On September 18, 1988 a military takeover ended the nation-wide pro-democracy uprising in Myanmar. A common narrative is that after the coup, on the one hand students and others involved in the uprising fled to border areas to escape arrest, and that on the other hand they hoped to continue their struggle through armed means and were drawn by reports of assistance to armed resistance coming from other countries. In presenting the history of the little-known Burma Democratic Front, which was based in Champhai in northeast India and provided recruits early on for the Chin National Front, I demonstrate that this narrative is inadequate in three main ways. First, while some of those who joined the Chin armed resistance fled to escape arrest, the security situation varied between different places and fear of arrest was not the main determinant for many of them in the decision to leave Myanmar. Leaving Myanmar to India was also sometimes not the only option for those fearing arrest. Second, many of those who ended up in the Chin armed resistance went to India to find work or for other reasons unrelated to armed struggle. Third, relationships with others (based on kinship or participation together in university student groups or high-risk activism), and/or active recruitment by others (sometimes previously known to the individual being recruited, sometimes not), were often extremely important for the decision to go to India or join the armed resistance.


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pp. 133-169
Launched on MUSE
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