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Stung by criticism after one of its members refused to credit the National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government of Aung San Suu Kyi with securing the release of dozens of student activists last Friday, the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) has issued a statement expressing gratitude for the move.
“ABSFU earnestly thanks those who worked for the release, including people inside and outside the country [and] President Htin Kyaw and the government that took power on 1 April,” the group said in a statement issued on 9 April, a day after a total of nearly 200 people, including more than 70 students, were freed.
The statement singled out Suu Kyi for praise, noting that it was she who, in her new capacity as state counselor, vowed last Thursday to work for the “release of all the political prisoners … and secured their actual release one day [later].”
On Friday, AFSU senior member Ye Wint Aung came under fire for apparently denying the government’s role in the mass release of students detained since last year following a brutal crackdown on protests in Letpadan, Pegu Division.
“I don’t think the students were released because of the government. It was because of our mind and momentum. Due to our fighting spirit, the Home Ministry signed for their release,” he wrote on social media.
The remarks provoked a backlash from some social media users, who accused the group of ingratitude towards the country’s democratically-elected government.
In its statement, the ABFSU also said that it would continue to negotiate its demands for educational reforms with the new parliament and government, including Suu Kyi, “who will not neglect the will of the people.”
At a gathering on Friday to honour student activists killed in the past for their political activities, members of the ABFSU also called for the reconstruction of Rangoon University’s Student Union building, which was destroyed by former dictator Ne Win soon after he seized power in 1962.
“We aim for the establishment of student union buildings [all over the country]. Among these, we would like to rebuild the historic Rangoon University Student Union building, which we regard as a place of great importance,” said Moe Htet Nay, a leading member of the ABFSU, adding that the group would seek donations for the project.
Kyaw Ko Ko, another ABFSU leader, said he didn’t expect the government to oppose the move.
“I think Aung San Suu Kyi will not refuse our honest request,” he said.
Reporting by Nwe Ni.