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
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
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.