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8.8.88 – A Day of Unity that Must Live On

By Burma Partnership  •  August 10, 2010

Twenty-two years ago on 8 August, Burma’s army brutally massacred as many as 3,000 peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators marching against increasing poverty and oppression, and calling for an end to the military dictatorship. The serious human rights violations and economic mismanagement that led to the national uprising in 1988 have continued to worsen under the current regime.

On Sunday 8 August, 2010, several hundred activists, students, and members of civil society gathered at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the 8.8.88 uprising in Burma. The event in Bangkok also marked the beginning of a new photo petition calling for a commission of inquiry into serious international crimes in Burma, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. It was only one of many commemorative events happening in various cities around the world this weekend, including Seoul, Chiang Mai, Mae Sot, Melbourne, Berkeley and Washington D.C.

Burma Partnership coordinator, Khin Ohmar, remarked how it is truly amazing how the spirit of 1988 has not died. “It has been 22 years, but still people are not giving up in the fight for democracy and freedom in Burma. 1988 was a significant moment in Burma’s history because it planted the seed of change in the hearts of millions of people of Burma, which has grown so much over the years.” Every year, 8.8.88 anniversaries highlight the vibrancy of the movement, and the commitment of the new generation of Burmese democracy activists to continue to push for the change that captured the hearts of thousands of demonstrators all those years ago.

8.8.88 marked a moment of nationwide unity in the Burmese democracy movement. The demonstrations were held in a “spirit of unity, sacrifice and setting aside differences – be they political beliefs, ideology, ethnicity, religion, or gender,” Khin Ohmar reflected, “From the 8.8.88 uprising, we were able to bring down a 26 year old military dictatorship because we were united as a country. It was so pure, that spirit of unity. We were able to transcend our differences for our common unified vision of justice and democracy for all. My greatest wish is for us to retain that same spirit of unity that captured the nation’s imagination over twenty-two years ago, as that cohesiveness is our only chance for genuine national reconciliation and democracy in our country.”

This year’s 8.8.88 anniversary is a particularly significant occasion; with the 2010 elections looming, the fundamentally undemocratic and divisive lead-up to the elections is an affront to the spirit of democracy, hope, unity and change that spread through the country in August 1988. The international community must nourish the spirit of 8.8.88 in honor of the all those brave demonstrators who banded together twenty-two years ago in the vision of a just and democratic Burma.

To read more about Khin Ohmar’s experiences during 8.8.88, please view her reflections in the Irrawaddy

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