The UK Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Ivan Lewis has marked the anniversary by issuing a tribute to Nobel prize-winner Suu Kyi and all of Burma's political prisoners.
“The students were joined in their protests by people from all walks of life – saffron-robed monks, teachers, young children, housewives and doctors. A general strike took place on August 8, 1988, an auspicious date. But Burma’s first popular uprising was put down the next month in the most bloody and ruthless manner. A brutal repression of the people that has continued to this day, and which we last witnessed in the beating and killing of monks and civilians in November 2008,” he said.
The protest brought Aung San Suu Kyi to the forefront of the struggle for democracy, freedom and civil liberties.
“She is currently subject to a political show trial and faces the prospect of a prison sentence on August 11 – a date the regime have set to avoid the anniversary of 8888, and because the Senior General believes 11 is his lucky number. Relying on numbers, lucky or otherwise, is a poor substitute for a clear strategic choice of an inclusive democracy,” Mr Lewis said.
There are over 2,100 other political prisoners being held in Burma, now called Myanmar by its rulers.
“On the anniversary of 8888, I want to pay tribute to all Burma’s political prisoners. Their courage and resilience in the face of the abuse of their fundamental human rights is humbling. I also want to repeat the international community’s call to the Burmese regime to release unconditionally all political prisoners, and commit to a genuine and inclusive process of dialogue and national reconciliation. Until they do so, future elections, such as those they plan for 2010 will have absolutely no legitimacy,” he said.
Ms Suu Kyi was put on trial after an America, John Yettaw, swam across a lake behind her home and broke into her home, where she had been held under house arrest for 6 years, although she has spent almost 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest or in prison. Her party won 82 per cent of the votes in 1990 but the Burmese regime refused to recognise the result.
She was due to be released this year and the break-in has provided a pretext for keeping her locked up, her followers believe.
International pressure has been building up. Her arrest was ruled illegal under both Burmese and international law by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the trial “outrageous”.