Myanmarese mark 20th yr of “8888” | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Myanmarese mark 20th yr of “8888”

Twenty years after a violent military crackdown in Myanmar led to the deaths of thousands, more than 50 Delhi-based pro-democracy advocates gather at the Indian Social Institute, reports Robbie Corey-Boulet.

delhi Updated: Aug 08, 2008 23:58 IST
Robbie Corey-Boulet

Twenty years after a violent military crackdown in Myanmar led to the deaths of thousands, more than 50 Delhi-based pro-democracy advocates gathered Friday to hear a panel critique international policies toward the country’s ruling junta.

The gathering at the Indian Social Institute marked the 20th anniversary of an uprising on August 8, 1988, in which an estimated 3,000 protesters were killed. Organisers drew comparisons between that uprising –– colloquially referred to as “8888” — and the pro-democracy protests and subsequent crackdown that took place last September.

The panellists came from diverse fields –– including politics, academia and the arts –– but shared a view that the international community should rethink its policies toward Burma, which the government renamed Myanmar in 1989.

Filmmaker and poet Sagari Chhabra said the United States and European Union should ease up on “counterproductive and dangerous” sanctions that serve only to further isolate the country’s citizens.

Ravi Hemadri, executive director of the Other Media, said India should not let its economic interest in the country’s natural resources compromise its commitment to human rights.

The “8888” uprising came in response to a spiralling economic downturn that was exacerbated by military leader General Ne Win’s decision to withdraw several currency denominations, a move that depleted the savings of many Myanmarese.

Hundreds of thousands of students, monks and other civilians participated in street protests that ended with a crackdown in mid-September.

Kim, a 31-year-old native of Paletwa, in west Myanmar, contrasted the 1988 protests with the pro-democracy demonstrations that took place last year.

In August 2007, a sharp escalation in fuel prices sparked anti-government protests. By September, the number of monks and other protesters reached tens of thousands, prompting another violent government crackdown.

In 1988, the Myanmarese were fighting for political and economic reforms, said Kim, who now lives in Delhi. “Now we are struggling for our dignity. We don’t have any dignity in Burma,” he said.

There are roughly 2,000 Myanmarese living in Delhi, according to Achan Mungleng, who helped organise Friday’s panel and a candlelight vigil that followed. More than 1,00,000 live in India, many in Mizoram and other northeast states.