8888 DEMONSTRATIONS, MILITARY CRACKDOWN AFTERWARDS AND THE 1990 ELECTIONS

DEMONSTRATIONS AFTER NE WIN RESIGNS IN 1988

In 1988, the announcement that 77 year-old Ne Win was suddenly resigning, triggered pro-democracy protests across the country that were crushed that September when his loyalists seized power in the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). In his resignation speech, Ne Win had ominously warned: "When the army shoots, it shoots to hit."

In March 1988, pro-democracy demonstrations began in Rangoon after General Ne Win announced in 1988 that he going to step down. The Minister of trade told Reuter, "The uprisings and demonstrations that took place in 1988 were mainly because of economic difficulties."

On July 23, 1988, General Ne Win steps down as Chairman of the Burma Socialist Programme Party(BSPP) after 26 years, triggering a pro-democracy movement.

On August 8, 1988, the famous 8-8-88 mass uprising starts in Rangoon and spreads to the entire country, drawing millions of people to protest against the BSPP government. The following military crackdown killed many people. The 1988 demonstrators were described by the military regime as “stooges of external influences.”

Hannah Beech wrote in Time: “That Rangoon summer grew into Burma's version of a Prague spring. The generals' mismanagement had turned what was once one of Asia's breadbaskets into an economic basket case, and students, monks and workers gathered by the hundreds of thousands to call for the regime's downfall. The army fired on the protesters, some of whom tried to fight back.” [Source: Hannah Beech, Time, December 29, 2010]

Crazy Economic Policy Behind the 1988 Demonstrations

Ne Win had retired as president in 1981, but remained in power as Chairman of the BSPP until his sudden unexpected announcement to step down on July 23, 1988. In the 1980s, the economy began to grow as the government relaxed restrictions on foreign aid, but by the late 1980s falling commodity prices and rising debt led to an economic crisis. This led to economic reforms in 1987–88 that relaxed socialist controls and encouraged foreign investment. This was not enough, however, to stop growing turmoil in the country, compounded by periodic 'demonetization' of certain bank notes in the currency, the last of which was decreed in September 1987 wiping out the savings of the vast majority of people.

In November 1985, 75-kyat notes were introduced, the odd denomination possibly chosen because of dictator Ne Win's predilection for numerology; the 75-kyat note was supposedly introduced to commemorate his 75th birthday. It was followed by the introduction of 15- and 35-kyat notes in August 1986. Only two years later, on September 5, 1987, the government demonetized the 25-, 35-, and 75-kyat notes without warning or compensation, rendering some 75 percent of the country's currency worthless.

In September 1987, Burma's de facto ruler U Ne Win suddenly canceled certain currency notes which caused a great down-turn in the economy. The main reason for the cancellation of these notes was superstition on U Ne Win's part, as he considered the number nine his lucky number—he only allowed 45 and 90 kyat notes, because these were divisible by nine. [Source: Wikipedia +]

In September 1987, Ne Win voided most denominations of the kyat without warning, causing many people to lose their savings overnight. Students who saved money for tuition fees were particularly affected. The announcement led to riots at several universities. The situation was further exacerbated by the shooting of protesting student Phone Maw in a 12 March 1988 clash with police. On 16 March, Min Ko Naing organized a rally of 3,000 students on the RASU campus in which he spoke about the role of student movements in Burmese history. When the students attempted to march to the Rangoon Institute of Technology, where Phone Maw had been killed, they encountered a barbed wire barricade at Inya Lake and were attacked by riot police, resulting in several deaths and many arrests. +

Shortly after this, Ne Win's government closed the universities, and the movement went underground. Min Ko Naing continued to organize protesters and circulate posters of the violence at Inya Lake. Ne Win soon agreed to step down from office, and on 7 July, many imprisoned student activists were released. The following day, Min Ko Naing and others released the first statement in the name of the new All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), an organization that had previously been known for its struggle against British colonial rule: "We shouldn't be swayed by the release of our fellow students. We will continue to fight."The ABSFU continued to release statements by Min Ko Naing urging protests to the military government, including one calling for a general strike on 8-8-88, a number which would later become synonymous with the movement itself. +

8888 Demonstrations

On August 8, 1988, security forces opened fire on groups protested peacefully in the streets of Rangoon, and them, killing hundreds. The protests then spread to the countryside and other cities and lasted for six weeks. The event is now known as "8888," a reference August 8, 1988 (8/8/88), the day students and workers called for a general strike and the uprising began. Activist Win Min told the New York Times: “We had big hope that we would succeed. It was the biggest struggle ever in Burmese history . Not just in one town but even in remote villages. The whole country was marching in the streets.”

The demonstrations broke out shortly after Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Burma to help take care of her sick mother. The date —August 8, 1988—was chosen by student leaders for the auspicious alignment of the digits. Richard Paddock wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “In August, troops opened fire on demonstrators in cities across the country. Many of the bodies were dumped in rivers or disappeared. No one knows how many protesters were killed but some estimate at least 3,000. The massacre is remembered by its date: 8/8/88. Eighteen days later, Suu Kyi spoke at the golden Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon's most important landmark; 100,000 people came to hear Aung San's daughter. She called the fight for democracy the second struggle for national independence, and her speech propelled her to the forefront of the movement. [Source: Richard Paddock, Los Angeles Times, June 18, 2005]

According to Lonely Planet: “ In early 1988, they packed the streets and there were massive confrontations between pro-democracy demonstrators and the military that resulted in an estimated 3000 deaths over a six-week period. Once again, monks were at the helm. They turned their alms bowls upside down (the Buddhist symbol of condemnation) and insisted that Ne Win had to go. He finally did, in July 1988, but he retained a vestige of his old dictatorial power from behind the scenes. [Source: Lonely Planet]

The 8-8-88 general strike drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of Yangon, and is widely seen as a turning point in the Burmese democracy movement. Min Ko Naing continued to speak to crowds in front of the US Embassy and Rangoon General Hospital, the sites of previous killings of protesters by Burmese government forces. He also arranged for the daughter of independence hero Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi, to make her first speech to a crowd at Shwedagon Pagoda. Aung San Suu Kyi would go on to be elected prime minister in the 1990 general election, only to be denied office and imprisoned by the State Law and Order Restoration Council, the new military government. [Source: Wikipedia]

Violence, Human Rights Abuses and the 8888 Demonstrations

Joshua Hammer wrote in The New Yorker: In early August, 1988, peaceful demonstrations broke out in Rangoon against the regime’s disastrous economic policies, and quickly spread to other cities. Students, monks, lawyers, laborers, and others marched in the streets. Ne Win reportedly gave an order that guns were “not to shoot upwards,” and soldiers opened fire, killing nearly six thousand people. General Saw Maung seized power, formed a junta called the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), and imposed martial law. “So many of us were expelled and blacklisted afterward,” my translator told me. He was a student leader in the philosophy department at Mandalay University that year. [Source: Joshua Hammer, The New Yorker, January 24, 2011]

Human Rights Watch reported: “In 1988 civilian anger exploded into mass nationwide peaceful demonstrations led by students and Buddhist monks. The army responded by attacking the crowds with machine-gun fire and bayonets, and as many as 3,000 are estimated to have been killed. The government reformed itself into a military junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), and imposed martial law, curfews, and other restrictions, while thousands of dissidents fled to the large territories controlled by ethnic and communist armed groups, there to form their own additional political and armed groups. [Source: Human Rights Watch, Sold to Be Soldiers, October 31, 2007]

Triggered by brutal police repression of student-led protests causing the death of over a hundred students and civilians in March and June 1988, widespread protests and demonstrations broke out on 8 August throughout the country. The military responded by firing into the crowds, alleging Communist infiltration. Violence, chaos and anarchy reigned. Civil administration had ceased to exist, and by September of that year, the country was on the verge of a revolution. The armed forces, under the nominal command of General Saw Maung staged a coup on 8 August to restore order. During the 8888 Uprising, as it became known, the military killed thousands. The military swept aside the Constitution of 1974 in favor of martial law under the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) with Saw Maung as chairman and prime minister. [Source: Wikipedia]

At a special six-hour press conference on 5 August 1989, Brig. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the SLORC Secretary 1 and chief of Military Intelligence Service (MIS), claimed that the uprising had been orchestrated by the Communist Party of Burma through its underground organisation. Although there had inevitably been some underground CPB presence as well as that of ethnic insurgent groups, there was no evidence of their being in charge to any extent. In fact, in March 1989, the CPB leadership was overthrown by a rebellion by the Kokang and Wa troops that it had come to depend on after losing its former strongholds in central Burma and re-establishing bases in the northeast in the late 1960s; the Communist leaders were soon forced into exile across the Chinese border.

Eyewitness Report of the 8888 Protest

At the time of the protests Asiaweek reported: Its gold roof glistening, the Sule Pagoda rises above a sea of protestors in the heart of Rangoon. The 2,000-year-old Buddhist shrine was a key flash point. Demonstrators massed there instead of at premier Shwedagon Pagoda, which was bristling with armed troops. Clashes between soldiers and civilians also erupted at City Hall and at Rangoon General Hospital. In one incident at the hospital, several nurses and doctors were reportedly gunned down by soldiers for refusing to treat wounded comrades. by last week, the hub of protest had shifted to the hospital, which was being called a "free zone." Speeches and rallies continued there as the city waited for a successor to Sein Lwin to be named. Inside, staff turned away soldiers and party members. Medical supplies began running critically short. Radio Rangoon meanwhile broadcast diatribes aimed at turning opinion against the protest leaders. They were branded apyet phama, or destructive elements, the word used by the authorities to describe insurgents. But Burmese travellers said the populace seemed unswayed. [Source: Asiaweek, August 26, 1988 ><]

“His rifle menacingly at the ready, a soldier from Burma's 22nd Light Infantry Division patrols the streets of Rangoon Aug. 9 amid unprecedented turmoil. His combat-tested division was known for loyalty to Sein Lwin, the man at the center of the storm, but even it could not prevail against an angry people. Late last month Sein Lwin had replaced Ne Win, the country's iron fisted leader for the past 26 years. But the appointment unleashed waves of bloody anti-government rioting across the country. "Burma\'s Hitler," some called the new strong man, remembering his brutal suppression of earlier uprisings. In less than two weeks, an estimated 3,000 Burmese died. Faced with such fury, Sein Lwin quits on Aug. 12. ><

Caught between bayonets and a barricade, demonstrators scurry for safety on Rangoon's Anawrahta Street Aug.9.Confrontation that day were among the fiercest since martial law was imposed on the capital Aug. 3. These people escaped largely unscathed; most of the blood flowed under cover of darkness. ><

“Flags of peace and defiance flutter side by side above Rangoon demonstrators. A portrait of Aung San, Burma's pre-Independence resistance hero, is a powerful symbol of the struggle for freedom. Burma's tumultuous experiment with democratic ideals after Independence from the British in 1948 set the stage for Ne Win's coup in 1962 -- and for one-party rule. Sein Lwin's departure rekindled demands for greater political freedom. On Aug. 16, students distributed leaflets calling for an end to the single-party system and for new protests before the People's Assembly approved a new leader on Aug. 19. But many Burmese believed that Ne Win still controlled the BSPP, despite his resignation as party chairman. Therefore said analysts, whoever was chosen as leader would probably encounter popular opposition. Reports surfaced of angry Rangoon residents killing BSPP members suspected of spying for the regime. Many party officials last week were said to be living as virtual prisoners inside their homes while triumphant students outside called themselves min-ko naing -- conquerors of king. ><

“Keeping the crowds at bay, soldiers with assault rifles maintain an uneasy watch over the capital. Initial restraint by both soldiers and demonstrators soon gave way to a bloody clashes late Aug. 8. When word spread that troops had shot unarmed protestors, angry mobs retaliated with stones, petrol bombs and slingshot missiles dipped in poison or excreta. Three security policemen were reportedly beheaded in the suburb of Okkalapa. The violence quickly spread to more than 24 cities, from the far north to the deepest South. Demonstrators demanded an end to totalitarianism. Outgoing Ne Win, 77, had dangled the prospect of a referendum on a multi-party system. But the proposal was rejected by the Burma Socialist Program Party (BSPP), the country';s sole legal political group. The accession soon after of "Butcher" Sein Lwin, 64, was the last straw for frustrated Burmese. His resignation, after just eighteen days in power, cooled passions in the country for a while. But sporadic fighting soon broke out in a few towns. In Rangoon, law and order was said to have collapsed last week. People began stocking emergency supplies of food and water. ><

“Fruit and vegetables were on sale in relative abundance in late July in Pegu, 80 kilometers north of Rangoon (above). But food shortages had reportedly worsened by last week. Rice supplies have been a chronic problem in a country that was a premier exporter of the stable at the time of Ne Win's coup. Much of the unrest was fuelled by soaring prices of foodstuffs. During the protests, the authorities sold off rice and cooking oil to keep prices down and deflect discontent. But the move came too late. Last week people were reported looting rice stores. Whoever emerged as leader would need to take urgent action on economic reforms approved by the party when Sein Lwin (seated, on right) took over. Among them: encouragement of foreign and private enterprise. However, many analysts remained skeptical over whether the current ruling group had the talent -- or the time -- to show results. Holding the fort in the interim was Vice-President Aye Ko. ><

Military Seizes Control of Burma

In September 1988, Army commander Gen. Saw Maung announced a military takeover and the creation of State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), which would run the country. Around the same time Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as the leader of the pr-democracy movement.

There were major demonstrations and brutal crackdowns in September and October 1988. When it was over between 3,000 and 5,000 monks, students, children, women and workers had been killed by police soldiers. The head of some student protestors were severed. The military regime maintains that only 500 people were killed

The military government said the crack down occurred "to save the country from insurrection and anarchy." Lieut. Gen. Khin Nyunt, the intelligence officer who was seen by many as the leader of the junta, told the media the army saved Burma from disintegration. "The country was about to be destroyed completely, and we were compelled to come out to save the country." Because monks played a role in the uprising, leader in the Buddhist clergy were purged.

On June 19, 1989, the government renamed the country Myanmar and changed the name of the capital from Rangoon to Yangon. After that Aung San Suu Kyi became increasingly outspoken of the government. She and her deputy, Tin OO, were both put under house arrest.

According to Lonely Planet: “The shaken government quickly formed the Orwellian-sounding SLORC, declared martial law and promised to hold democratic elections in May 1989. The opposition, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, organised an opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). While the Burmese population rallied around the NLD, the SLORC grew increasingly nervous. It placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest and postponed the election.

Violent Crackdown in Burma in September 1988

The 8888 protests lasted until September 18 at which point soldiers opened fire on the crowds, resulting in at least 3,000 deaths. On that day the military launched a coup that established the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), chaired by Gen. Saw Maung. On September 18 and 19, 1988, soldiers returned to the streets and fired live ammunition at peaceful protesters, killing thousands. Thousands of activists were arrested and thousands more fled to neighboring countries. Student leaders, who served as the vanguard of the protests, and other activists were imprisoned for years and subjected to torture and other abuses in prison. No government officials were ever held accountable for abuses committed during the crackdown.

Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, “The Burmese armed forces removed the civilian leadership of the Government Sunday, banned street demonstrations and ordered striking workers back to their jobs. As demonstrators defied the orders this morning, heavy shooting and bloodshed were reported throughout the capital city of Rangoon. Witnesses said students and Buddhist monks were shot by soldiers, some of them firing from rooftops, and residents were seen dragging the wounded into their homes. The witnesses said casualties were heavy. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, September 19, 1988]

The military assumption of power was led by the Defense Minister and army chief, Gen. Saw Maung, a member of the military-dominated ruling clique centered around the retired Burmese leader, U Ne Win. The military has dominated the Government and the country in various guises since a coup by Mr. Ne Win in 1962. Curfew Is Imposed Although the army said it was standing by the Government's pledge to hold multiparty elections, it took a number of steps Sunday to break up the opposition, imposing a night-time curfew and banning gatherings of more than five people and all anti-Government demonstrations.

In defiance of the military orders, thousands of demonstrators who have challenged the Government and its armed forces for six weeks gathered Sunday in the streets of Rangoon, and heavy gunfire could be heard in various parts of the capital late Sunday night, diplomats said. ''There's shooting all over,'' said a diplomat reached by telephone Sunday night. He said he could hear automatic weapon fire and the boom of recoilless rifles as he spoke. Witnesses reported power disruptions in the capital and the sound of explosions in the night. This morning, witnesses said soldiers had occupied the offices of newspapers that have published anti-Government views in recent weeks.

The military takeover was announced Sunday in a series of brief broadcasts on Radio Rangoon interspersed with martial music. First Radio Announcement ''Because of the deteriorating situation in the country, the armed forces have assumed all powers from today for the benefit of the various indigenous peoples in the union,'' the first broadcast said. It said this move was made to restore law and order, to facilitate transport and communications, to ease growing shortages of food, clothing and shelter and ''to stage democratic multiparty elections after fulfilling all of the above-stated responsibilities.''

Student groups, which had said they were prepared for a military crackdown, were defiant, with one demonstrator saying, according to a witness: ''We are not cowards. We will fight the army.'' After the broadcast announcement, diplomats said, army sound trucks drove through the streets repeating the orders. Meanwhile, young men on motorcycles drove through the streets urging people to defy the military, they said. People began felling trees to block roads and constructing makeshift barriers, as they had during a previous military crackdown, to slow troop movements.

Groups of students began to gather throughout the city and crowds formed at Rangoon General Hospital and outside the United States Embassy, two rallying points for anti-Government demonstrators, diplomats said. ''The mood is very ugly,'' said a witness, who described demonstrators armed with metal spikes, spears and sharpened bicycle spokes called ''jinglees'' that are fired from slingshots.

“The radio announced the imposition of a curfew from 8 P.M. to 4 A.M., the first such action since the Government halted martial law and removed troops from the streets Aug. 24. The radio also announced a ban on ''gathering, walking, marching in procession, chanting slogans, delivering speeches, agitating and creating disturbances on the streets by a group of more than five people.'' It banned strikes, roadblocks, demonstrations and interference with the duties of security forces.

Political Forces Behind the Military Takeover in September 1988

Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, “The elections were announced by the Government on Sept. 10 as a concession to anti-Government protesters, but have been rejected by the protesters unless the leadership steps down in favor of a neutral interim government. The radio said the five-man election commission formed last week would remain in place; the statement invited political parties to form and begin preparing for the vote. Gen. Saw Maung, who becomes Burma's fourth leader in two months, was identified on the broadcast as chairman of the Organization for Building Law and Order. The group is made up of 19 military men, mostly brigadiers and lieutenant generals representing commands around the country. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, September 19, 1988]

The announcement dissolved all Government and state bodies, including local administrations. Many of these bodies have already been weakened by defections to the opposition. Diplomats reached in Rangoon took the view that the military could be carrying out the next step in a plan engineered by Mr. Ne Win, who is still believed to be in control despite his formal resignation on July 23. Some diplomats pointed to the possibility of a ''false coup,'' in which the armed forces takes the leading role in enforcing the policies of the ruling group. ''It is not a coup,'' a Western diplomat said. ''The army is in power already. How can you stage a coup if you are running the place already?'' Another diplomat said the move could be a decisive one, bringing to a head the confrontation between the Government and the population.

The military is virtually the only major institution that has not joined the anti-Government demonstrations. The momentum of the opposition, which has called for the creation of an interim government, has reached the point where one leading figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, issued a statement earlier saying, ''The people's aspirations will soon be fulfilled.'' 'This Ruins Everything' Another opposition leader, U Tin Oo, said after a meeting of top opposition figures, ''It is only a matter of finding a graceful exit,'' for the Government. But after the army's announcement, an aide to Mr. Tin Oo, reached by telephone, said, ''This ruins everything.'' And a man who answered the telephone at Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's house said: ''We are all frightened. It's very confusing and we don't know what is going on.''

The broadcast said the military had abolished all Government bodies including the Council of State, which was headed by President Maung Maung. But it did not mention the ruling Burma Socialist Program Party, which is the real power in the nation. Mr. Maung Maung is the chairman of the party. He succeeded U Sein Lwin, who served as President and party leader for 17 days after the resignation of Mr. Ne Win as party leader. Gen. Saw Maung, who is viewed as a hand-liner loyal to Mr. Ne Win, was named Defense Minister July 27 at the same time Mr. Sein Lwin assumed party and Government leadership. He has been armed forces chief since 1985. A Later Broadcast

The second broadcast, an hour and a half later, announced the abolition of the People's Assembly, or parliament, the Council of State, which is the leading Government body, the councils of ministers, justices, attorneys and inspectors and all local Government councils. It suspended from duty all deputy ministers. A large number of officials in these bodies have already left their jobs and many have announced their protest resignations from the ruling party. The new military leadership also announced that it would ''continue to practice an active and independent foreign policy,'' a continuation of the isolationist foreign policies of Mr. Ne Win.

In a final radio announcement an hour later, Gen. Saw Maung ordered soldiers to support the state and national unity. In recent weeks several hundred soldiers have defected and joined the demonstrators in what diplomats said could be a sign of cracks in military discipline and unity. But another diplomat said Sunday, ''There is no sign of the army not being united in this move.'' Younger Than Other Leaders

Gen. Saw Maung is younger than the other leaders of Burma's ruling group and is thought to be dependent on and obedient to them. ''He lacks the intellectual gifts of his predecessors at that post and, therefore, is seen as easily manipulated by the two top leaders,'' wrote Bertil Lintner, a specialist on Burma, in the weekly Far Eastern Economic Review.

The top leaders he referred to were Mr. Ne Win and Mr. Sein Lwin. Mr. Lintner said Gen. Saw Maung's orders are usually carried out by his deputy, Maj. Gen. Than Shwe, whom he described as a ''ruthless field commander who is more feared than respected by his subordinates.'' Gen. Than Shwe was listed in the second position in the new military ruling group.

Pro-Democracy Activists In Myanmar Fight On

Reporting from refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border, Denis D. Gray of Associated Press, wrote: “ Nearly 20 years ago, thousands of student activists from Myanmar fled to this border region, determined to wage an ultimately doomed guerrilla war against a military which had crushed their movement. Victims of malarial mosquitoes, the bullets of a vastly superior force and their own infighting, the young jungle warriors withered, many becoming disillusioned exiles scattered from Australia to the United States. "The reason the vast majority fled to the border in 1988 was because they wanted to start an armed insurgency against the government and were hopeful the United States in particular and other Western countries would be willing to train and arm them says Thant Myint-U, himself an exile and author of a recent book on Myanmar, "The River of Lost Footsteps." [Source: Denis D. Gray, Associated Press, October 27, 2007]

In 1988, the regime was in a state of near collapse following the uprising, allowing a window of opportunity for those who wanted out. And the Karen and other ethnic minority insurgents then controlled large swaths of the border area which offered safe haven. "I got through because I have 20 years of experience in such things. I used a fake ID card, disguised myself and had friends along the way when I needed them," said Hlaing Moe Than, 37, who spent more than eight years in prison after taking part in the 1988 uprising. The veteran activist, who was also about to be arrested last month, said he had to fake his way through a dozen military checkpoints between Yangon and the border.

1990 Myanmar Elections

To appease the demonstrators and prevent further uprising, the government announced that elections would be held. In May, 1990, Myanmar (Burma) held its first elections in 30 years. Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLP) won 59 percent of the national vote and 82 percent (392 of 485) of the seats in Parliament vote even though it did virtually no campaigning, stunning the generals, who had expected pro-military parties to win and had arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and employed other dirty tactics,

Sore losers, the generals refused to allow the NLD to assume its parliamentary seats and arrested most of the party leadership. The parliament was never allowed to function. Just as the transfer of power was going take place the military generals nullified the election, citing a need until approval from all 135 ethnic groups was given on the constitution, an impossible task. Many of the legislators who were elected were imprisoned and remained there for a long time.

The elections were nullified, the generals said, because a Western-style democracy was “inappropriate” for Myanmar. Despite its strong showing, the NLP, was given only 86 seats in the 677-member National Convention that was in charge of drafting the constitution. See New Constitution.

According to Human Rights Watch: “In 1990 the SLORC held an election in most parts of the country, but when the opposition National League for Democracy (NLP) won a landslide victory the junta refused to concede power. Since that time restrictions on human rights and freedoms have intensified throughout the country, and human rights abuses have grown much worse especially in the non-Burman regions. In ceasefire areas, human rights violations have decreased as a result of cessation of open warfare and the government's emphasis on infrastructure and aid projects, and its business interests. Nevertheless, human rights violations such as forced labor, land confiscations, and militarization by the Burmese army continue in a culture of impunity.[Source: Human Rights Watch, Sold to Be Soldiers, October 31, 2007]

Some blamed the NLP for the crackdown for being too cocky after they won the 1990 multiparty election and couldn't resist crowing, including a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party who suggested the generals might face a Nuremburg-style trial. Alarmed, the military refused to accept the results and instead instituted a massive crackdown.

The military described the 1988 demonstrators as “stooges of external influences.” The elections were nullified, the generals said, because Western-style democracy was “inappropriate” for Myanmar.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Travel Information Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, burmalibrary.org, burmanet.org, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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