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Looking Behind the Mandalay Riots


                                 April  18, 1997


HEADLINE: Looking Behind the Mandalay Riots

   Did anybody incite the Mandalay unrest? ["Monks Amok," THE NATIONS, April 4].
Yes. The answer is simple -- SLORC. It's not a first from the State Law Order
and Restoration Council. The military junta did it in 1967 against the Chinese
community in  Burma.  Soldiers donning the saffron robes of monks went around
Rangoon shouting that the Chinese had raped some Burmese teachers. Result: many 
Chinese were killed and their properties looted, ransacked or burned right in
front of the military.

   I remember the events vividly. The riots started when teachers tried to end a
sit-in being staged by students at a Chinese school in protest at not being

allowed to wear Mao badges in school. Burmese demonstrators led by the fake
monks shouting the rape allegation against the students, retaliated by attacking
the Chinese quarter.

   The real issue the military was hiding was rice shortages and high prices -- 
and expected protests. The same strategy has been applied against the Muslim
minority. I followed up on details about the riots with different sources. The
real issue: the monks in Mandalay received news of the deaths in jail of some 16
monks, who are among 3,000 monks in Mandalay prisons. SLORC learned that monks
were planning to protest the deaths and demand the release of those in jail.

   As a diversion the military created a problem between the Buddhists and the
Muslims. The monks now say they realize that soldiers donned holy robes to stir 
up the trouble and that they were made the scapegoats.

   U Hla Shwe

   Federation for Human Rights &

   Democracy In  Burma

   Long Beach, California