History of Student Activism in Burma

As in China, Burmese student activism emerged during the anticolonial struggle, but it has persisted through dramatically different regimes since. Students played a leading role in anticolonial resistance amid a vacuum of formal political opposition in the 1920s and 1930s. In the process, they developed both a strong corporate identity and a legacy for students’ later political engagement, either alone or in coordination with other actors. Moreover, their efforts had real political impact. That legacy undergirded students’ continuing engagement in the short-lived democratic period after independence, as well as continuing, less fruitful efforts under military-led governments since then. The constants throughout have been students’ belief in the appropriateness of their engaging in politics—and their engaging collectively as students, even if in conjunction with other social forces—and resistance by the state (particularly in its more authoritarian guises) against that involvement.

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