My name is Dr Thynn Thynn, I am a retired Burmese American physician and Dhamma Teacher living and teaching in Northern California. I want to tell the world how Burma became the Killing Field insidiously for over 70 yrs. Currently the country has culminated in the present horrendous killing field by the might of firing power of the Burmese military. Please stay with me because it’s a long road from 1962.
It is time now the world should know how Burma became a “ Killing Field “
Ne Win the first Burmese military dictator took power by a bloodless coup in March of 1962 from U Nu, the elected Prime Minister of Burma.
Prior to the Coup
Burma was a democratic country by choice after it’s Independence from British colonial rule in 1948. I only remember growing up happily in Beik as a kid. Eventually I ended up attending medical college in Rangoon in the early sixties. In my growing up , up to 1962 it was a happy childhood in a time of peace and freedom. Politics was far away in my mind as my parents were prosperous after World War Two. So I lived an idyllic life of growing up in a prosperous sea port town and went to a Catholic Convent then to medical school. College life was for study but fun! The country was at peace though insurgences had begun at the distant border of Burma. Daily news paper announced the wealth of the nation in terms of savings billions in Sterling pounds in the British banks. Burma was one of the richest in South East Asia being the rice bowl of the region. The country incidentally contains the Homalayan ranges from the north which made it have the best teak forests in the world.
The mighty Irrawaddy River which runs through the whole length of Burma began in the northern most part of Burma in two tributaries which joined up near Mandalay to form the Mighty Irrawaddy River which runs all the way down to the Delta then branch off into many tributaries. The silt brought down by the Irrawaddy made the Delta area the best rice growing region. That was the reason Burma became the Rice Bowl of Asia prior to the military take of Southern Burma. This long coastline is the heaven of sea food for the country.
To the North, the Kachin State is endowed with the best rubies and jade the world ever known.
Then Shan States on the Eastern Plateau of Burma is habited by the Shan tribes and the Plateau produces the best tea and coffee in Burma. At one time Silver, Copper , Zinc & Lead was mined by the British colonists.
Rangoon used to be the capital since the Colonial times and is the sea port of the country. Rangoon grew to be the bustling trade and economic capital since colonial times.
Hence Burma was the wealthiest country in South East Asia till the sixties. That’s how we grew up in wealth, comfort and peace.
Politically since 1948, Burma became a democratic country under a democratically elected by the people. As a young independent nation it was still cutting its teeth politically speaking. We enjoyed relative peace and prosperity from 1984 till 1962 a span of 18 yrs. My generation was the last to enjoy relatively better education and health care. The British left the best education system, transportation, judicial system and health care and Civil Administration patterned after Britain.
I was too young to fully grasp the politics of the time as our generation were very focused on getting ahead in academics and training for our future. My brother studied chemical engineering and I went into medicine. We started with two years of what is called Intermediate College. They were our best years of college life! The country was peaceful although Communist Party went underground after Independance plus insurgency also began with Karens.
Our two years Intermediate college was similar to the Community College Diploma Course in US. After that we branch off to professional colleges or to Degree courses in Arts and Science. We enjoyed these two years to the hilt. There were grand dinners during by all male and female Hostels and Picnics during the dry and cool seasons. It was an almost year round group partying very different from Westetn colleges. Well of course no booze.
Anyway after those two years we go on our separate ways. I was off to medical college and during my second year senior in 1962 summer I went with my mother and her friends to Budgaya in India on a pilgrimage trip to the birth place of the Buddha. We reached Calcutta and the next day we heard the news on the radio that General Ne Win had taken over the country in a blood less coup. In the beginning no one was in shock because U Nu in 1958 had asked General Ne Win to take over the country as a Care Taker Govt because of the split in his AFPFL Party. His rivals were UBa Swe and U Kyaw Nyein. I read newspapers but was too absorbed in my studies during our Second MB course. So we did our pilgrimage to Bhud Gayá. I was in my early twenties not really interested in religion so it was just like being a tourist.
We stopped at New Delhi for a few days. There we met Our Ambassador HE Daw Khin Kyi.
When we returned to Burma the atmosphere was fine. Nothing had changed. The people seemed to be fine with the Army take over. Perhaps the two yrs as care taker govt people seemed to take things in their strike. But this seeming normalcy did not last long.
On July 20 the we heard that soldiers opened fire at University students at RASU that students who died were taken to the cemetery at night and the building of our iconic Student Union was destroyed and abolished.
We were stunned! What’s happening we asked each other but nobody knew what happened but it dawned on us suddenly that General Ne Win can kill students. It was half fear half disbelief. In all of our young life we have never experienced soldiers killing studdnts
As a young adult it was worrisome that Ne Win can kill that easily. But for what kind of crime? Students were demonstrating the shortening of our vacation. The excuse we heard layer that students were influenced by communists. That refrain I found became the reason the army opened fire during their killing spree. I was living off campus so missed the terrible atmosphere during the after math of the killing.
It was an unforgettable beginning and loss of the sweet innocence of college life.
But life had to go on. We had to the wards for clinical training and also prepare for exams. So life went on as usual as before and did not change that much for us as students.
But soon there were news of imprisonment of rich business owners as well as nationalisation of all business big and small. There was panic in the society at large. Luckily my parents live in Beik so their export business was not affected.
As medical students our lives were not affected at first but then we had friends whose parents businesses were affected.
Soon there were laws prohibiting Chinese and Indian students who are holding FRC certificates as non citizens were not allowed to attend professional colleges. It was a hard hit for students who were not Burmese citizens.
Also the restrictions for Chinese and Indians became a sad debacle. There was an exodus to India and the West. That left a huge vacuum for the business world.
Then the military regime adopted what is called Burmese Way to Socialism by centralising all aspects of life, civil administration is turned into socialist version.
The government began to take control of all aspects of our lives. The administration was top down with strict hierarchy. The old British system was replaced by socialist rule. This meant actually military rule. Socialism was just a front. Burma was ruled by one single man Gen Ne Win.