More Dissident Exiles Return to Aid Reform

By Hpyo Wai Tha 3 September 2012

RANGOON—After more than two decades in exile, prominent dissident Moe Thee Zun said he has returned to Burma to help President Thein Sein’s reform process and make peace in war-torn areas.

“I thought of Burma and worked for Burma everyday during my 24-year stay outside the country,” said the former chairman of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) who helped organize the 1988 democracy uprising.

Along with 10 other members of the Peace Delegation for Motherland exiled student activists, he legally returned home after Naypyidaw removed 2,082 people from its blacklist. They are the second batch of exiles to land at Rangoon International Airport after a first prominent group arrived on Friday.

Tun Aung Kyaw, another member of the delegation as well as a former ABSDF leader, told a press conference on Monday that the group’s mission was to facilitate the end of civil war in ethnic areas and help improve education across the country.

“As we used to be involved in the armed struggle movement in ethnic areas, we’ve befriended ethnic leaders and understand their feelings,” he said. “So our contribution to the peace-making process won’t be fruitless.”

“We are here to help you and our comrades who are facing difficulties,” said Moe The Zun. “Not to be involved in politics. Not to become an MP.”

The delegation is on a 21-day visa and have had meetings with two government peace negotiators—President’s Office ministers Aung Min and Soe Thein—as well as 88 Generation Students group leaders since their arrival on Saturday.

“Aung Min warmly welcomed us,” said Shwe Zin Tun, another member of the delegation. “They said changes are in urgent need as the country is deeply impoverished so they heartily invite anyone who has the capacity to address social and economic challenges facing the country to return.”

Moe The Zun also requested to meet Thein Sein. “If we have a chance to see the president, we only want to focus on peace issues,” he said. He added that even though the current reform process is still in its infancy, it makes him really happy to see the changes in the country.

“Guess how happy I will be if the president embarks on radical change,” he said. “I would be on cloud nine. That’s why we are back to help you, the president and ethnic people. We want to serve the people.”

As soon as the delegation left the international arrivals lounge of the airport on Saturday, they were flooded with reporters, onlookers and supporters. Photos on social networks like Facebook show Moe The Zun and his two colleagues standing on the roof of a van and greeting people around them.

Yet despite Moe The Zun’s ambition, there are many who are skeptical of his political standing and background.

“Moe The Zun is nothing. He’s using Burmese politics as a stepping stone for his own interests and fame,” said a middle-aged man at the press conference who asked to remain anonymous. “Tell me what he has done for the country? Staging a protest in front of the Burmese Embassy in New York is not a big deal—Boy, anyone can do that.”