Burma

Min Ko Naing’s 88 Uprising Video Tribute

By Lawi Weng 8 August 2012

“Today is the day when we came out among the explosives and cheered our slogan. We were beaten by the butts of guns and batons on the street during our demonstration,” Min Ko Naing, a leader of 88 Generation Students group, said in a video speech to mark the 24th anniversary of the popular uprising.

“Sometimes when we walked down the street, our flag fell down when we were challenged. But we picked it up again and displayed it in the rain. We had to struggle very hard for the last 24 years.”

Min Kon Naing was a 26-year-old zoology student at Rangoon Arts and Science University during the mass demonstration on Aug. 8, 1988. He helped lead the student activists and spent many years in prison as a consequence, while at least 3,000 of those who took part were gunned down by the then-military junta.

Min Ko Naing recollected the events of that fateful day during a broadcast to highlight the current political changes underway and prospects for national reconciliation.

“A lot of flashes from cameras hit us today unlike over the past 24 years,” he said. “Today, we put up our flag on the wall and even put our full flag on the carpet at our office.”

The anniversary of the 88 uprising was marked in Mandalay, Burma second biggest city, where Min Ko Naing and other leaders of the 88 Generation Students joined hundreds of democracy activists.

Railways Minister Aung Min, Naypyidaw’s chief peace negotiator with ethnic armed groups, donated one million kyat (US $1,250) towards the occasion. Aung Min met group leaders in Mandalay on Tuesday and said that his visit was conducted with the blessing of President Thein Sein.

The 88 Generation Students viewed the donation as a contribution towards national reconciliation in recognition of their activities.

“There is a big political change in our country. It is a historic change. If we had to ask, who made this change? The answer is the people,” said Min Ko Naing. “We want our people to remember that there is political change because of them. They wrote this history. We want the people to consider what more they can do in the future.

“Regarding national reconciliation, the president said that he wants all-inclusive politics. But there are our comrades who remain behind bars. There are also ethnic people who are behind bars for feeding one meal to the rebels. There should be no political prisoners.

“Burma’s Parliament is tightly controlled by military uniforms, but despite this there has been change as there was a single party Parliament in the past. Yet today there are many political parties in Parliament.”

Regarding the life of factory workers, Min Ko Naing said, “If we look at our sisters who work in textile factories, they suffer from poverty and a lack of education. If we look at their packed lunch, they do not have even one egg for a meal. This is how they have to struggle in their daily lives.

“There are educated people who stay abroad and ask us if they need to come back. We are constructing roads. If you want to walk on a smooth road, the time is now to cooperate with us. To be able to sing a song of victory beside the Irrawaddy River, we all need to cooperate to write the words.”

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