Burmese cartoons from the New Era Journal

New Era cartoon 2The New Era Journal, (Khit Pyaing), was founded in Thailand in 1993 by the late U Tin Maung Win. U Tin Maung Win was one of the leaders of the secret All Burma Student Association which was formed in 1963 to oppose the military rule of General Ne Win shortly after the suppression of the July 1962 student uprising at the University of Rangoon in which hundreds of students were killed.
Jailed from 1965 to 1968, U Tin Maung Win's continuing political activities forced him to flee Burma for Thailand, where he was very active in the opposition-in-exile movement known as the Parliamentary Democracy Party (PDP), which was headed by the democratically elected but deposed prime minister of Burma, U Nu.
U Tin Maung Win was granted political asylum in the US after he and close associates in the PDP were expelled from Thailand in 1976 for engaging in political activities that embarrassed the Thai government. While living in the Washington D. C. area he co-founded the Foundation for Democracy in Burma, which is still active in publishing reviews and analyses of the situation in Burma. After 12 years he returned to Thailand to help build a bridge between ethnic minority groups and democracy advocates that had fled the country after the August 1988 uprising in Burma.
In 1993, U Tin Maung Win began publishing the New Era Journal (NEJ) with the help of well-known Burmese newspaper and magazine writers and editors. The Burmese-language newspaper (there is now an English insert, as well as an online edition, http://www.khitpyaing.org) is distributed inside Burma and also to exile communities around the world. Since his death on December 1, 1999, U Tin Maung Win's wife, Daw Khin Myo Aye, and daughter, Thuza Win, have assumed responsibility for publishing the newspaper. NEJ's goal remains to report true facts, to reflect the views of all national ethnic minorities and advocate democracy, human rights and equal justice for all in Burma.
Presented here is a selection of cartoons, which have appeared in the New Era Journal from 1993 until recent times. Featured cartoonists are Mr. Burma, Po Nyo, M-16, Saw Ngo and others.

Background on Burma
Soon after Burma achieved independence from Britain in 1948, the new government was confronted by political and ethnic insurrections. In 1962 general Ne Win staged a military coup and a military-dominated regime led by the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) came to power. The BSPP nationalized the economy and it steadily deteriorated. An unexpected currency devaluation in 1987 led to anti-government riots and a subsequent step-down of Ne Win.
After the slaying of a student by the police in August 1988, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to demand the BSPP regime be replaced by an elected civilian government. In the repression of the popular uprising that followed soldiers fired on the unarmed protesters and thousands were killed. Many students fled the country and formed opposition movements in exile, mainly in Thailand, China and Australia.
On September 18th, 1988, the army announced a coup by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), renamed the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in November 1997. The SLORC promised that elections would be held after 'law & order' were restored in the country. And although the leader - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi - of the most popular opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), was placed under house arrest in July 1989, a free election was allowed to take place on May 27, 1990, in which the NLD won over 80% of the parliamentary seats contested. Yet SLORC announced that there could be no civilian government until a new constitution had been written. The process of drafting this new constitution started in 1993 but came to a halt in 1996.
After six years of confinement, during which time she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1991), NLD-leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released in July 1995. Early in 2001, she was again placed under de facto house arrest. In late 2000, she began secret talks with the military regime, but, much to the frustration of the international community, there was little or no progress made.
After a period of freedom from May 2002 till May 2003 during which she ventured from the capital and was greeted by throngs of enthusiastic supporters, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was once again put under house arrest and remains so at this time.
In 2003 the Burmese government stated its intention to bring democracy in a 7-step plan, often called a road map. The roadmap was received internationally with a lot of scepticism. Since then other groups have produced other plans also known as road maps. As part of the initial 7-step plan, a National Convention to write a new constitution' was convened in May 2004, but this was boycotted by the NLD. The NLD suspected that the military junta was intent on producing a document which left it in control.

Text: Eef Vermeij / New Era Journal, 2004