‘About a Thousand Students Were Killed’: U.S. Burmese Refugees Recall the 1988 Uprising

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name

International Oral History Association

Conference Location

Prague, Czech Republic

Source of Publication

2010 Proceedings of the International Oral History Association


International Oral History Association

Place of Publication

Prague, Czech Republic

Publication Date


Peer Review



‘About a thousand students were killed’: U.S. Burmese refugees recall the 1988 uprising Nearly 20,000 ethnic Burmese have come to the United States since 1990, seeking asylum from war-torn Myanmar (World Refugee Survey, 2009). Burmese refugees arrive in the U.S. with very different socio-historical experiences than do other Asian subgroups. This oral history study is designed to advance understanding about the pre-migration experiences of ethnic Burmese involved in the 1988 political uprising. The researcher supports a commitment to accurate reflection of the views and perspectives of interviewees involved through inclusion of their actual words to produce “a theoretically informed interpretation of the culture” (LeCompte & Schensul, 1999, p. 8). Inclusion of both male and female interviewees resulted in differing perspectives of the same event. For example: There was an uprising in 1988. [My husband] participated in that, and he [escaped] to the border. After that, the military intelligence and the police came to the house and asked me questions several times. Female Back to the 1988 uprising…. Hundreds of people [in Sitgaing] were gunned down by the police force. They threw all the dead bodies into the Irrawaddy River. My friends and I went to the river and [waited]. We tried to identify the dead bodies [and take] pictures. We put those pictures on the wall and let all the people see the government forces had gunned down [innocent citizens] ... because Government Radio said, “There was a riot and only one or two people were killed by the police.” So we have to show the public that the government killed a lot of people. And about a thousand students were killed during the demonstration. Male References LeCompte, M. D., & Schensul, J. J. (1999). Designing and conducting ethnographic research. California: AltaMira Press. World Refugee Survey (2009). http://www.refugees.org/FTP/WRS09PDFS/RefuandAsylumseek.pdf, retrieved August 29, 2009.


refugee, Burmese, oral history


Education | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies

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