All Burma Students' Democratic Front

   Following the power seizure by the State Law and Order Restoration Council on September 18, 1988, thousands of students and other oppositionists fled central Burma for the border areas. By 1989, they totalled as many as 10,000 persons. On November 1, 1988, several student groups, affiliated with the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, held the first congress of the ABSDF in territory controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU) near the border with Thailand. The front, which claimed as many as 5,000 "student-soldiers" in 1990, was a founding member of the Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB), whose chairman was KNU leader Bo Mya. Its first chairman was Htun Aung Gyaw, but at the ABSDF second congress in 1991 it broke into two factions, led by Dr. Naing Aung and Moe Thee Zun. These were later reconciled, and the ABSDF chairman in 2005 was Than Khe.
   The ABSDF's survival depended on good relations with the KNU, which in the early years supplied it with food, shelter, and a limited number of arms. The front suffered from not only factional divisions but also the hard living conditions in the jungle, which caused many to leave its ranks and go to Thailand or other foreign countries. It also suffered a serious reverse when the Tatmadaw captured the KNU headquarters at Manerplaw in January 1995 (its headquarters at Dawn Gwin were located nearby). Although its original purpose was to carry out armed struggle against the military regime, the ABSDF has branched out into health, educational, and community development programs. It has attempted to organize grassroots activities inside Burma and also functions as a provider of information to the outside world on the Burmese political situation. Perhaps its greatest historical significance has been its promotion of a united front between Burman (Bamar) and ethnic minority oppositionists. With a primarily Burman membership, it has lived, worked, and fought side by side with minorities, especially the Karens (Kayins).

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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