The Last Night in the Cell
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FEATURE

The Last Night in the Cell


By KYAW ZWA MOE Saturday, January 21, 2012


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Nearby was a ward for female prisoners, including Hla Hla Win, a young reporter who was serving a lengthy sentence for sending information to the Democratic Voice of Burma.

Ant Bwe Kyaw, a leading activist of the 88 Generation Students group
Shortly before 8 pm on Jan. 12, Ant Bwe Kyaw heard the sound of hands clapping from the women's ward. Moments later, he heard Hla Hla Win shouting out his name. Although he could barely see her face from his cell, he could easily imagine the excitement it expressed. “I think this is our time,” she shouted. “They just announced on TV that 651 prisoners are going to be released tomorrow.”

Unlike the female prisoners, who were allowed to watch TV for a short time in the evenings, Ant Bwe Kyaw had to wait until 8 o'clock to hear the announcement with his own ears. At that time every evening, the prison played the national news over the radio for all inmates to hear. The announcement said that the 651 prisoners would be released “for national reconciliation.” This phrase made him feel almost certain that he and other political prisoners would be released the next day. His first thought was that it would be very good to reunite with his 88 Generation colleagues.

Normally at this time of night, he would spend some time reading before meditating for about half an hour and then going to bed. But on this night, he was too excited to read as usual, so he made himself a strong cup of instant coffee and started thinking about the books he would take with him when he was released.

He decided that he would donate most of his Burmese books to the prison library and fellow prisoners but keep a few books on philosophy and some novels in English, including “Norwegian Wood” and “Kafka on the Shore” by the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, whose books he enjoyed for their unusual descriptions.

Another favorite book was “Dreams from My Father,” by US President Barack Obama, which contained a sentence that he found so striking that he wrote it down in his notebook: “What I do know is that history returned that day with a vengeance; that, in fact, as Faulkner reminds us, the past is never dead and buried—it isn’t even past.”

After a long, cold and almost sleepless night, Ant Bwe Kyaw heard a guard approach his cell at around 4 am. Getting as close to the cell door as possible and speaking in a whisper, the guard said: “The list has just arrived. You're on it. But your neighbors are not.”

Even then, Ant Bwe Kyaw could hardly believe that he was about to be freed. Sensing his doubt, the guard just asked if he could have his blanket when he left.

Like Pyone Cho, Ant Bwe Kyaw spent his remaining hours behind bars thinking about how he and his colleagues could resume their political activities. He felt that Thein Sein’s reforms were just a start, a dirt track on the way to democracy that needed to be turned into a highway. It would be up to him and his colleagues to accelerate the process of constructing Burma’s road to freedom.

But even as his own freedom seemed more certain and his dreams of change began to dawn as a real possibility, he could not help but think of those he would soon be leaving behind. He hoped that they and all of Burma’s political prisoners, scattered in prisons around the country, would also soon be able to rejoin the struggle for their country’s freedom.

***

Ko Ko Gyi, the second most prominent 88 Generation leader after Min Ko Naing, had no idea on the evening of Jan. 12 that his release from Mong Hset Prison in Shan State was imminent. The 50-year-old former student leader believed that the government was facing an internal power struggle and would never allow him and his colleagues to join forces again at such a sensitive time.

He also knew that Burma’s rulers were always very careful to keep the 88 Generation group away from Aung San Suu Kyi. When they were released before, she was under house arrest; and whenever she was freed, they were behind bars. If they and Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) had a chance to work together, they could prove to be a formidable political force. While the NLD dominated Burma’s party politics, the 88 Generation leaders had achieved spectacular results in organizing popular protests that presented a more direct challenge to the military’s political supremacy.

Like Pyone Cho and Ant Bwe Kyaw, Ko Ko Gyi had spent about 15 years in prison after the 1988 uprising, before being sentenced to another 65 years after the Saffron Revolution.



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Oo Maung Gyi Wrote:
23/01/2012
The Great Peoples of Burma " '88 Generation"
those are now released from the various prisons in Burma will work for reformist along with Aung San Suu Kyi is an honour fro the Biurmese peoples of 21st century. President Thein Sein is realy a reformist or not his action has been shown that he will coopearte with democratic forces of ASSK which will also be supported by "88 generation students. This is a great news of morden Burma. Now whole country is awaiting for how ASSK has to play this reformist political areneh for the sake of the development of the country. The clear picture will be come out after April 1st by election where ASSK is participating for a seat in parliament. Parliament majority is not a question, how to make progress for the country is the real goal. Who ever loves the country must support the constructive actions and strep taken by President Thein sein and Daw ASSK.

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