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Myanmar remembers the bloody summer of 8888, 25 years later
Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Activists in Myanmar Thursday commemorated one of the bloodiest crackdowns in the country's recent history, which began on Aug. 8, 1988 and ended a month later, leaving more than 3,000 dead.

Hundreds of thousands of students, monks and activists took to the streets in '88, demanding democracy in a country that was still ruled by a military junta and known as Burma.

"The streets resounded with the chant (in Burmese) 'We want full democracy; that's what we want,'" said BBC's cultural attache Tom White, who was stationed in Yangon — then known as Rangoon — at the time.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who has since become a global icon and a Nobel laureate, took the first steps toward becoming the face of the democracy movement on Aug. 26, 1988, when she made a speech at Shwedagon Pagoda.

The military crackdown that followed in September 1988 saw many activists become political prisoners, while others were killed by soldiers' bullets.

"I think that we can now walk on the path to democracy because of the 1988 revolution. The transition is the consequence of that uprising," said Tun Tun Oo on Thursday, as hundreds watched activists in Yangon mark the protests' anniversary.

GlobalPost has been following the impact of recent reforms in Myanmar, including the release of political prisoners, limited elections and reduced censorship.

More from GlobalPost: Myanmar emerges: The People vs. The Power

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Photo dated August 6, 1988 demonstrators gathering in central Rangoon to protest against the government.

(ROSELLE ASSIRELLI - AFP/Getty Images)
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In this picture taken on August 13, 1988, monks and students hold photos of demonstrators killed during previous demonstrations during a protest in Mandalay. In August 1988, cities and villages across the country then known as Burma were bursting with optimism. The military dictator Ne Win had just stepped down after decades of iron-fisted rule, and Burma was inspired by a prophecy that it would become a free nation on August 8 - known as 8-8-88.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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A Burmese demonstrator calling over a loud hailer addresses hundreds of thousand of anti-government protestors, most of them students, on August 18, 1988, who gathered outside general hospital of Rangoon (Yagon). 8888 Uprising was a national uprising demanding democracy that took place on August 8, 1988 in Burma (now Myanmar). It ended on September 18, 1988, after a bloody military coup. The military killed thousands of civilians, including students and Buddhist monks. During the crisis, Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a national icon.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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In this picture taken August 26, 1988, Burmese democratic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (top-C) addresses an anti-military regime rally in Yangon (Rangoon). The military dictator Ne Win had just stepped down after decades of iron-fisted rule, and Burma was inspired by a prophecy that it would become a free nation on August 8 - known as 8-8-88. Students who had already protested for almost a year against Ne Win's socialist government called for a national uprising on the auspicious date, drawing activists, Buddhist monks, and even young military cadets into the streets clamoring for freedom.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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Troops order a crowd in downtown Rangoon (Yangon) to disperse in front of sule pagoda sealed off by barbed wires on August 26, 1988. Hundreds of thousand people gathered two kilometers away to demand democracy and the end of the 26 years old authoritarian regime. 8888 Uprising was a national uprising demanding democracy that took place on August 8, 1988 in Burma (now Myanmar).

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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In this picture taken on August 27, 1988, Burmese demonstrators ride in a boat on their way to Victoria Point, a southern town of Burma, in an area controlled by anti-government protesters. The military dictator Ne Win had just stepped down after decades of iron-fisted rule, and Burma was inspired by a prophecy that it would become a free nation on August 8 - known as 8-8-88.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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In this picture dated August 27, 1988, Buddhist monks listen to unseen opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally held in Yangon. In August 1988, cities and villages across the country then known as Burma were bursting with optimism. Students who had already protested for almost a year against the socialist government called for a national uprising on the auspicious date, drawing activists, Buddhist monks, and even young military cadets into the streets clamoring for freedom.

(STR - AFP/Getty Images)
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In this picture taken on August 27, 1988, a Burmese woman stands on the roof of a car leading hundreds of thousand of anti-government protestors during a rally in Yangon.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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Buddhist monks listen to unseen opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, August 27, 1988 during a rally held in Yangon.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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Picture taken on September 16, 1988 of a mass demonstration in Rangoon (Yangon), on the eve of a military takeover on September 18 in Burma.

(AFP - AFP/Getty Images)
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It's a lovely thing when shared traditions unite so many different people.