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The 2007 Pro-Democracy Uprising in Burma/Myanmar
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The 2007 Pro-Democracy Uprising in Burma/Myanmar

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 many people.

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 witnesses.

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 role?

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 (Rangoon)

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. 5

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 Yangon (Rangoon)

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 public gatherings

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


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