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Ministry to spearhead permanent museum honouring 1988 pro-democracy uprising

Students hold wreaths as they march to mark the 25th anniversary of the democratic uprising, also known also as “8888,” in Yangon on 8 August 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

The former Import and Export Enterprise building in downtown Yangon will be redeveloped into a museum commemorating Burma’s historical pro-democracy uprising that came to a head on 8 August 1988, according to Minister for Religious and Cultural Affairs Thura Aung Ko.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a parliamentary session on Wednesday, the Union minister said plans for the “8888” museum — arguably an unthinkable prospect less than a decade ago — were moving forward.

The current state of political and religious affairs in Burma had pre-occupied his ministry and delayed designation of a permanent location for the museum, Thura Aung Ko acknowledged.

“When we [the Ministry for Religious and Cultural Affairs] proposed the former Import and Export Enterprise building as a potential site for the museum, the leaders of the ’88 Generation supported that,” said Thura Aung Ko.

“So, we are now doing a meticulous study on the history of the building and collecting data to build an ‘8888’ museum on the site. The data collected will be sent over to the president and the Union government through the ministry. Soon, we are going to proceed with step-by-step measures,” he added.

“Two kinds of funding methods are being considered for this cause; an initial outlay sourced from the Union budget, and crowd-funding from the general public.”

In 2015, members of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society stood up a temporary museum to commemorate the events of August 1988, adjacent to the civil society organisation’s office on Thu Mingalar Road in Yangon’s Thingangyun Township.

It included photographs from the fateful uprising, a film reel of footage shot at the time and other archival materials.

Though estimates vary, it is widely accepted that upwards of 3,000 pro-democracy activists were killed by government security forces acting to suppress the uprising in 1988, with thousands more imprisoned.