Freedom Fighters in Myanmar

On November 7, the people of Myanmar (known as Burma until 1989) voted out their military rulers in the first free election in 25 years. So far, official election results have given the National League for Democracy, the opposition party headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, enough votes to form a majority in the Myanmar parliament, and they are on track to win 80 percent of the vote.

While Suu Kyi has been committed to bring democracy to Myanmar through peaceful means, there were others inside her country who were determined to bring democracy through any means necessary—even war.

In 1989, filmmaker Andrew Jones traveled to Myanmar to document student rebels training to overthrow Myanmar’s military government. The year before, the government had declared martial law after violently suppressing nationwide demonstrations against their oppressive rule. The government’s violent tactics and subsequent crackdown of pro-democracy activists led many student demonstrators to believe that peaceful resistance would not bring about democracy. Many joined the Karen Guerrillas who had long waged an armed campaign against Myanmar’s military. The video Jones made in Myanmar was first shown on THE 90’s in 1990.

In 1990, the last time Myanmar held free elections, Suu Kyi and her party won, but the election results were simply ignored by the military government and Suu Kyi was put under house arrest. This time the government has pledged to respect the election results. Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in 2010 and the government began a gradual transition toward a more democratic system. This gives hope that the military rulers will respect the election results, and let true democracy take root in Myanmar.
Watch the full episode of THE 90’s, “Around The World And On The Edge,” featuring footage from Russia, Indonesia, Kenya, and beyond.



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