’s tomb on the 39th anniversary of the “U Thant Crisis” on Dec 11.
Those who attend-ed the commemoration ceremony included mem-bers of the National Recon-ciliation Network, All Burma Farmers Network and 1970 University Golden Jubilee students.
U Thant served as the third secretary general of the UN from 1966 until 1971 and he was credited with helping to avert the Cuban missile crisis. He died of lung cancer in 1964 at the age of 65. Myanmar was then ruled by General Ne Win’s military regime, who debased U Thant’s international stature and his involvement in U Nu’s democratic government as U Thant served as secret-ary to Prime Minister U Nu from 1951 to 1957.
When U Thant’s body returned to Yangon from the United States, the military refused to accord a state funeral and just one minister turned up to receive the coffin at the airport. On the day of the funeral, Dec 5, thousands of people turned out to pay their last respects before his body was to be taken to a non-descript cemetery. Students then snatched the coffin and took it to Rangoon Uni-versity.
From then until Dec 11–a period now referred to as the U Thant Crisis–student demonstrators built a temporary mauso-leum and gave anti-government speeches. On Dec 11, government troops stormed the campus, killed many of the students guarding the mausoleum, removed U Thant’s coffin, and reburied it at the foot of the Shwedagon Pagoda, where it has continued to lie to this day.
“We came to pay our respects to U Thant, a brave and noble man. We hope that in the future Myanmar had more individuals like him. Today is the 39th anniversary of the uprising against U Ne Win’s treatment of U Thant following his death,” said U Kyaw Soe, who took part in the protests in 1974.
The occasion also served as an opportunity to call on the government to address ongoing human rights violations, such as releasing political pri-soners, alleviating poverty and hunger, returning illegally confiscated farm-lands, to abolish the Unlaw-ful Association Act and other laws deemed a threat to fundamental rights.
Reforming the con-stitution was also raised. “The whole nation needs to unite to amend the 2008 constitution and we demand that the govern-ment takes proper steps to remove its undemocratic elements,” said U Kyaw Soe.
Ei Ei Khaing & Htay Naing