Activists Remember Anniversary of 8888 Massacre
8 August 2010 – Chiangmai: Twenty two years after the Burmese military brutally crushed a nation-wide uprising against the autocratic regime that ruled the country for nearly three decades, memories are still afresh for the survivors of the violent massacre.
Burmese activists based in Chiangmai, Thailand today remember the 22nd anniversary of that fateful day, which came to be popularly known as the quadruple eight or 8888. On August 8, 1988, the Burmese army fired indiscriminately on peaceful and unarmed protestors and mercilessly killing thousands of civilians on the streets of Rangoon and other major cities.
But despite the horrors of the memory and the loss of thousands of innocent lives organizers say the anniversary is an energizing source that will continue to inspire Burmese citizens to stand up for freedom and democracy for generations to come.
“From the spirit of 8888 to the cause of justice, equality and democracy,” was the theme of this year’s commemoration of the event, which was proudly displayed as the stage banner.
Attended by about 500 Burmese activists and supporters, the program features personal reflections by prominent activists, presentation of a video documentary and poem recitals dedicated to the memory of the 8888, as well as, other entertainment programs.
“Let’s conclude the unfinished task” was the title of the video documentary, which showed graphic details of the events of the 8888 massacre although some speakers of the event, acknowledging the fact that struggle has not achieved its goals, would prefer the term “Let’s continue on.”
Reflecting on her personal experiences during the 8888 uprising, Khin Ohn Mar, a prominent human rights activist who participated in the movement as a young student in her final year of university says, “We cannot afford to simply pass this struggle on to the next generations for them to continue, we have to conclude it now in this generation.” Acknowledging that there were shortcomings, she says that for the movement to succeed this time around, political leaders and participants of the movement alike have to be really ready and prepared if change is to be realized. She says that genuine change can be closer within reach if everyone involved can put aside their differences and work together in a spirit of cooperation as was exemplified in the 8888 struggle.
Another activist Khun Patrick Nyein Aung of the All Burma Student Democratic Front recounted how, at merely 17 years old, he was forced to leave behind his family and trained as a revolutionary soldier in a malaria-infested jungle of southeastern Burma to continue the fight following the military coup. “As a young boy who had never been apart from his family, homesickness and malaria disease were almost enough to break my spirit,” he says.
Aung Naing Soe who took the podium to comment on the current political situations in Burma says, “The political leaders must consider putting the national interest ahead of electoral politics. Just because there is an election doesn’t mean that it will lead to a democracy.”
He observes that the new Parliament that is elected out of the 2010 elections will be one dominated by the military which will be further subject to dictation by the National Security Council, which has the supreme power in all matters of national importance according to the military-backed constitution.