The Faces of Burma 2005
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The Faces of Burma 2005


By The Irrawaddy DECEMBER, 2005 - VOLUME 13 NO.12


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(Page 6 of 13)

“Given the serious repression [existing in Burma], we cannot proceed alone without the prudential guide of our ‘uncles’.”
 
Nyan Win, another outspoken NLD second-liner, agrees with Myint Thein. “I don’t think the ‘uncles’ are blocking younger members’ way,” says Nyan Win, who was the NLD’s successful candidate in the 1990 election, representing Paung Township in Mon State. He is now a member of the party’s legal team.
 
“The most important thing is that we have to cooperate with elder leaders and build trust to bridge the generation gap,” Nyan Win says.
 
To Nyan Win, 1988 was a turning point in his life. He had worked as a government prosecutor since 1973, but was then forced to retire in 1988 after joining the All Law Office Workers Union and protesting against the socialist regime. In 1998, he was detained along with several other NLD election candidates and held for some three years.
 
Nyan Win legally represented Suu Kyi in a case arising from an incident at her Rangoon lakeside home in May 2002, when she was allegedly attacked by her cousin. She was given a suspended prison sentence after refusing to pay a fine of 500 kyat (US 50 cents), claiming she was being unfairly treated.
 
The case won Nyan Win wide media attention, and in early 2005 the NLD selected him as one of its five spokespersons. He is noted for his confidence and precision in handling the media, particularly on legal issues.
 
Now in his 60s and lacking a pre-1988 political background, Nyan Win sees Suu Kyi, Tin Oo and Aung Shwe as his mentors. He complains that he and some of his comrades are being dismissed as the “yes men” of the party elders—”Whenever I have a chance, I explain to those who misconstrue me as a sycophant that what I am now doing is just to serve the party and the troubled people with my professional legal expertise,” he says.
 
Cin Sian Thang [Ethnic Leader]
 
After a close colleague and leader of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, Hkun Htun Oo, was arrested in February 2005 and given a 93-year prison sentence, Cin Sian Thang resolved to increase his efforts to fight for national reconciliation through political dialogue.
 
Cin Sian Thang, 67, is chairman of the ethnic Chin Zomi National Congress. Elected as a Member of Parliament during Burma’s ill-fated 1990 elections, he has worked diligently for many years in defiance of the country’s ruling junta. During the 1960s, Cin Sian Thang served as a leader of the Chin Ethnic Student Union while a student at Rangoon University. He has been imprisoned on at least six occasions by successive military regimes for his political activities between 1972 and 1999. In each instance, he served two years, during which he was subjected to brutal interrogations that led to permanent health problems.
 
The Zomi National Congress won two parliamentary seats for Chin State in 1990, but two years later the military government revoked the party’s registration. Nonetheless, the ethnic activist has never yielded to pressure or given up his hope of a unified and federal democratic Burma. In the absence of Hkun Htun Oo, Cin Sian Thang has become the most outspoken elected ethnic leader in Burma. He serves as a member of the Committee Representing People’s Parliament, a group supported by 251 candidates elected in 1990. Considered a moderate ethnic leader, Cin Sian Thang heavily promotes the CRPP as a rallying point for Burmese activists and ethnic leaders.
 
Sao Surkhanpha [Exiled Activist]
 
In April 2005, Sao Surkhanpha and a group of elderly Shan activists in exile surprised Burmese government officials, exile opposition groups and armed ethnic forces operating in northern Burma by declaring the independence of Shan State. Sao Surkhanpha, 67, is the eldest son of Burma’s first president, Sao Shwe Thaike, and claims the title of President of the Federated Shan States from his home in Canada.


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