The Memory of 8-8-88 Will Live On

It all started at the strike of eight in the morning of August 8, 1988. Soon, thousands of unarmed protestors from North Okklapa, South Okklapa, Thaketa, Thingangyun, Yankhin and Bahan were all out marching peacefully towards the City Hall in columns holding banners of their own townships. They were joined by hundreds of thousands of people waiting at Bandoola Park in front of the City Hall in Rangoon.

Finally, the making of the darkest moment came at 11:30 pm when truckloads of soldiers went out from the City Hall followed by bren-carriers and more trucks.

Soldiers pointed their automatic rifles in the crowds. Then, suddenly, the two warning pistol shots came and within seconds the automatic rifle shots took the center stage and scores of people, young and old fell to their death instantly. The streets near the City Hall turned chaotic with people screaming, running and taking cover in random directions. More truckloads of soldiers were sent to Shwegondine Road where the whole columns of demonstrators were gunned down. The casualty was estimated over 2000. The shooting continued until 3:00 am the next day. No one knew how many demonstrators were killed in total.

Also, there were shootings in Sagaing. About 300 demonstrators and some monks were reported killed.

But, in Rangoon, the shootings did not end on the August 8, 1988. More shootings were reported in Rangoon on 9-11 August 1988. The worst was the shootings outside the Rangoon General Hospital.

Ten years ago, around the middle of August, while they were demonstrating peacefully on the streets of Burma, more than 6000 unarmed civilians, students including children of under 16 years, and Buddhist monks were killed by the gunfire of troops from the brutal military regime.

The killing started from midnight of August 8, in front of the city hall in Rangoon, Burma. When I went to the Rangoon General Hospital, where I worked, on the next day, the 9th of August, we received hundreds of injured people and dead bodies for the whole day until night. I witnessed the incidents and was actively involved in taking care of these injured people.

We faced many problems in the hospital. One of the major problems was shortage of blood and basic medical supplies. Here we were having the whole bunch of patients with gun shot wounds bleeding profusely. Before we gave them the specific treatment, the first thing we had to do was to replace the blood that was lost, to bring up the blood pressure so that the patient is fit to go for surgery. We had no more blood in the blood bank and no bandage and plaster for wound dressing. We could not save them.

It was really a very sad and horrifying incidence. We felt so helpless.

We, as physicians and nurses, decided that we had a responsibility to stop and prevent this, the merciless killing. So we wrote a letter (signed by all doctors and nurses) and tried to send it to the Ministry of Health and also Ministry of Defence. That was in 10th of August. In the afternoon on the same day, we took a walk for about one block, just outside the hospital compound, carrying a big banner, requesting the soldiers to stop killing their own people because of shortage of blood and basic medical supplies.

What we got in return for this was bullets flying over our heads. Three army trucks loaded with Burmese soldiers appeared from nowhere and shot the hospital killing about three or four civilians, two Buddhist monks and injuring six nurses.

It has been ten years. Within this period, the momentum in the perseverance for democracy and human rights has increased, BUT we have not achieved our goal yet.

In its Human Rights Index, the London Observers ranked the junta one of the world's three worst abusers of Human Rights for its record of torture, tyranny, killings and persecution.

We would like to urge and encourage our people not to abandon their perseverance and to remain in unity and co-operation.

Dr Khin Saw Win (Alice)

This commentary is based on an article Dr. Khin Saw Win wrote on 1998-08-04 which appeared in a special "8-8-88 10TH ANNIVERSARY" of The BurmaNet News (August 6, 1998 Issue #1065). The article has been edited for inclusion on the Burma Watch International Web site.

Date last changed: 2007 September 25

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