Prominent Burmese Activist Cancels Trip to US

Min Ko Naing, founder of of the pro-democracy movement 88 Generation Students Group, who was released from prison, speaks to supporters in Tharawaddy Township, about 100 miles north of Rangoon, on his way back to Rangoon January 14, 2012. (PHOTO: Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters)

RANGOON — A prominent Burmese activist said Saturday that he is canceling a trip to the United States to receive a democracy award, to show solidarity with more than a dozen fellow activists whose applications for passports have apparently been denied.

Min Ko Naing was to be recognized by the National Endowment for Democracy as one of five Burma activists who have made significant contributions to the democracy movement in the former military-ruled country.

“I really value the award given by the National Endowment for Democracy, but I have decided not to travel to Washington to accept it,” Min Ko Naing told The Associated Press.

“On principle, I will not travel alone when my colleagues are denied their citizens’ rights,” he said. “We should be treated as equals and be given passports together.”

The ceremony is taking place Thursday in Washington, with a keynote speech to be given by Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s most famous democracy crusader. She is to leave Sunday on her first U.S. trip since she was put under house arrest in 1990.

Min Ko Naing was a key leader of pro-democracy protests in 1988 and 2007. He spent most of the past 20 years as a political prisoner in solitary confinement until his release in January. Other activists endured similar sentences for participating in the protests, which were outlawed along with all dissent by the former military junta.

Authorities granted passports to Min Ko Naing and a handful of other prominent activists, including Ko Ko Gyi, also a high-profile leader of the 1988 student-led democracy rallies.

But nearly two dozen other pro-democracy activists have been left in limbo. Some applied for passports up to six months ago and have been told by the Home Ministry that their requests have been put on hold for a year, Ko Ko Gyi said.

Passports in Burma are generally issued within three weeks.

Zaw Thet Htwe, a journalist who was imprisoned under the junta and freed in January, said he was given no formal reason for not getting a passport. But he was told informally that he and others were under surveillance for a year because they had been let out of prison early and authorities wanted to keep an eye on them, he said.

Over the last year, President Thein Sein’s government has spearheaded unprecedented change in Burma, relaxing decades of harsh rule and allowing freedoms previously unheard of in the Southeast Asian nation, which is also called Burma. But major challenges remain. Rights groups say human rights abuses continue, rule of law is weak and corruption remains strong.

The four others being recognized for the 2012 Democracy Award include Hkun Htun Oo, the leader of an ethnic Shan political party who was jailed for many years, and film actor-director turned activist Kyaw Thu, who leads a social organization called the Free Funeral Service Society.

Also being honored are Cynthia Maung, an ethnic Karen doctor who provides medical care on the Thai side of the border for more than 50,000 people from Burma every year, and Aung Din, a leader of the 1988 student movement and former political prisoner who is now director of the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma.

10 Responses to Prominent Burmese Activist Cancels Trip to US

  1. Why would The Thein Sein administration put these people under surveillance? Why? There is more question than answer here. Why is the government afraid of these good men?

  2. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    Ko Min Ko Naing; the cancelling of your trip to US to receive the award given to you is very appreciated since it answers to the call of judgment to highlight the plight of political prisoners.

    You are effectively using your own liberty to promote the other as DSSK said. Your absent at the award ceremony will absolutely shows the fact that Burma is still under oppression as well as Burmese democracy movement is very united, well prepared for the worst and always ready to serve respective part of duty to achieve common goal of tolerated democracy in Burma.

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

  3. In unity there is strength; we can move mountains when we’re united and enjoy life. Without unity we are victims. Stay united!

  4. I’m not surprised. He has always been rather anti-US anyway and besides, he can avoid being questioned about the “illegal Rohingya” (or Bangladeshis?) by the US media. He’s playing it safe, but Suu Kyi has no choice!
    By the way what name does he use on his passport? He wasn’t born Min Ko Naing. That’s his nom de guerre, isn’t it?

  5. Min Ko Naing is right to cancel a trip to the United States to receive a democracy award, to show solidarity with more than a dozen fellow activists whose applications for passports have apparently been denied.
    This will provide Aung San Su Kyi additional power to inform the world that Burma is still under military rule,and pressure reformer President Thein Sein who will visit US to move faster in his reform and get rid of the hard core murderers in Burma Army..
    A brilliant strategy indeed.

  6. You are the real patriot and hero Min Ko Naing. I salute you. When you were in solitary confinement, beaten by the military intelligences, the western world bark , they didn’t have the courage to bite the Burmese leaders’ balls. What is this shit prizes meant for you now? You don’t give a damn about this. Be a real Burmese, but not their puppet as Daw Su. Show them that you are a real Burmese and patriot.God bless you.

  7. George Than Setkyar Heine

    My HAT’S OFF TO YOU man!
    You did the RIGHT THING, at the RIGHT TIME as well no doubt.
    Awards and medals can wait of course comrade.
    KIA/Kachins are having a HARD TIME no doubt.
    And you went to LISTEN TO (hear) their CRIES and gave HELP in their time of need and darkest hour as well.
    Of course they will NEVER FORGET that.
    And a GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER for that matter as well trust me.
    This is called CHARISMA and CHIVALRY as well no less.
    Leaders are INGRAINED (embedded) with this kind of QUALITIES as well..
    You and your lot are the MUSKETEERS of BURMA (Myanmar) I say.
    And ONE FOR ALL and ALL FOR ONE is your BATTLE HYM (CRY) don’t forget.
    SOLIDARITY/UNITY. is the KEY to SUCCESS as well lest you forget.
    And BURMA NEEDS YOU and your LOT to be honest and true.

  8. Here, you have to understand the workings of the MM government civil servants; Unless there is a minister on top who specifically give instructions to allow, the lower level people, even DGs will not issue pp to these people on the blacklist. Thats the first thing we got to understand.

    Second, who can give greenlight? Besides the President, U Soe Thein or U Aung Min, there is no one else who will stick their neck out. And these three or four are as busy as they are, so i would not think that this is a case of purposely denying.

    They have to meet up, internally discussed and agreed upon. The decision to give pp to these people has to come from the very top and arranging a meeting is close to impossible. This would be a formal decision which will be made at the monthly President office meeting and all will be sorted out in no time.

  9. U min ko naing is a real unorthodox statesman.
    HE refuses to conform unjust action by the regime.
    This time he fights the regime’s divisive denial of comrade’s citizenship right to travel.

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