Led mostly by student leaders, it was the largest mass protest in the country since its independence in Columns of demonstrators from all walks of life stood united under the emblem of the fighting peacock which would go on to become a powerful symbol of democracy in the country. Their goal - ousting a dictatorial regime under which, the country had been systematically oppressed since Events, however, quickly took a turn for the worse.
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Led mostly by student leaders, it was the largest mass protest in the country since its independence in Columns of demonstrators from all walks of life stood united under the emblem of the fighting peacock which would go on to become a powerful symbol of democracy in the country.
Their goal - ousting a dictatorial regime under which, the country had been systematically oppressed since Events, however, quickly took a turn for the worse.
Troops known as the Tatmadaw began opening fire on protestors. In the weeks that followed, at least 3, demonstrators died as a result and thousands more were jailed. The military then took firm control of the government and initiated further crackdowns in September. In the midst of the crackdowns, one icon would rise to become the face of the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar. On 26 August , she stood outside the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda and addressed an estimated crowd of , people on the urgent need for the nation to transition to a democracy after an unsuccessful experiment with socialism.
However, the military would prove to have an upper hand in matters related to politics in the following years. Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest in and a year later, her party, the National League for Democracy NLD won a resounding victory in the national polls — sweeping 80 percent of the seats in parliament and 60 percent of the popular vote.
However, the military led government there ignored the election results and remained in power for another two decades. Source: Various sources Lessons from the uprising If there is one recurrent theme in Myanmar, it is that its military will always play a fundamental role in politics. The events of had initially sparked a fervour for democracy in the fledgling nation which has since been ebbed by the continuous heavy handedness of the military in state affairs.
In , a new constitution was minted and as part of a political bargain to allow for the smooth transition from military to civilian rule, the Tatmadaw were allocated 25 percent of seats in Parliament. This unequivocally gave the military a veto to overrule any constitutional amendment which requires 75 percent support in parliament. Besides that, the military also holds key ministerial portfolios and the constitution also contains vague clauses which allow for the military to resume charge in the event the country falls into disorder.
In essence, Myanmar has remained a quasi-junta state. The lack of frank and critical discussions of Burmese history and politics in the nation has also led to the events of 8 August to be consigned to vague memories and oral recitations of its survivors. History has always been a delicate subject in the nation and has been shielded from public debate for fear of corrupting the official, state-controlled narrative.
Most distinctly, renderings of history by the military government capitalising on ethnic fault lines have given rise to the humanitarian crisis in the northern Rakhine State. Moving forward, there is not much optimism that the junta there will relax its grip and make way for a proper democratic government.
If the Uprising proves anything, it is that the people of Myanmar are not resistant to democracy. All that remains is for the army to relinquish its hold on power and allow the natural course of events to take place.
The 8888 Uprising in Myanmar (Burma)
Kallie Szczepanski is a history teacher specializing in Asian history and culture. She has taught at the high school and university levels in the U. The demonstrations forced him out of office on July 23, , but Ne Win appointed General Sein Lwin as his replacement. Sein Lwin was known as the "Butcher of Rangoon" for being in command of the army unit that massacred Rangoon University students in July of , as well as for other atrocities. Tensions, already high, threatened to boil over.
The 8888 Uprising: An unfinished revolution
File Uprising. Students planned for a nationwide demonstration on August 8, , an auspicious date based on numerological significance. Mass demonstrations were held across Burma as ethnic minorities, Buddhists , Muslims , students, workers and the young and old all demonstrated. A stage was also erected. Only one casualty was reported at this point as a frightened traffic policeman fired into the crowd and fled. Many participants in the protests arrived from nearby towns and villages. In one village, 2, of the 5, people also went on strike.
On 8 August, , all people including monks throughout the country joined the call to abolish military rule and demanded democracy. Among the causes that triggered the uprising, undoubtedly the most important and basic cause is worsening economic situation. People who could no longer bear to stand the economic hardship they were facing wanted a new government that could help improve the economy and their lives by setting the country on a path to democracy. It is undeniable that the Uprising is a movement that was able to bring many changes in the country over the last 30 years, although its goals have yet to be fully achieved. He said the meager freedom we are enjoying today is one of the fruits of Uprising. U Ko Ko Gyi, an 88 generation student leader, said the call for democracy was a call for a multi-party system and to shift from centrally planned economy to market-oriented economy.