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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 911

Burma: Obama helps revitalizing University of Rangoon

By – Zin Linn

People of Burma have satisfied with the choice of a venue made by the U.S. President Barack Obama to deliver an important speech to their country. Mr. Obama chose the convocation hall of the University of Rangoon as his podium to make a fresh record with the country. The university he singled out has a remarkable political environment that intertwined with the country’s destiny.

In contemporary history of Burma, Rangoon University is famous for integral to civil disobedience throughout its olden times. The historic nationwide students-led strikes against the British colonialism in 1920, 1936 and 1938 respectively initiated at campus of the then University of Rangoon. Anti-colonial movements were fully ignited by leaders like Aung San, U Nu, Kyaw Nyein, Ba Swe and U Thant were all alumni of Rangoon University. The practice of mass demonstration initiated by the university students sustained also after the country’s independence. Remarkable student-led protests were occurred in 1956, 1958, 1959, 1962, 1974, 1988 and 1996 respectively.

President Obama said: “I came here because of my respect for this university. It was here at this school where opposition to colonial rule first took hold. It was here that Aung San edited a magazine before leading an independence movement. It was here that U Thant learned the ways of the world before guiding it at the United Nations. Here, scholarship thrived during the last century and students demanded their basic human rights. Now, your Parliament has at last passed a resolution to revitalize this university and it must reclaim its greatness, because the future of this country will be determined by the education of its youth.”

By choosing the University of Rangoon as his dais, Obama helped the campus to be liberated. This university had been taken into custody for decades under the previous dictatorial regimes. The university has regained its liberation after Obama’s visit and it indicates that modern education for young generations has to come sooner.

On the other hand, regarding Obama’s visit, 51 political prisoners were released on 19 November, according to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma). Among them were members of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network - Myint Aye and Yan Shwe and Zaw Zaw Aung - who were sentenced to a minimum of life imprisonment.

Some members from ethnic armed resistance groups were also released. They are Saw Sai Aung Than from the Shan State Army, Tin Oo and Saw Pho Cho from the Karen National Union, Marid Mon Aung and Bar Yar Nar from the Kachin Independence Army respectively.

However, old and new student generations enjoy happiness seeing the redecorating of the Rangoon University Campus which had been under negligence by the successive military regimes. It seems the existing Parliament also convinces the important of education as the promising future of the country. The Parliament has already passed a resolution to rejuvenate the Rangoon University. So, people of Burma probably thank Mr. Obama who helps recovering of their historic university in due course.

“The education of its youth will determine the future of this country”, President Obama predicts.

Obama also pledges to help Burma’s education by extending student-exchange programs in the near future.

“Just as education is the key to America’s future, it is going to be the key to your future as well. And so we look forward to working with you, as we have with many of your neighbors, to extend that opportunity and to deepen exchanges among our students. We want students from this country to travel to the United States and learn from us, and we want U.S. students to come here and learn from you,” Obama emphasizes during a significant speech delivered at the legendary University of Rangoon in Burma.

- Asian Tribune -

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