Skilled Burmese Have Duty to Return: 88 Gen

By Lawi Weng 9 November 2012

Burma‘s future prosperity is under threaten from a severe skills shortage and so educated nationals living abroad should return to help develop the country, says 88 Generation Students leader Min Ko Naing.

The 50-year-old activist, who spent 24 years in prison for his role in peaceful democracy demonstrations, made the comments in a Facebook video published on Thursday. “Your motherland and your country is suffering and under threat from a lack of education,” he said. “You must all sympathize with your countrymen who have no education.

“The more people are uneducated, the more they are oppressed by authoritarian regimes. The people have suffered a lot and they feel like they are slaves under this oppressor. With education they could develop their minds as knowledge can open their eyes and ears. I want you all to help with this.”

The 88 Generation has so far visited 11 out of Burma’s 14 states and divisions in order to learn about the real situation on the ground from ordinary people. Various delegations found that there are many people who do not know how to react to authorities despite being aware that they were being exploited or had their rights abused.

Many Burmese children are only able to study at Buddhist monasteries, especially in areas of Upper Burma where government schools barely function and students must rely on classes taught by monks.

“I want you all to consider not just education but also civil rights as they are treated by the international community,” said Min Ko Naing. “All human beings need education and knowledge. There are workers who ask their employers to set a 12-hour working day at factories while the international community only allows eight hours.

“They must have poor education to work 12 hours a day. They all have a sad face and ask for foreign investment for help reducing work times. There are children aged 10 and 14 years old who cannot study as they have to work at factories and teashops. There are children as well who are affected by fighting in Kachin State and have had their houses burnt down in Arakan State.”

Min Ko Naing emphasized that Burma’s current political reform process was nowhere near complete and there will be many challenges during this frustrating period of transition. “We should not fight amongst ourselves and cooperate with other people to fight for our rights,” he said.

The best-selling novelist said that those people who believed that the country needed sophisticated military weaponry and a fearsome armed forces to maintain peace must be challenged, however difficult the confrontation might be.

“You all know more than us the value of education and how educated people manage their countries around the world,” said Min Ko Naing. “It is the right time to come back to work for the country. We are constructing a road. We need people to help grow flowers on this road.”