Mental Floss

On the 20th Anniversary of the Burma Uprising

Kristen Steagall
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Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Burma's uprising on August 8th, 1988. Over 3,000 Burmese citizens were killed while peacefully protesting the socialist regime. Yet, not many news organizations seem to be giving it much coverage. Here's a rundown of the uprising and repercussions that are still being felt there today.

When: August 8th- September 18th 1988

Where it happened: Burma aka Myanmar. At the time of the uprising, Burma was a socialist state.

The Story:

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The shooting ignited an already agitated public, and hundreds of thousands of Burmese monks, schoolteachers, hospital staff, and customs officers eventually took to the streets in peaceful protests. The revolutionary spirit proved infectious and soon spread to neighboring cities in the following weeks. According to Win Min, a Burmese exile, "the whole country was marching in the streets."Â  That is, until the marches were brutally quelled by the military.
During the August 8th uprising Ne Win told his soldiers "Guns were not to shoot upwards," meaning he was giving them permission to kill protestors. Monopolizing on the unrest, General Saw Muang staged a coup d'etat, declared martial law, and formed the State Law and Order Restoration Council.

The Death Toll:

During the mass uprising on August 8th a reported 1,000 protesters were shot. Until the military assumed power on September 18th, another 3,000 were estimated to have been shot and another 10,000 fled to the mountains or across the border to China or India. One exile, Ngun Cung Lian, participated in the protests, and even led one in his hometown. To escape persecution he walked for seven days in the jungles of India. Today, he resides in America.
Present Day Situation:

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Quick Facts: "¢ The World Bank discontinued all lending to the country in 1987 and has no plans to reinstate lending policies to the country. "¢ Many people debate the use of Burma vs. Myanmar. By not recognizing the name given by a military junta, people claim it delegitimizes their claim to political power. Others view the problem as a Catch-22: Great Britain gave Burma its name when it colonized the region. "¢ Burma is slightly smaller than Texas. "¢ Nine months after the August 8th uprising, the famous Tiananmen Square Protests took place in Burma's neighboring country, China. "¢ The uprising went unknown for many years as the new Junta quickly cut off all means off communication with the outside world and the global eye quickly shifted to the incident in Tiananmen Square.

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