The 8th August 2022 marks the 34th anniversary of the 8888 People’s Uprising. Thirty-four years ago, the 8th August 1988, would become the turning point of one of the biggest political upheavals in the tempestuous history of Myanmar. That date, more commonly written as 8.8.88 and thus named the “Four Eights Uprising” remains an unforgettable political milestone for the people of Myanmar.
The people of Myanmar have never accepted the military dictatorship and resistance and opposition were brewing long before 1988. Following the 1985 and 1987 currency devaluations which plunged millions into abject poverty sporadic protests broke out, predominantly led by student groups. The protests culminated in the death of a Rangoon Institute of Technology student, Ko Phone Maw, on the 13th March 1988 which stoked the anger and public outrage to a new height. In the aftermath of the death, the public began to join the student protests which led to the infamous “White Bridge Incident” three days later on the 16th of March where the Butcher of Rangoon and future president Sein Lwin opened fire on protesters, beating those who survived and throwing many into the river below. This act horrified a nation and led to a reinvigoration of the public protests against the military dictatorship.
Unrest continued for months and in the end the combination of the public threats made by Ne Win that “when the army shoots, it shoots to kill.”; the economic hardships brought on by to the woeful mismanagement of the economy; the brutal, unjust, and savage killings of the young students; and the bleak outlook for the country’s future, all ignited a fire that had been shouldering for months people from all corners of the country poured out onto the streets to protest and to depose the BSP military government. For the first four days of the uprising, the fascist army openly shot and killed thousands of protesters all over the country. This would continue for weeks until the military élite themselves saw the writing on the wall.
At 4:00pm on the 18th September 1988, after more than a month of continuous protests, the terrorist army led by Saw Maung announced on national radio and television that they had staged a coup d’état and seized power from the leading faction of the military. Martial law was instated and brutal crackdowns began across the country. Thousands were killed and the true number of causalities has never been reported. In 1990, nation-wide elections were held but the military ignored the election results and remained in power under different names for the two decades.
However, the revolutionary spirit of the people of Myanmar never died. In 2007, mass protests erupted in Myanmar also known as Saffron Revolution as a result of economic hardship and high fuel prices. But once again the protests were brutally put down by the fascist army, at least 13 were killed and hundreds more injured and arrested. The saffron revolution is another important milestone towards democratic rule. In 2015, the National League for Democracy won the general elections and became the first civilian government in more than five decades. Since then, commemorations of the 8888 uprising have been conducted more openly.
8888 has been commemorated annually in an enduring display of hatred for the military. The date has taken on a new depth of significance in light of the Spring Revolution against the military dictatorship – now the first political conflict in Myanmar to surpass the Four Eights Uprising in scale and duration. The 8888 uprising was started by the students and it was more urban in nature. By contrast the Spring Revolution involves all parts of the country, rural and urban and people of all walks of life; students, farmers, villagers, monks, priests, nuns, people irrespective of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, background and social status. Where the Four Eights Uprising was weakened and killed in its early stages, the Spring Revolution is growing stronger day by day. Of course, the Spring Revolution is faced with more blood and destruction than the 8888 uprising but we can see the light at the end of the dark tunnel. The Spring Revolution is proof that the younger generation continues the resistance and fight against the fascist rule of Min Aung Hlaing and his army.
On the 34th Anniversary of the 8888 uprising, the Spring Revolution continues to uphold to the 8888 spirit and the people of Myanmar are convinced that we can uproot this fascist militarism from our land once and for all. People truly believe that victory will be achieved. Those beliefs combined with our revolutionary fervour and passion will bring triumph and victory to the people of Myanmar.
· The genocidal military dictatorship, its roots and progeny will be eradicated from the Land of Myanmar.
· The seeds of Federal Democracy laid down by the 8888 uprising shall continue to blossom and bloom.
· The brave people of Myanmar will win.
. Our revolution shall prevail.
. May God Bless Myanmar.
Union Minister of the Ministry of International Cooperation
Spokesperson of the National Unity Government of Myanmar
Former Myanmar Special Envoy to the United Nations