2007 Pro-Democracy Uprising in
The nation of Myanmar (called Burma until the military
government changed the name to Myanmar in 1989), has been
in a state of civil war since shortly after independence
from Britain in 1948. Most of the historical fighting has
involved ethnic rebellions and communist uprisings in the
countryside, but in 1988, a pro-democracy movement
challenged the military dictatorship and was crushed
violently by the army. This is now called the "Four
Eights" or 8888 Uprising. In late 2007, a new, so-far
peaceful anti-government uprising led by Buddhist monks
has been met with violence from government security
forces. The military junta which rules Myanmar/Burma
calls itself the State Peace and Development Council
(SPDC). The commanders of the service branches and of the
regional military commands make up the Council.
It should be noted that the current involvement of the
Buddhist monks in the 2007 protests harkens back to the
long-running resistance to the British conquest and
occupation of Burma in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Many
of the protests against British rule were led by Buddhist
monks, so the current monk-led protests are part of a
tradition of Burmese/Myanmar popular action to unpopular
and repressive regimes.
The current protests have their immediate genesis in a
governement-mandated rise in gasoline prices, which hit
the average citizen hard. The price increases made daily
life for the population more difficult, with the cost of
public transportation increasing, and a subsequent rise
in the prices of necessities such as rice and cooking
oil. It should also be noted that these price increases
came a few months after a video of the opulent wedding
ceremony for the daughter of one of the military
dictators became public. Most Burmese are very poor, and
the extravagance of the leader's family wedding grated on
On August 19, 2007, about 400 people marched in
protest. The police arrested dozens, but protests
continued in several cities. Keep in mind that the last
major public protests, in 1988, resulted in the military
crushing the protests, with nearly 3,000 dead and
thousands more arrested or driven into exile.
Buddhist monks, respected and honored in this Buddhist
country, became involved in the protests after police
injured several people while breaking up a rally in the
city of Pakokku on September 5.
More protests broke out, with thousands marching in
Rangoon on September 24.
Protests on September 28 were broken up by the
authorities, with soldiers shooting into crowds, killing
at least nine, and perhaps more, according to
The government also cut off the country's internet
connections, making it difficult, though not impossible,
for citizens to send pictures and video of the violence
to the world.
What is China's
Myanmar's only true ally is its northern neighbor,
China, which is also a dictatorship with a history of
crushing peaceful pro-democracy movements. Officially,
China is urging calm, but it is believed that the Chinese
government is privately urging the Myanmar government to
stop the protests.
Aug. 15--Government raises fuel prices
Aug. 19--Several hundred protesters rally in Yangon
Aug. 21--Thirteen members of a pro-democracy group,
the "88 Generation Students," are arrested
Sept. 5--Shots fired at monk's protest in Pakokku.
Several people injured
Sept. 6--Buddhist monks hold 20 government officials
hostage and demand an apology for the incident on Sept.
Sept. 22--10,000 monks protest in the city of
Mandalay, and opposition leader (and Nobel Peace Prize
winner), Aung San Suu Kyi meets and greets the monks in
Sept. 24--Huge rally led by the monks draws 100,000
people to protest the government
Sept. 25--The military junta imposes a curfew and bans
Sept. 26--Police and troops use tear gas, fire shots,
beat and arrest several monks. Several Buddhist
monasteries are raided by government forces.
Sept. 27--Troops shoot into crowds of protesters,
killing at least nine.
Sept. 28--Troops beat more protesters, swiftly breoke
up street gatherings, occupied influential Buddhist
monasteries and cut public Internet access