On 8888 anniversary, U.S. honors Burma’s push for democracy

The United States has long supported the Burmese people’s quest for democracy and fundamental freedoms.

Thirty-three years ago, on August 8, 1988, millions of Burmese people demonstrated for human rights and an end to years of military rule. Though the military violently cracked down on the protests, now known as the 8888 Movement, those demonstrations continue to inspire calls for democracy in the wake of the February 1, 2021, military coup.

“Today we remember the 8888 pro-democracy movement and the people of Burma’s decades-long struggle for democracy and peace,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said August 8, honoring the enduring democratic aspirations of the Burmese people. “The United States continues to support those in Burma calling for their human rights and fundamental freedoms to be respected.”

Crowd gathering in street in front of buildings (© Roselle Assirelli/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest in central Rangoon on August 6, 1988. (© Roselle Assirelli/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. efforts support the Burmese people while targeting repression. The United States has provided leadership training at the American Center in Rangoon and the Jefferson Center in Mandalay. The centers have offered:

  • English language instruction.
  • Library resources, including internet connectivity.
  • Access to information and opportunities for free discussions and cultural exchanges.

By offering more than 400 scholarships, fellowships and exchanges, the centers have provided the people of Burma opportunities for growth.

Following the crackdown on the 8888 Movement, the U.S. government imposed sanctions on Burma’s military, imposing costs by suspending trade preferences and other measures.

Police truck spraying water on a crowd (© Linn Htet/AP Images)
A police truck sprays water to a crowd of protesters February 8, 2021, in Naypyitaw, Burma. (© Linn Htet/AP Images)

In an August 4 call with Burmese NUG representative Zin Mar Aung, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman emphasized U.S. support in the wake of the military coup for all those working to restore Burma’s path to democracy.

The two also discussed efforts to combat rising COVID-19 infections and provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Burma.

This year the United States reimposed sanctions in response to the Burmese military’s violent crackdown on protests that has killed more than 900 people, including many children. The regime has also detained more than 5,000 people, drawing international condemnation.

The United States and partner nations sanctioned Burmese military officials responsible for the coup and attacks on peaceful protesters. It also sanctioned Burmese companies that support the military regime.

“We stand with the duly elected representatives of the people of Burma and all those peacefully protesting this takeover,” Blinken said February 11, announcing sanctions against military officials. “The military regime should relinquish power [and] restore the democratically elected government.”