'Protect the People,' 88 Gen Tells Shwe Mann

By Lawi Weng 2 July 2012

Burma’s speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, Shwe Mann, met on Sunday in Rangoon with representatives of the 88 Generation Students group, including former political prisoner Min Ko Naing, in a first show of recognition by the new government for the dissident organization.

Shwe Mann, a former military general who is now believed to be one of the leading reformers in the government and a close confidant of President Thein Sein, told the 88 Generation leaders that Naypyidaw faces many challenges during this transition from military to civilian government, and that it did not yet have much experience in democracy.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, Min Ko Naing said they discussed issues of law with Shwe Mann—how to unburden the people of unjust and unnecessary laws, and how to replace them, within a timeframe, with laws that support civil rights.

“Shwe Mann said that it is difficult to change things in Parliament where so many lawmakers are from the military and are only used to listening to orders,” said Min Ko Naing. “Shwe Mann said that MPs needed to work harder for change, and that there was a great number of issues to be dealt with in Parliament.

“We will take many positive things from our discussion with Shwe Mann,” he said. “We like him and can see he has an open mind. It is important to know how sick our country is in order to find its treatment.”

The 88 Generation leader said that although the government says it is making progress and has changed certain laws, the ordinary people still do not feel any benefits.

He said that draft laws were taking too long to process in Parliament, and that events on the ground could continue in the vein as under the previous military junta because the relevant laws have not been overturned.

“The 88 Generation Students group is working to promote strong civil institutions in Burma,” said Min Ko Naing, “and as such, we do not intend to run as a party in the 2015 elections.”