88 Generation Student Activists Register 'Four Eights Party'

By Htet Naing Zaw 19 December 2017

NAYPYITAW—Members of the 88-Generation student community on Tuesday registered a new political party, the Four Eights Party, with the Union Election Commission (UEC) in Naypyitaw.

U Ko Ko Gyi, a leading figure in the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society and a senior member of its committee tasked with establishing the party, said the new bloc’s aim is to take “political responsibility”, rather than power.

He said there was a mistaken notion among Myanmar’s political class that the sole objective of political parties is to gain power. He emphasized that he and his colleagues were setting up the party as a mechanism for taking responsibility for their political views.

“We engage in politics with the attitude that we will shoulder the responsibility that falls on us; nobody needs to ask us or assign us [to do this or that]. We’ll continue engaging in politics with a sense of responsibility,” he added.

Political activists involved in the student-led 8888 Uprising have organized multiple stakeholder consultations since early 2017. The name of the party was confirmed on Sunday, after a majority of the committee’s representatives from different regions of the country voted in favor of it on Sunday.

The party’s policy platform and structure will be unveiled after the UEC gives the green light to its registration, U Ko Ko Gyi added.

Prominent 88 Generation Peace and Open Society members such as U Min Ko Naing, U Jimmy and recently resigned leader U Mya Aye were not involved the party’s formation. Another leading figure in the group, U Min Zeyar, is a member, however.

In the meantime, some have criticized the party’s choice of name, saying that the designation “8888” does not belong to a particular group of people, but to the entire country and its struggle for democracy.

He called the 8888 Uprising the backbone of Myanmar’s political system, and claimed that all of the recent political and economic changes the country has seen have their origins in nationwide pro-democracy demonstrations in August 1988.

“Our party name is much more than a number. It has deep political significance and connotes serious objectives and goals,” he said, highlighting the “broadness and inclusion” the name impies.

“We will be resolute on our main objective, which is to continue pushing the demands made during the public uprising, which we highly value and respect,” U Ko Ko Gyi said.

The Four Eights Party, or 8888, written in Burmese digits. (Photo: Myo Min Soe/ The Irrawaddy)

The 88-Generation student leaders’ relationship with the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) is not as warm as it once was.

In 2014, they worked together on a nationwide petition campaign that attracted about five million signatures in support of an amendment to Section 436 of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. Amending the charter requires the support of more than 75 percent of the national legislature.

However, when selecting candidates for the 2015 general election, the NLD chose from within in its own ranks, and did not appoint any members of the 88 Generation student group to the government.

Translated from the Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.