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Myanmar commemorates 1988 student protests
Publication Date : 08-08-2013
A historic commemoration ceremony of the silver jubilee of the Myanmar's pro-democracy struggle is underway in various cities across the nation.
The three-day "Silver Jubilee for the Four Eights Democracy Movement" ceremony kicked off on Tuesday at the Myanmar Convention Centre in Yangon, attended by around 3,000 people including exiled political parties, representatives from ethnic armed groups and former political prisoners.
In his opening speech, former student leader Min Ko Naing said that the ceremony serves as a bridge between the past, present and the future to allow the young generation to value the sacrifices made in the historic student uprising.
"The future generation who don't clearly know about the 1988 incident should listen and look at the photos. They will see the images of families who lost [their loved ones] and people who were injured in the incident. As everyone knows, the military government belittled this movement as anarchy, looting, unrest, and violence," said Min Ko Naing of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Organisation.
The 1988 pro-democracy movement began with the death of Phone Maw, a student from Rangoon Institute of Technology who was shot and killed by the police. His death started a series of student protests and later joined by wide sections of the public.
At its height, hundreds of thousands of people marched in downtown Yangon on Aug 8, 1988 to protest against the military regime. The protests were brutally attacked by the military government who shot and killed thousands of unarmed peaceful demonstrators.
"We will not yield the word 'movement' in order to hold this ceremony. We have faced many difficulties, but we will not give up. As we have said many times since the one-year anniversary of Phone Maw's death 24 years ago, we will not allow this noble movement to be degraded with other words," said Min Ko Naing.
He added that the ceremony was held to honour the "nonentity heroes" who died in the democracy movement.
During the event, discussions were held on topics ranging from a national ceasefire with armed groups to the internal peace process, human rights, democracy and how to achieve true national reconcilliation as well as nation building and development.
The three-day silver jubilee ceremony also kicked off in Mandalay yesterday at the Dhamma Tharla Hall in Chanmyathazi Township after veteran journalist Hanthawady Win Tin, patron of the National League for Democracy and Mandalay-based political activist Thein Tan cut down the ribbons.
The ceremony there was attended by political activists, MPs, and former student activists from the 88 Generation.
Hanthawady Win Tin told the audience that two uprisings have arisen in Myanmar history and while the "1300 Revolution" against British colonialism was successful, the "1988 Democracy Movement" that arose 50 years after still hasn't reached its goal yet. The public must still campaigns for democracy, human rights and national reconcilliation.
"The lives of those who participated in this movement have not changed. For example, we have been calling for democracy rights and human rights but we still haven't received them yet. Peace is still too far away for us even today," said Hanthawady Win Tin.
Zarni Aung, an 88 Generation student and member of the silver jubilee working committee also told the crowd that the ultimate goal of the 88 uprising must still be realised.
"If the 88 Movement is a flame, then the 'nonentity heroes' who have sacrificed their lives would be the fire woods. Everyone sees the big flame but not the fire woods. We still haven't received the ultimate goal of the Movement. We're still in a haze," said Zarni Aung.
Other cities and towns in different states and regions have also been preparing to mark down the silver jubilee.