Ethnic Peace Vital for Strong Democracy: 88 Gen

By Lawi Weng 17 August 2012

Members of the 88 Generation Students group met ethnic political leaders in Karen and Mon states during a recent visit and agreed to work together towards developing peace and a strong democracy in Burma.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, Mya Aye, a leader of 88 Generation, said that his group agreed that an ethnic conference should be held in the near future during discussions with senior Karen National Union (KNU) representatives.

“We found from our trip that ethnic people have the capacity to work for the development of their states,” he said. “And now there can be an even larger number of well educated people there as they have a chance to study abroad.”

Several 88 Generation members attended the 62rd anniversary of Karen Martyrs’ Day in Kawkareik Township, Karen State, on Aug. 12 after being invited by the rebel group.

The KNU is one of the highest profile ethnic armed groups in Burma and has fought for autonomy and Karen rights for 63 years—the longest running armed revolution in the country.

The 88 Generation is currently working on open community projects with the aim of developing a strong democracy. Group leaders stress that Burma must have nationwide ceasefire in order to forge a permanent peace in the country.

Without peace there will be no democracy or protection of human rights, said Mya Aye, adding that abuses occur most in ethnic areas where there is fighting between rebel armies and the government.

“There must be equal rights for ethnic people in order to be able to achieve nationwide peace and stop the fighting,” he added.

Similarly, the 88 Generation Students discussed safeguarding civilian rights during a meeting with ethnic leaders in the Mon State capital Moulmein on Aug. 13.

Min Zay Ya, an ethnic Mon leader of the 88 Generation from Kamarwat Village in Mudon Township, discussed labor rights and protection against illegal land confiscations with representatives of the Mon Democracy Party (MDP) and All Mon Regions Democracy Party (AMDP).

Around 15,000 acres of land used for rubber plantations have been confiscated by government troops locally.

Nai Ngwe Thein, the chairman of the AMDP, said, “I emphasized the issue of land confiscations at the meeting. [The 88 Generation Students] also agreed to help with this. So we will meet again soon to discuss more about how to work towards this goal.”

Nai Soe Myint, an executive committee member for the MDP, said that all relevant groups agreed that tackling the issue of land grabs was a priority.

“We are going to collect lists of the people in Kyaikmayaw Township who have had their lands confiscated by the Zay Kabar Company,” he said. “From our two-day trip, we found a lot people in Yebyu Township have had land confiscated.”

Under the previous military junta, the ethnic states of Burma have faced poverty and stunted development as well as human rights abuses due to five decades of civil war.

“The time is to let [ethnic people] create their fate and their own rights—the right for freedom. So there will no longer be poverty in ethnic states,” said Mya Aye.