30 years of democracy movement in Myanmar

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In 1988, the people rose up in today’s Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi, the face of the movement, democracy has become a ubiquitous requirement. However, as it stands today, democracy?

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Win Myint Naing

    The 53-Year-old returned two months ago from the US exile and looks forward to the jubilee in his home to commit. He thinks that the Revolution has achieved its goal: “Really reconciled with the military I am.”

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    U Bo Bo

    The NLD parliamentarians has spent 20 of the past 30 years since the Revolution in prison. “Of the 8. August was a milestone for our people,” he says. “In order to achieve the objectives of the 1988, we need only to change the Constitution and to banish the military from the Parliament.”

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Tim Aye Hardy

    “It is often overlooked that there never had been a process of power transition from the military to the civilian government, if we have not received the Revolution in exile at life,” says the Ex-financial expert, who has exchanged after 25 years of exile, his life in New York against Yangon. There are many young people know nothing more about the Revolution.

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    His Win

    “The dream of 1988 is not fulfilled,” says Win, head of training at Myanmar Journalism Institute. “If the military ever for anything, what has it done to us?”

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Myint Aung

    “The national peace process on the ground, economic growth disappointed and the military is still sitting in the Parliament,” said Myint Aung, a member of the “Generation 88”. He has co-founded a few months ago, the “People Party”. Because the people need Alternatives to the NLD.

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Kyaw Hla Aung

    The lawyer for the persecuted minority of Rohingya went to prison when the Revolution broke out, because he stood up against land grabs by the military. “Back then, we fought on the side of the NLD. Today we are supervised by,” he says. At the Revolution he remembers still.

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Aye Naing

    Democratisation is not yet complete,” says the Journalist of the channel “Democratic Voice of Burma”. To many, it is too slow, but he was realistic. The military have been farming for Myanmar for sixty years. The NLD rule for only two years. “But what happens if Aung San Suu Kyi’s there?” he asks.

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Bo Kyi

    “As long as there are political prisoners in Myanmar no reconciliation,” says the activist. “We live in a Hybrid Regime, the military and the civilian government. This is not the democracy we wanted. We must continue the fight,” asks Bo Kyi.

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Jimmy Ko

    “The Revolution has given my life meaning,” says the activist of the 88 Generation. At the end of the movement had not come yet. “It takes time to the military, the political sphere leaves.”

    Author: Verena Hölzl


  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Win Myint Naing

    The 53-Year-old returned two months ago from the US exile and looks forward to the jubilee in his home to commit. He thinks that the Revolution has achieved its goal: “Really reconciled with the military I am.”

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    U Bo Bo

    The NLD parliamentarians has spent 20 of the past 30 years since the Revolution in prison. “Of the 8. August was a milestone for our people,” he says. “In order to achieve the objectives of the 1988, we need only to change the Constitution and to banish the military from the Parliament.”

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Tim Aye Hardy

    “It is often overlooked that there never had been a process of power transition from the military to the civilian government, if we have not received the Revolution in exile at life,” says the Ex-financial expert, who has exchanged after 25 years of exile, his life in New York against Yangon. There are many young people know nothing more about the Revolution.

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    His Win

    “The dream of 1988 is not fulfilled,” says Win, head of training at Myanmar Journalism Institute. “If the military ever for anything, what has it done to us?”

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Myint Aung

    “The national peace process on the ground, economic growth disappointed and the military is still sitting in the Parliament,” said Myint Aung, a member of the “Generation 88”. He has co-founded a few months ago, the “People Party”. Because the people need Alternatives to the NLD.

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Kyaw Hla Aung

    The lawyer for the persecuted minority of Rohingya went to prison when the Revolution broke out, because he stood up against land grabs by the military. “Back then, we fought on the side of the NLD. Today we are supervised by,” he says. At the Revolution he remembers still.

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Aye Naing

    Democratisation is not yet complete,” says the Journalist of the channel “Democratic Voice of Burma”. To many, it is too slow, but he was realistic. The military have been farming for Myanmar for sixty years. The NLD rule for only two years. “But what happens if Aung San Suu Kyi’s there?” he asks.

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Bo Kyi

    “As long as there are political prisoners in Myanmar no reconciliation,” says the activist. “We live in a Hybrid Regime, the military and the civilian government. This is not the democracy we wanted. We must continue the fight,” asks Bo Kyi.

  • Voices from Myanmar, 30 years after the revolt

    Jimmy Ko

    “The Revolution has given my life meaning,” says the activist of the 88 Generation. At the end of the movement had not come yet. “It takes time to the military, the political sphere leaves.”

    Author: Verena Hölzl


DE-MO-CRA-CY! chanting 30 years ago, the protesters in the former Burma, a country-wide uprising against the socialist government. The call for democracy was, however, only according to the after the later Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi had become a part of the protest movement. Previously, the battle cry was “Our thing!” what it meant about as much as We, the people, have had enough of the authoritarian System and the miserable economic conditions.

The students, who had initiated the revolt and led, made Aung San Suu Kyi to the face of the movement, behind which the various groups gathered. The daughter of independence hero Aung San, who had previously lived abroad for decades, and for the United Nations worked, held in August 1988, in a famous speech at the Shwedagon pagoda in the heart of Yangon. According to estimates, 500,000 people were present. In the speech Aung San Suu Kyi repeatedly of democracy and a multi-party system of the language. “To achieve our goal, we need to combines all the disciplined and strive for democracy.”

Aung San Suu Kyi in her speech in August 1988

“In a sense, Aung San Suu Kyi has imported the concept of democracy from the West,” says Hans-Bernd Zöllner. The theologian and Myanmar expert, adds: “This content was not determined, largely, what was meant by democracy.” What mattered was that it promised to be the opposite of the previous system.

Two ideas of democracy

The dreams and hopes of the protesters ended abruptly, as at 18. September 1988 the military took control in the country. Across the country, the armed forces acted with great brutality. Thousands were killed and even more arrested. Many students fled abroad. A year later, Aung San Suu Kyi founded the National League for democracy (NLD). In 1990, her party gained a landslide victory, but the military in the form of the “state Council for law and order” (SLORC) refused to hand over Power before a new Constitution was drawn up.

In the elections the following year-long struggle between Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD on the one hand and the military and the SLORC on the other hand, both sides languages-resistant from democracy. However, it is quite another to be understood both including. The military spoke of a “disciplined democracy”, in which the rules of the Central government, be specified. Aung San Suu Kyi was a kind of people’s democracy. “However, the NLD has declared today never what you understand exactly under democracy,” says Zöllner.

The military takes action against protesters in Yangon

Democracy in accordance with the provisions of the military

The military continued to put his ideas into a 20-year-long process. In 2008, it adopted a new Constitution. In her was first written, that a quarter of all seats in all parliaments will be directly appointed by the military, by which amendments to the Constitution without the consent of the military are impossible. Secondly, the Minister for defence, border Affairs and home Affairs to be appointed directly from the army chief. This means that not only the military but also the police and all the officers remain under the direct control of the military. “After everything was carefully prepared, could leave the military elections”, says the Journalist and author Bertil Lintner, who knows the country for years, and one of the first books about the uprising of 1988 has written.

Elections

These elections took place in 2010. Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD boycotted the elections because they rejected the Constitution as undemocratic. The military passed while the uniforms, presented itself as a civilian government, and won in the absence of Opposition almost all the seats in the Parliament.

Further reforms followed, and finally the NLD in 2015, declared himself ready, in the parliamentary elections under the same conditions as in 2010. As expected, the NLD won the elections and Aung San Suu Kyi became a state councillor, a position that is most likely to be the Prime Minister understand.

Victory of democracy?

In the international press that the elections of 2015 were celebrated as a victory of democracy. The lifting of sanctions followed on the foot. However, long-standing observers such as Lintner were from the outset skeptical. “The military has opened the country up to a certain degree, but the elections would not involve a transfer of power from the military to the elected government. The NLD has in 2015 the elections, but not the Power.” Lintners conclusion: “Myanmar is in no sense democratic.”

NLD supporters celebrate in Yangon, the victory of their party on election night 2015

Publican, comes to a similar conclusion, if one takes the Western idea of democracy, including separation of powers, freedom of press and speech and the rule of law to the scale. He is convinced, however, that most of the people who have witnessed the uprising of 1988, to say that it is better today than it was then, although still not ideal. But the Ideal, the thinking of many people in Myanmar, is already a utopia. “A country where everything works smoothly, without the government interfering too much.”

Civil space is not occupied

Lintner believes that the NLD will not intervene enough. The military have left only little room, but not even the advantage of the party. “The NLD would be able to show the world that there is a civil space. But it has not done so. On the contrary, the NLD withdrew in a kind of bubble back and it is not possible to get rid of it.”

Lintner cites as an example the refugee crisis of the Rohingya in Rakhine state. To attacks a Muslim militia, the military in Myanmar had reacted with massive military operations, according to which more than 500,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring country Bangladesh. The UN spoke of “ethnic cleansing”. The NLD remained in the conflict are largely invisible. Although the NLD had, Lintner is convinced, against the military, no concrete policy Change, but at least the flag. Aung San Suu Kyi would have been able to in the Rakhine state, politicians and stakeholders meet to show: We are there. We will see what happens. But it has not done. According to Lintners evaluation is only an example of the lack of government ability of the NLD.

The influence of the West

Since the supposed victory of democracy in Myanmar and the West is increasingly active in the country. Development cooperation and democracy promotion are in high demand. However, both Lintner as well as publicans see the critical. Lintner says: “The West must first understand time, that his influence is minimal. When the Westerners come and democracy preaching, then this changes nothing.” Changes will only come when the impulses come from the country itself. However, the Myanmar expert looks for in the medium term, no signs.