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8888 Uprising History

August 9, 2007

The “8888 Uprising,” the largest ever national Burmese uprising demanding democracy, erupted on 8 August 1988 in Rangoon (now Yangon), Burma. Students started the initial demonstrations in Rangoon. They were quickly later joined by Burmese citizens from all walks of life, including government workers, Buddhist monks, Burma Navy, Air Force and Customs officers, teachers, and hospital staffs. These peaceful demonstrations with students in the Rangoon streets spread to other states’ capitals. 

The student leaders promoted a set of ten demands for the restoration of a democratic government in Burma. The Ne Win government fell and the military imposed martial law giving absolute power to the commander-in-chief, General Saw Maung, in order to quash the demonstrations. The military killed thousands of civilians, including students and Buddhist monks.

Before the 1988 uprising, Burma had been ruled by the repressive and isolated regime of General Ne Win since 1962. In November of late 1985, students gathered and boycotted the government’s decision to withdraw Burmese local currency notes. In September 1987, General Ne Win announced the withdrawal of the newly replaced currency notes, 75 and 25 kyats.

Following that decision, Rangoon Institute of Technology (now Yangon Technological University) students, protested inside their Rangoon campus. In response, the military killed a student activist, Phone Maw, in front of the YTU’s main building. This killing led to a large protest that paved the way towards the uprising, starting on the 8th of August, 1988. Ne Win ordered that, “Guns were not to shoot upwards”, meaning that he was ordering the military to shoot directly at the demonstrators.

After the 8888 Uprising, another series of demonstrations took place, which were all suppressed by military force.

During the uprising in 1988, thousands, mostly monks and civilians (but primarily students) were killed by the Tatmadaw (Burmese Armed Forces). The case of the Red Bridge is particularly notable. It is claimed that on that bridge the military fired upon a student protest while it was crossing the bridge until the bridge itself was red with the students’ blood.

Today, the uprising is remembered and honored by many Burmese expatriates and citizens alike. The 1995 motion picture Beyond Rangoon is based on a true story that took place during the uprising

Topics: Daily News |

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