Former activists recount why 8888 did not succeed
MONDAY, 10 AUGUST 2009 22:28 S.H.A.N.
Three former 8888 activists, marking the 21st anniversary of the 8 August 1988 uprising on Saturday, said there were several reasons how a popular rebellion could go wrong.
“We did not know what to shout and what to demand,” recalled Khun Myint Tun, elected MP from Thaton and currently serving as labor minister for the exile “National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma” (NCGUB), who was in the rubyland of Mogok at that time. “We had no slogans. We just shouted that we were not satisfied with the government. We did not even know what kind of revolution we were waging. We just improvised as we marched along the streets. ‘Down with murderers!’ and ‘Down with the dictators’ were added by my suggestions.”
He reasoned that for any popular uprising to succeed it must have common political aim, a unified leadership and organization, all of which 8888 did not have. “So in the end, power returned to the Burma Army that at least could boast organization (apart from arms),” he said.
All the speakers agreed that due to the demonetization of all 25-, 35- and 75-Kyat banknotes without compensation in 1987 and the student unrest in March 1988 when scores of people were killed and schools closed, the whole country was already ripe for the uprising.
“Another reason was that anti-government activities inside government- controlled towns and those in the countryside could not be combined,” said Hsailed, now universally known as cartoonist Harn Lay. “They fight separately. They did not help each other. That was also one big weakness of the uprising.”
To these, Aung Latt, former student from Kachin State, added his viewpoint. “There was also a need for coordination and cooperation between activists inside the country and those outside the country that could have made a difference,” he said.
Popular uprisings since 8888 up to the 2007 “Saffron Revolution” all shared the same weaknesses. “The only difference we can pinpoint is increased media access as well as citizen journalism,” said Khun Myint Tun.
Future uprisings are bound to succeed if the said weaknesses have been overcome, according to the speakers.
The 8888 countrywide demonstrations ended in bloodshed when the military, led by Gen Saw Maung, staged a coup on 18 September of that year.
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