Thirty years on, Myanmar remembers 1988 democracy uprising

Thousands honor those killed by the military for an ideal that remains unfulfilled
Thirty years on, Myanmar remembers 1988 democracy uprising

People pose for a photo with number 8888 in front of the convocation hall during the 30th anniversary of the 1988 democracy uprising at the University of Yangon on Aug. 8. The uprising took place on Aug. 8, 1988, as part of broader anti-junta demonstrations across the country that catapulted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi into the spotlight. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

Speaking on the 30th anniversary of Myanmar's 1988 democracy uprising, activists and lawmakers have stressed the importance of democracy for the nation's future.

Thousands of people in the Southeast Asian nation on Aug. 8 commemorated the 1988 democracy uprising which resulted in a bloody crackdown by the military.

Mahn Johnny, former chief minister of the Irrawaddy Division, said the date is an important milestone in Myanmar's history. People gave their lives for democracy during the protests — also known as the 8888 Uprising — so it must not be forgotten, he said.

Large student protests against General Ne Win's 26-year dictatorship sparked the military's crackdown on Aug. 8, 1988. Thousands are believed to have been killed. The popular protests also pushed Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) to international prominence.

Mahn Johnny told that the democracy movement of 1988 gave Myanmar the foundation it needed for democratic change.

"We need to be united and to push the country to become a federal democratic one. And all stakeholders need to compromise for peace and reconciliation," he said.

The 77-year-old Catholic lawmaker from the now ruling NLD party said the biggest challenge for full democracy is the military playing a key role in government as per the 2008 constitution.

Unelected military representatives make up 25 percent of parliaments in the nation. The military also controls the key ministries of defense, border and home affairs.

People attend a ceremony to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 8888 uprising at the University of Yangon on Aug. 8. (Photo by Ye Aung Thu/AFP)


In coming to power in 2015, the now state counsellor Suu Kyi emphasised reconciliation with the generals, the same men who kept her under house arrest for 15 years.

Ashin Ariya Wuntha Bhiwunsa, a Mandalay-based monk involved in interfaith programs, took part in the 1988 uprising. He told that Myanmar's people still need to push for democracy.

"We need to have patience and will continue fighting for democracy in a non-violent way," he said.

"If all people have unity and they are ready to sacrifice their lives for the citizens of the country, we may reach the goal of getting democracy. I believe we will attain it one day."

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Ariya Wuntha was one of thousands of people who joined the anniversary commemorations held in several cities across Myanmar on Aug. 6-8.

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