Under the rule of a one party system created by the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP), a series of demonstrations took place successively in 1988. During that period, there was no freedom of speech, writing, freedom of assembly and so on. The BSPP was merely a military regime. Under that system, the Burmese people faced many difficulties. Mismanagement of the unskilled so-called socialists, turned the resource-wealthy country into one of the ten poorest nations in the world. Corruption and economic malaise had impoverished the nation. People joined the pro-democratic demonstrations and soon the entire country seemed to be on the streets calling for the BSPP to step down and an interim government to lead our motherland back to democracy. The military junta however, responded with arrests, killings, and staged a coup, establishing martial law on September 18, 1988. Many people including students and youths were killed during these turbulent days. Many popular leaders were rounded up, imprisoned and executed overnight.
The junta however could not resist the pressure of the entire people and allowed the establishment of political parties promising to hold multi-party elections only to later cheat the people. Under the political circumstances in Burma at that time, the leadership of students and youth decided that part of the young activists should establish a legal political party and participate in a non-violent form of struggle. Thus the student and youth activists organized and formed the Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS) on October 14, 1988.
During the organizational campaign of the DPNS, the party targeted the youths of grass-roots sectors of the population such as peasants, workers, and the urban poor. After six months, the DPNS emerged as the second most powerful political party in the legal fold. We were able to form branches in more than 250 townships and could produce 1500 qualified organizers. The figure of party members was extended to 250,000. The DPNS became the most reliable alliance of the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
In spite of such achievement, the DPNS was the target of the junta’s oppression. A few months after the party was formed, the chairman had to flee to the eastern border. Meanwhile more than one hundred party members were apprehended by the military regime. No less than three hundred members of the DPNS were imprisoned within six months and two of them died in jail. During its 2-year life as a political party, almost all leaders had been imprisoned. Many are still in the prison today.
The DPNS never intended to contest in the general election held on May 27,1990. The party instead aimed at participating in the election campaign in order to establish political rights and to create a democratic atmosphere. It then adopted a strategy to concentrate all its efforts in the support of the NLD.
After the general election, the DPNS adopted a four point program as follows:
- To convene the parliament as earliest as possible
- To release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners
- To bring an end to the civil war
- To convene a national convention where all political groups are able to participate
The military government responded by making restrictions on printing permission and dissemination of DPNS political pamphlets and newsletters, prohibiting publicity practice, and raiding the party’s branch offices in Rangoon as well as other parts of the country. Moreover, the authority launched a severe offensive against the DPNS. The chairman and most of the party’s leaders were imprisoned and the party headquarters was sealed.
The Central Committee of the DPNS, therefore, was forced to carry out its activities underground. At that time some of the party’s leaders contacted the DAB. At that time, the party chairman and eleven other leading members were secretly taken out of Rangoon in November 1991 to Manerplaw where the party headquarters was re-established.
After arriving in the liberated area, the DPNS became a member of the Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB) and later, a member of the National Council of Union of Burma (NCUB). The DPNS has since then continued its political tasks joining hands in hands with other democratic forces including the ethnic nationality organizations to win its political objectives.