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ChatChat - Claudia Cragg

Aug 8, 2008

Today is the 20th anniversary of events that took place, with massive street demonstrations, on 8th August 1988 in Rangoon which was in the midst of a general strike.

Tens of thousands of protesters had turned out on to the streets, calling for democracy, human rights, the resignation of the government and an end to the centrally-run economic system. The demonstrations which had begun after a period known as 'The Rangoon Spring', began to spread to dozens of other places around the country.

The response from the authorities was brutal: thousands were arrested or killed by the police and army. The military established a new leadership body, the State Law and Order Restoration Council. The regime continues to this day led by General Than Shwe. The NLD (opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Burma's independence leader Gen Aung San, continues under house arrest in Rangoon where she has mostly been held since July 1989.

Dr. Thein Lwin, (PhD), comes from a farming family in the Pegu area of Burma just 50 miles north of Rangoon, but he cannot return to Burma.

Like many other students who demonstrated against the military regime, he was thrown out of university in 1976, and was then arrested and imprisoned for his involvement with Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) from 1982-1984, and again in 1991. He eventually gained a degree and taught in a junior secondary school. But in 1993, under threat once more from the military regime, he escaped Burma and was granted political asylum in Germany, before studying education in the UK at Newcastle University's Centre for International Studies.

With Prospect Burma ( scholarship support, he gained an MEd in 1997 and a Doctorate in 2001 and started an initiative with the National Health and Education Committee of Burma (NHEC) - an exile organisation operating out of Chiang Mai. Now, though, he spends all his time  trying to improve the life of Burmese in refugee camps, and those internally displaced persons' coming in to Thailand from remote regions of Burma.