Jul 18, 2008 (DVB)–National League for Democracy members in Magwe and Mandalay divisions have been warned by authorities not to plan any events to commemorate Martyrs’ Day on 19 July.
Ko Tint Lwin of Yaynanchaung NLD in Magwe said the authorities had told them the government would not mark the day.
"We were warned by local authorities not to do any of the usual activities we usually do on Martyrs’ Day every year, such as providing meals to monks and merit making,” he said.
“They said the government has no plans to celebrate the day and we would not be allowed to either."
Daw Khin Saw Htay, the leader of Magwe Division NLD’s women’s wing, said the government’s warnings would not deter people from celebrating the day.
"Martyrs' Day is the day we remember our leaders who brought independence to us and barring people from celebrating such a day is very narrow-minded act,” she said.
“We don't care if they arrest us, we will do what we do every year."
Taung Twin Gyi NLD member Ko Bo See said he had his colleagues were told to sign an agreement promising not to plan any activities on the day.
"The authorities told us they could not allow us to celebrate national days without their permission and we were asked to sign an acknowledgment of that,” Ko Bo See said.
“We were also asked to sign an agreement not to donate meals to monks as a way of marking the day.”
“There are 58 monasteries in town and we will go to one of them and donate meals to the monks anyway. We are not saying whether we are marking Martyrs' Day or just donating meal to monks because we respect them."
An NLD member from Aung Lan said the local NLD chairman had also been asked to sign an agreement.
"Our township NLD chairman U Than Htay was told by local authorities to sign agreement not to mark Martyrs’ day,” he said.
“But he refused to sign it."
Daw Myint Myint Aye, the NLD secretary in Meikhtila, Mandalay, said politicians had a duty to commemorate the day.
"Every year, we mark Martyrs' Day at the [township] headquarters – we make it very apparent that it is a political activity,” Myint Myint Aye said.
“On Martyrs' day this year, we will provide meal to monks at 10am, hang a huge wreath at Kyaw Kyaw printing shop which is our headquarters and hang the national flag at half-mast. Then we will go lay the wreath at the Martyrs' monument in town,” she went on.
“We are only doing this because it is what we should do as a citizens or politicians.”
Myint Myint Aye said she had been summoned by the township administration to a meeting at 10am tomorrow morning.
NLD information officer U Nyan Win said the day was an important national event and should not be undermined by political differences.
"In our country, we don't see Martyrs' Day as representing a political party or an organisation,” Nyan Win said.
“This is a day we mark on a national scale, to remember and thank our leaders who did a lot for us,” he said.
“It is very inappropriate to ban a day like that since it is showing disrespect to the people who brought us independence."
Martyrs’ day commemorates the day in 1947 when nine people, including general Aung San and other independence leaders, were assassinated.
There is usually an annual ceremony to mark the day at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum in Bahan township, Rangoon.
Reporting by Naw Say Phaw