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Remembering 88: Fighting for what is ours

Ye Thu

Aug 8, 2008 (DVB), Twenty years ago this week in Rangoon, the air was filled with intensity and excitement , there was a light of hope shining brightly from the hearts of those who had taken to the streets and their supporters.

They had been longing for change for over two decades and now they felt they were closer to it than ever before.

Everyone was motivated in a way they had never been before , they were talkative, and there was only one topic of conversation. Smiling faces could be seen everywhere , on the corners of the streets and on the balconies of buildings , sharing in the understanding that what was taking place at the time was everyone's cause.

As a six-year-old child back then, I have only vaguely memories of that time. I was just happy as kids my age usually are without any understanding of the importance of the events that were unfolding before me , I was just happy to see a lot of people on the streets. But I understood that they were trying to bring us something wonderful and precious.

But the joy did not last long. The smiles disappeared from people's faces and were replaced by rather paranoid and confused expressions. It was beyond my understanding how the adults could go through that swift and dramatic emotional change within such a short period of time. They seemed anxious and were strictly ordering their children to stay inside the house.

After that, I lost communication with the outside world and the only thing I knew about the situation was that it was dangerous to go outside.

The next day, the morning after 8 August, I was brought back in contact with the outside world by the sound of gunfire coming from the direction of an intersection at the top of our street. There was a mass of confusion with all the gunshots and people screaming, swearing and crying for help , and the noise became louder as it came closer to our house.

Through the window of my house I saw young students in their teens in white and green school uniforms, come running helplessly onto our street, some covered in blood. They were running for their lives , to save themselves from getting shot by the soldiers who came after them.

My father went downstairs and immediately left the house on seeing that, and within less than a minute he had returned with a group of about 20 students , he had brought them into our house to let them hide from the soldiers.

The students , I remember the look on their faces , were just very young people and they were terrified. Some of them, as soon as they got into the house, went crawling under the tables and broke into tears. That was the only scene from the 8888 uprising which I can still clearly remember to this day , I will never forget those faces as long as I live.

The protesters had so much faith and kept up their hopes and belief in what they were doing, but once the soldiers started shooting the only hope they were left with was that they would not die.

As a regular child growing up in regular Burmese society, I was not told anything about the 8888 uprising and what had happened back then , Burmese parents were paranoid after what they had witnessed and now took it as their duty to keep their children out of politics and not let them meet a similar fate to those young students gunned down in the streets of Rangoon.

We knew the basics , that it was a national uprising in which people from every sector and class of Burmese society took part to oppose the military dictatorship , but I didn't really know how it had started until I read a book about the uprising published overseas when I got to Thailand at the age of 19. And I thought everyone else in the new generation of Burmese youth had the same lack of political awareness as I did , but I was wrong to underestimate them.

In September 2007, the people of Burma yet again made an attempt to gain the rights that they deserve and the military government responded to it in the same way as it had in 1988. But this time I witnessed it, not through my window, but in the international media coverage on news channels and on the internet.

This time, it was not only me , the whole world had seen the Burmese regime's cruelty towards its own people.

The 2007 Saffron Revolution had turned my opinions of the new Burmese generations upside-down. I thought they had forgotten or had never learned the history of our revolution. But when I watched the footage in the news coverage, I saw the same young faces with the same confused expressions in the face of the military's brutal crackdown on the protesters.

So why do they keep coming back, even after having learned in 1988 that the military would show no mercy to those who rise up against them regardless of whether they were monks, students, youngsters or elderly people?

If there is one thing for sure it is that the revolutionary spirit of Burmese people will never die. There are new generations coming who are taking up the baton from their predecessors and they will keep seeking what belongs to us.


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