by Daniel Opacki
Twenty-nine years later, in memory of August 8, 1988.
At 11 PM on August 8, 2017, Burma’s 88 Generation student leaders, who where mostly high school or university students in 1988, gathered with family and friends before Yangon’s City Hall.
Poets, artists, and musicians made speeches, read poetry, and sang songs of rebellion and unity.
The evening’s solemn moments caused many to reflect and tearfully recall the shock caused by the terrifying events that occurred at that hour 29 years ago.
On August 8, 1988, a date known by all in Myanmar as 8.8.88, from inside the grounds and the rooftop of Rangoon’s City Hall at 11 PM, soldiers began firing machine guns into the massive crowd of protesters seeking to end of the repressive Military Dictatorship.
Thousands covered the streets on dozens of blocks around City Hall and Sule Pagoda.
Scores of small stages at interesections allowed speakers to address crowds at every block.
The nationwide 8.8.88 protest had been building during months of national demonstrations.
When the shooting began, then over the course of a few months, the military murdered thousands of Burma’s citizens and imprisoned thousands more. Families and livlihoods were destroyed.
As if recalling a recent day, Ko Jimmy, well known 88 Generation leader, described the scene around city hall with a precise account of the position of stages, the positioning of troops who fired on protesters, and the movement of the crowd once the firing began.
The horrifying slaughter continued for days and weeks as soldiers even attacked and gunned down nurses treating the wounded inside the Yangon General Hospital.
The memory of the 8.8.88 showed on the aged faces of the people staring into the candles lit amongst the petals of white, yellow and red roses.
A long and arduous period between August 8, 1988 and August 8, 2017 caused refelction and thoughts amidst flickering candlelight.
The sacrifice of the hundreds of thousands, the nameless dead, ex-political prisoners, and all of the families destroyed, will be forever fresh on the minds of those who believe in non-violence and peace.