Thousands mark 25th anniversary of bloody crackdown in Myanmar
Protesters commemorate 1988 deaths of 3,000 in pro-democracy rallies crushed by then-junta
Thousands massed in Yangon yesterday to mark the anniversary of a bloody crackdown on rallies in Myanmar 25 years ago, in a historic commemoration urging further democratic reform.
Some 5,000 people crammed into a convention centre and thousands more watched large television screens outside to witness a ceremony recalling the huge 1988 student protests that were brutally crushed by the then-junta. The crackdown killed more than 3,000.
Video: Suu Kyi urges progress while marking Myanmar uprising
The event, attended by members of the opposition and ruling parties, diplomats and Buddhist monks, comes amid sweeping changes in Myanmar since the end of outright military dictatorship two years ago.
Reforms have included the release of hundreds of political prisoners - many of whom were jailed for their roles in the 1988 rallies - and the welcoming of democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi and her party into parliament.
The Nobel laureate, who took part in the commemorations, rose to prominence during the protests. She had been living in London, but returned to Yangon in 1988 to nurse her sick mother, and was quick to take a leading role in the pro-democracy movement, delivering speeches at Shwedagon Pagoda.
Ko Ko Gyi, a key figure in the 1988 protests and a leader of the 88 Generation activist group, said campaigns to push Myanmar further on the path to democracy should maintain "the spirit" of the student rallies.
"We cannot erase history. The situation of the country today is a result of the 1988 people's movement. Although we have not reached the situation we want, we are at the beginning of the road," he said.
Earlier, hundreds of people watched 50 campaigners march through downtown Yangon in an unauthorised procession that irked local law enforcers.
Marchers refused to halt when the head of police in the area asked them to stop. Police allowed them to continue, standing aside, but took pictures.
"I don't think we need to get permission … we do not want to protest, we just want to express our respect. We are just walking," said Tun Tun Oo, a 49-year-old businessman who was a student protester in 1988.