08/09/2012, 00.00
MYANMAR

Thousands of Burmese - and government - celebrate 24th anniversary of Generation 88

For the first time the government has authorized the rally, with a minimum contribution by supporting the organization. In the past, the military regime had always banned public demonstrations to commemorate the uprising of 8 August 1988. Spokesman Thein Sein: This date is a "historical event" for the country. Burmese Activist: a step "toward reform."

Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Thousands of Burmese yesterday celebrated the 24th anniversary of pro-democracy protests and, for the first time, the central government granted its approval and financial support to the organization. An unimaginable event until a few years ago, when the military regime in Naypyidaw repressed by force any manifestation of dissent or public gatherings, then the people had to commemorate the day with private moments, hidden away from security officials and soldiers, for fear of being arrested. Activists and former political prisoners joined those who marched through the streets of Yangon, Mandalay and other cities in Myanmar to remember the day 8-8-88, which marked the beginning of a week of pro-democracy protests bloodily repressed by the dictatorship and the army, with a final toll of thousands of victims.

In recent days President Thein Sein - who since the beginning of its mandate has changed the political life of Burma, promoting economic and social reforms - asked two government ministers to meet the organizers of yesterday's events. As reported by Ko Ko Gyi, one of the promoters of the day, the central government granted permission for street demonstrations and allocated one million kyat (about 1,200 US dollars) for the organization. "It's as if [the government] took part in the commemoration," said the activist, adding that this "is a step toward reform."

Nay Zin Latt, spokesman for the president of Burma, said that the government recognizes the anniversary, as a "historic event" and Thein Sein wants to show once again their "good will" on the path of national reconciliation.

However, pro-human rights groups point out that still today the Burmese jails hold an unknown number of political prisoners. Among the issues that the reformist government is called upon to solve, is also the question of ethnic minorities. Among these, the conflict with the Kachin in the north and the tragedy of the Rohingya Muslim minority, who do not enjoy the right to citizenship and are victims of persecution.

"Generation 88" stands for the student movement that, in August 1988, launched a series of events to promote democracy and human rights in Myanmar. The demonstrations, suppressed by the military dictatorship left at least 3 thousand people dead and 10 thousand students forced into exile. And it was the aftermath of the revolt that the Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as the main icon and member of the Democratic movement opposing the dictatorship.

The group of young activists of "Generation 88" were also involved in the massive protests that erupted in August 2007, against the military regime's decision to raise fuel prices, which then led to a genuine popular uprising , led by monks in the country, violently repressed by the army.

The military dictatorship remained in power until 2010, replaced by a Parliament voted in November 2010 and a semi-civilian government formed in April 2011.

 

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