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Dissidents mark anniversary of military crackdown

The military's brutal suppression of the September 18, 1988 uprising left an estimated 3,000 protestors dead in Myanmar.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 12:02 IST

Pro-democracy dissidents demonstrated on Monday outside Bangkok's Myanmar embassy to mark the 18th anniversary of the military's brutal suppression of the 1988 uprising that left an estimated 3,000 protestors dead.

Waving banners depicting the September 18, 1988, crackdown and chanting "We want democracy" and "Free Aung San Suu Kyi", two dozen members of the Overseas National Students' Organisation of Burma (ONSOB) attempted to call attention to the repressive rule of Myanmar (earlier Burma) military.

The Bangkok-based Myanmar dissidents called on the international community not to be fooled by the military's cosmetic efforts at restoring democracy and addressing human rights abuses.

"The State Peace and Development Council aspires to deceive the people and all international governments by freeing small numbers of political prisoners slowly," said ONSOB president William Chit Sein.

Thousands of political prisoners remain in jail in Myanmar, including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), who has been under house arrest since May 2004.

Exactly 18 years ago, the military overthrew the one-month-old rule of Maung Maung, the country's first civilian president in decades, and unleased a bloody crackdown on Myanmar's pro-democracy demonstrations that left thousands dead.

The massacre, which saw Myanmar's armed forces turning their guns on their own people, marked the end of the 1988 popular uprising against 26 years of incompetent military rule under the so-called "Burmese Way to Socialism".

The new military junta refused to give up its grip on political power despite staging a general election in 1990 that was clearly won by the opposition NLD party.

The junta, which now goes by the name State Peace and Development Council, has denied the NLD power for the past 16 years and excluded the opposition from their National Convention process that is supposedly paving the way for a new constitution and democratic reforms.

"Without the NLD in the process, how can we expect democracy in the future?" Sein said.