The Opposition Leader
Aung San Suu Kyi has lived under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years. She is the leader of the National League for Democracy, which achieved a decisive victory in the last national election, held in 1990. The junta has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of that vote.
The 8888 Uprising
The current democracy movement in Burma draws inspiration from a series of mass demonstrations culminated on August 8, 1988 (8/8/88 – a day deemed auspicious).
The 8888 Uprisings drew fuel, in part, from anger over the killing of a student activist who had protested the demonetization of Burma’s currency, which wiped out the savings of most Burmese.
The protests were violently suppressed. It is estimated that thousands were killed. In this photo, a crowd gazes at a makeshift shrine to a doctor and some nurses who were shot during the uprising.
The present leader of Burma is Than Shwe, seen here reviewing an honor guard in March 2007.
The junta has relocated its base from Rangoon to a brand-new city in the interior it has named Naypyidaw, which means “city of the kings.”
The majority of the nation’s cabinet and ministry posts are held by military officers.
In addition to the pro-democracy movement, the junta also faces opposition from various ethnic groups, some of whom maintain their own armies. These soldiers belong to the Karen National Union, which has been fighting on and off for autonomy since World War II.
Battle for Democratic Freedoms
In December 1996, students staged a series of demonstrations and sit-ins, calling for self-rule and protesting alleged police brutality.
The 1996 student protesters were pushed back with water cannons.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s struggle to bring democracy to Burma earned her the Nobel Peace Prize and the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
This undated photo shows Suu Kyi meeting with General Than Shwe. Despite appearances, the government has repeatedly punished the opposition leader. When her husband, a British citizen, fell ill with cancer, he was denied a visa to visit her. He died before she could see him again.
Passing the Torch
Members of the 1988 uprising perform religious rites in front of Buddhist monks on the 19th anniversary of the 8888 Uprising, August 8, 2007.
Leadership of the recent protest movement has been taken over by the monks, who hold a venerated place in Burmese society.
In late August, a protest was staged by activists against rising fuel prices. In this photo, a labor leader, Su Su Nway, tries to prevent a plain-clothes police officer from arresting a comrade.
The Protests Continue
Despite warnings from the junta, the monks continue to march. Their numbers, and the numbers of civilians accompanying them have increased daily.
On September 26, 2007, riot police and soldiers block access to Shwedagon Pagoda, preventing the monks and laymen from entering Rangoon’s holiest shrine.
Tear gas fills the street, as security forces disperse protesters.
Sandals and blood lie in the street after armed troops dispersed a crowd in Yangon, September 27, 2007.
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