A Spirit That Never Dies
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FEATURE

A Spirit That Never Dies


By AUNG ZAW Tuesday, October 18, 2011


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Tuesday marks the 49th birthday of one of Burma's most influential dissidents, Min Ko Naing.

He was not among those released from prison in last week's amnesty. As one of the most influential leaders within the 88 Generation Students group, he played a key role in Burma's historic anti-government uprising in 1988 and was later jailed for 15 years until his release in 2004.

Min Ko Naing (real name Paw Oo Tun) was imprisoned again in 2006 for several months. After his release in early 2007, he and fellow 88 Generation Students group members initiated protests against a sudden hike in fuel prices, and all were arrested and sentenced to 65 years in jail.

To many people, Min Ko Naing's high-profile political activity puts him second only to detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi as the most respected leader in Burma’s democracy movement. The following story was originally published in 2001.

Of all the leaders who emerged during the heady days of Burma's pro-democracy uprisings in 1988, Min Ko Naing, meaning "Conqueror of Kings," stands out as perhaps the most heroic. Min Ko Naing is the nom de guerre of Paw Oo Htun, who was born in Rangoon in 1962, the year his country's fledgling democracy fell to the dictatorship of Gen. Ne Win.

Min Ko Naing, right, and other members of the 88 Generation Students group were seen in an anti-government protest in Rangoon in August 2007.

Now, after a decade in prison for his role in instilling a sense of political responsibility in a people long accustomed to oppression, his name still expresses courage, commitment and hope. The formative years of Min Ko Naing's political consciousness coincided with the final years of Ne Win's direct control over Burma.

As a popular, artistically gifted student at the Rangoon Arts and Science University (RASU), he was an active member of the arts club, where he enjoyed reading, writing poems and drawing cartoons, especially satirical ones. But as Moe Thee Zun, a close friend and fellow activist, recalled, "Our conversations went beyond the usual topics of poems and cartoons, and we began to talk about politics and the country's future."

In a country where student unions were banned by law, Min Ko Naing and his friends were forced to discuss their political views in secrecy. As the first signs of serious public unrest in Burma began to appear in 1985, the year Ne Win's Burmese Socialist Program Party demonetized the 100-kyat note, Min Ko Naing and his close colleagues secretly established an underground student union in anticipation of a political uprising.

Min Ko Naing's creative character provided him with the means to express his views publicly through participation in Than Gyat, a traditional contest held during the Burmese New Year in April. This contest involves the performance of songs and plays by colorfully dressed troupes.

Traditionally, the performers parodied those in power, but under Ne Win, direct criticism of the government was forbidden. When Min Ko Naing and his friends started their own troupe in 1985, however, they attempted to revive the original spirit of Than Gyat. Calling themselves "Goat Mouth and All-Seeing Eye," they made jokes at the expense of Ne Win's regime and highlighted the lack of freedom and democracy in Burma, as well as the corruption among its officials.

Min Ko Naing's Than Gyat troupe proved to be very popular with its audiences of ordinary Burmese. It also attracted the attention of the dreaded Military Intelligence Services (MIS), whose agents were seen following them one night after a performance.

But, convinced that the time would soon be ripe for political change, Min Ko Naing and his friends pursued their study of the country's deteriorating political, social and economic conditions, and planned to start apolitical movement in the near future.

They managed to conceal these activities from the watchful eyes of the MIS until 1988. The democracy movement in 1988 Dissatisfaction with Ne Win's regime came to a head in March 1988, when university students in Rangoon started protesting against the government's brutal killing of some students from the Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT).



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SPTS Wrote:
25/10/2011
Until now the dictator than shwe and the regime of Burma is very lucky with their tricks and still in power. Before him, Ne Win was the luckiest person of all the dictators in the world that he managed to escape from the world without being punished for his sins.

My analogy might be false, but just for your reading pleasure only.

As i can think of some of the reasons might as below.
1) Majority of Burmese are soft in nature, and ve been brought up in a way which makes them to be too obedient.
2) There are very very few people like MKN in Myanmar. Majority of them are selfish and slaves, esp civil servants of then shwe.
3) The ethnic groups are too naive and diverse that they cannot combine together to fight back the brutal burmese soldiers.
4) Most of the Burmese ppl are gullible and already used to living without freedom for so long and they don't want to know what is freedom at all.
5) Burmese soldiers are the dumbest of everyone else in the world and they have very very low IQ as well as 80% of Burmese ppl.

Norman Hla Wrote:
23/10/2011
Dear Min Ko Naing,

I appreciate your brave heart to fight for democracy in Burma.

Continue to raise your head to fight than shwe. Finally, you will conquer coward "than shwe"

cheer

Min Nway Wrote:
19/10/2011
I am afraid, if Min Ko Naing finds out that his hope of True Democracy in Burma is fading than before since a new dictator's Burmese way to Pseudo-Democracy is getting momentum.

In fact,"A spirit that never dies" is a brief history of 8888 Student movement and partial biography of Min Ko Naing.

Hopefully, as the story is not yet end, Min Ko Naing struggling and suffering will be continued until - we have the true Democracy but NOT PSEUDO OR SIGNBOARD DEMOCRACY living under the shadow of any dictators.

He will never kneel to any dictators even if dictators break his knees.

U Nu Wrote:
18/10/2011
Slavery by foreigners

Or slavery by military dictators

No slavery will be tolerated

Flag of the Peacock!

Atop the student union

We shall resurrect ‘Daun A Larn’ the Peacock flag

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