Burmese Demanding Interim Rule : Rangoon Protesters Call for Mass Rallies, Strikes Today
Protesters against the Burmese government, crisscrossing the capital of Rangoon in loudspeaker-equipped trucks, called Wednesday for mass rallies and a nationwide strike today to press their demand for an interim government.
The demonstrations will end a two-day lull in public protests against one-party rule in Burma, where the military-dominated Burma Socialist Program Party has held unchallenged power for more than a quarter century.
Spearheading the protests will be student groups and the newly formed All-Services General Strike Committee, which represents government workers who have joined the movement over the past week. They include communications employees, whose walkout early this week forced military personnel to take over the national telephone service.
To Weigh Referendum
Maung Maung, the beleaguered regime’s third president in a little over a month, has called for a party congress Sept. 12 to consider a referendum on a multiparty political system, but the burgeoning protest movement, suspicious of a stall, has insisted that he give way to an interim government.
Earlier this week the Rangoon bar council declared: “Procrastination by referendum . . . would only deepen the fast-deteriorating situation in the country. The bar council, therefore, demands the government form an interim government to carry on the process of democratization.”
The government has made no statement on political change in the week since Maung Maung announced the party congress, but it has repeated his announcement several times over official Rangoon Radio.
Confusion and Tension
According to reports from Rangoon, the Burmese people remained confused and tense Wednesday. As the political standoff continued after four weeks of violent demonstrations and, more recently, prison riots, rumors mounted of a possible military coup. But opinion was divided as to whether the military, which has let protests proceed unhampered for the past week, would crack down on the demonstrators or turn against the long-entrenched ruling party.
“The opposition is making such inroads that if there is going to be a move to stamp it out, it will probably come sooner rather than later,” a Rangoon-based diplomat told reporters based in Burma on Wednesday.
Columns of students and workers paraded through the streets Wednesday demanding democracy, while protesters in loudspeaker vans announced mass rallies today begining at Rangoon General Hospital.
The movement picked up momentum Monday with the formation of an opposition alliance under the nominal leadership of former Prime Minister U Nu. The 81-year-old U Nu said he may disclose today whether his Alliance for Democracy and Peace will move to form an interim government. It had disavowed such an intent when it was formed.
The alliance, which began with a membership of 21 political elders who broke with the ruling party established by Burmese strongman Ne Win in 1962, has moved in the past 48 hours to provide a central voice against one-party rule.
In its initial statement, the alliance asked for the support of Burma’s rebellious ethnic minorities. There has been no immediate response, and some minority organizations have little more regard for U Nu than for Ne Win’s party.