8888 People Power Uprising of Myanmar | Revolutions | Free PDF Download

  • The 8888 Nationwide Popular Pro-Democracy Protests  also known as the 8-8-88 Uprisings, or the People Power Uprising, the People’s Democracy Movement and the 1988 Uprising, were a series of nationwide protests, marches and civil unrest in  Burma (Myanmar) that peaked in August 1988.
  • Key events occurred on 8 August 1988 and therefore it is known as the 8888 Uprising. • The protests began as a student movement and were organised largely by university students at the  Rangoon Arts and Sciences University and the  Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT).
  • Since 1962, the Burma Socialist Programme Party had ruled the country as a totalitarian one-party state, headed by General Ne Win.
  • Under the government agenda, called the  Burmese Way to Socialism, which involved  economic isolation and strengthening the  military, Burma became  one of the world’s most impoverished countries .
  •  Many firms in the formal sector of the economy were nationalised, and the government combined Soviet-style central planning with  Buddhist and traditional beliefs.

Economic problems

  • Before the crisis, Burma had been ruled by the repressive and isolated regime of General Ne Win since 1962.
  • The country had a national debt of $3.5 billion and currency reserves of between $20 million and $35 million, with debt service ratios standing at half of the national budget
  • There was growing resentment towards military rule and there were no channels to address grievances, further exacerbated by police brutality , economic mismanagement and corruption within the government.
  • By mid-March, several protests had occurred and there was open dissent in the army.
  • Various demonstrations were broken up by using tear gas
  • On 16 March, students demanding an end to one party rule when riot police stormed from the rear, clubbing several students to death and raping  others.
  •  Demonstrators in larger numbers demanded multi-party democracy, which marked Ne Win’s resignation on 23 July 1988
  • He also promised a  multi-party system, but he had appointed the largely disliked  Sein Lwin, known as the “Butcher of Rangoon” to head a new government.
  • Protests reached their peak in August 1988. Students planned for a nationwide demonstration on 8 August 1988, an auspicious date based on numerological significance.

    1-7 TH AUGUST

  • Rangoon, the first signs of the movement began  at the  Shwedagon Pagoda when student demonstrators emerged demanding support for the demonstrations
  • The students were quickly joined by Burmese citizens from all walks of life, including government workers, Buddhist  monks, air force and navy personnel, customs officers, teachers and hospital staff.
  • On 3 August, the authorities imposed  martial law from 8 pm to 4 am and a ban on gatherings of more than five people.


  • A general strike, as planned, began on 8 August 1988. Mass demonstrations were held across Burma as ethnic minorities,  Buddhists, Muslims, students, workers  and the young and old all demonstrated.
  • Estimates of the number of casualties surrounding the 8-8-88 demonstrations range from hundreds to 10,000; military authorities put the figures at about 95 people killed and 240 wounded


  • Lwin’s sudden and unexplained resignation on 12 August left many protestors confused and jubilant.
  • Security forces exercised greater caution with demonstrators, particularly in neighbourhoods that were entirely controlled by demonstrators and committees.
  • On 19 August, under pressure to form a civilian government, Ne Win’s biographer, Dr. Maung Maung was appointed as head of government.
  • Maung was a legal scholar and the only non-military individual to serve in the Burma Socialist Programme Party.The appointment of Maung briefly resulted in a subsidence of the shooting and protests.
  • Nationwide demonstrations resumed on 22 August 1988. In Mandalay, 100,000 people protested, including Buddhist monks and 50,000 demonstrated in Sittwe.
  • On 26 August, Aung San Suu Kyi,  entered the political arena by addressing half a million people at Shwedagon Pagoda.It was at this point that she became a symbol for the struggle in Burma, particularly in the eyes of the Western world.
  • During the September congress of 1988, 90% of party delegates (968 out of 1080) voted for a multi-party system of government.
  • The BSPP announced they would be organising an election, but the opposition parties called for their immediate resignation from government, allowing an interim government to organise elections.
  • After the BSPP rejected both demands, protesters again took to the streets on 12 September 1988.
  • protesters again took to the streets on 12 September 1988.
  • promised elections within a month, proclaiming a provisional government
  • On 18 September 1988, the military retook power in the country. General  Saw Maung repealed the 1974 constitution and established the  State Law and Order Restoration Counc il  (SLORC), “imposing more Draconian measures than Ne Win had imposed.”
  • After Maung had imposed martial law, the protests were violently broken up.
  • By the end of September, there were around 3,000 estimated deaths and unknown number of injured, with 1,000 deaths in Rangoon alone.
  • On 21 September, the government had regained control of the country, with the movement efectively collapsing in October.
  •  During the crisis, Aung San Suu Kyi  emerged as a national icon.
  • When the military junta arranged an  election in 1990, her party, the  National League for Democracy, won 80% of the seats in the government (392 out of 492).
  • However, the military junta refused to recognise the results and continued ruling the country as the State Law and Order Restoration Council.

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