1988 — Imagine the streets flooded with thousands upon thousands of protesters for months on end. Imagine police stations getting ransacked, protesters continuously demanding the resignation of the country’s leader, university students starting further rioting throughout the country — imagine soldiers, under direction from the authorities, opening fire on unarmed civilians. Imagine them killing thousands.
This was the case of the 8888 Uprising in Burma/Myanmar 30 years ago. The country was in a state of civil unrest, following several devastating internal events — for example, the year before, the government demonetized two types of banknotes without warning. That would be on par with the U.S. government suddenly telling anyone with $10 and $20 bills that those bills are suddenly worth nothing (which would be even more devastating in the 80s than it would be now). This was one of many problems.
However, the central issue all stemmed from 1962, when the Burma Socialist Programme Party took over Burma and established a socialist government. All other parties were abolished under “The Law Protecting National Unity,” which in turn led to the deliberate strengthening of the military to enforce their rapidly emerging totalitarian government. The country tried a system of autarky, which means the country is completely self-sufficient, but it only suffered as a result. Burma would quickly become one of the world’s most poverty-stricken nations.
The protests demanded the installment of a multi-party democracy, and it started with university students from Rangoon (now known as Yangon) taking to the streets in protest. Eventually they were joined by more and more Burmese citizens over months of protesting, and though they started in March of 1988, the protests would continue all the way into September. Muslims, Buddhists, regular Burmese citizens, ethnic minorities from the surrounding areas — all sorts of people joined in protest of the totalitarian government.