"UNION SOLIDARITY DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION": LETTERS TO THE BBC
An Independent Report by the Karen Human Rights Group
March 7, 1994
The "Union Solidarity Development Association" (USDA) is a new organization formed by SLORC to gain legitimacy and mass support. The SLORC seems to be in quite a hurry to get as many members into this organization as possible, and to this end large USDA rallies have been held throughout Burma through January and February. The reasons for this organization and for the SLORC’s haste in building it up have not been made completely clear, though it will probably be used to avoid a referendum on the new SLORC Constitution; the SLORC has already stated that all members automatically and unanimously support the new Constitution. The SLORC may also be planning to use it as a way of winning a rigged election.
Of course, the people want no part of such an organization, so the SLORC has been using threats and brute force nationwide to drive people to the rallies and to make them join. Similar tactics were used by Burmese dictator Ne Win in the 1960’s to build up his Burma Socialist Programme Party into a mass organization. Following are the translations of several letters sent to the BBC Radio Burmese language service (which, together with the Voice of America Burmese service, forms the only source of real news to people inside Burma) from people living in various parts of the country, expressing their real views about the USDA and the rallies. These letters were transcribed from BBC Radio broadcasts. See also the related KHRG reports "SLORC Activities in Nyaunglebin District" (22/2/94), and "SLORC Activities in Toungoo District" (23/2/94).
Letter #1 (broadcast on February 21, 1994)
In our town of Prome, people were all brought into a sandy compound at 9 p.m. on the night before the rally. After sitting for several hours on the sandy ground, which had been sprayed with water, some people began to ask permission to go outside the compound to answer nature’s call. The security forces, the guards around the compound, refused to allow them to go out, and a conflict broke out. Many people began to climb up the fences to try to get out. The guards began to beat them with pieces of bamboo and sticks.
In the middle of the resulting rush, many men, women and children fell down on the ground. Two men were trampled to death. Twenty people were wounded - one of them lost one of his eyes. Two women had their backs broken.
But this information was never reported on Radio Myanmar. Why? To let everyone know the true story of the Union Solidarity Development Association, I must write this letter to the BBC.
A Civil Servant Prome Town Pegu Division
[Notes: Outside sources indicate that there were probably several thousand people in the compound. The rally was held as planned the following day, on February 7.]
Letter #2 (broadcast on February 21, 1994)
In our Mandalay city, the SLORC announced on loudspeakers that anyone who did not participate in the rally meeting would have their water and electricity cut off, and would be fined 100 Kyat each. So 90 percent of the people dared not disobey their command. It is just like the Burmese proverb about lovers, which says "Even though she dares not participate, she is forced to play the game from beneath. He forces her to receive his kiss against her will, and she is forced to follow behind him like a wife."
Ko Myint Aung
[Notes: The proverb relates to the "woman" (the people) being forced to have sex with the "man" (SLORC), and walk behind him even though she hates him, as the wife must walk behind the husband in Burmese custom.]
Letter #3 (broadcast on February 21, 1994)
The reports on the BBC Burmese program of 13 February regarding the rallies of the Union Solidarity Development Association were correct.
In our northern Shan State the USDA public rally was held on Friday January 21st. The number of people participating in the rally did not exceed 10,000, but Radio Myanmar announced that 210,000 people attended the same rally. As for the students, their teachers warned them that each and every one of them must attend the rally and take along a package of food, and that if they failed to act accordingly they would be caned 15 times each. Government workers were threatened that if they failed to attend the rally, they should know what the consequences would be.
The entire population of Burma is against this sort of rotten tactic by SLORC. SLORC may be able to gather people, but they can never obtain their respect or their sympathy.
U Sai Lone
Northern Shan State
[Note: The "consequence" to government workers not attending clearly means the loss of their jobs.]
Letter #4 (broadcast on March 6, 1994)
I want to tell you how the SLORC is bluffing the people about the Union Solidarity Development Association. They announced that over 100 thousand people came to the USDA mass meetings from many townships, divisions and states. This is a lie. For over 30 years now the military junta has been oppressing the civilians like this, forcing them to join mass meetings. They always force everyone, young or old, and students and workers too.
Ko Than Lwin
Htan Ta Bin Town, Pegu Division
January 30, 1994
[Note: The past mass meetings he refers to were for Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party.]