Leading Activist in Hiding Warns of Dangerous Days Ahead
covering burma and southeast asia
Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Leading Activist in Hiding Warns of Dangerous Days Ahead

By KYAW ZWA MOE Monday, September 17, 2007


A leading Burmese activist who has been in hiding for weeks says that potential protest demonstrations in coming days will probably be organized better than those in the 1988 nationwide pro-democracy uprising but the prospect of bloodshed is high.

Tun Myint Aung [Photo: ABFSU Foreign Affair Committee]
Tun Myint Aung, a member of the 88 Generation Students group, spoke to The Irrawaddy on Monday about Burma's politically volatile state, following weeks of protest marches by pro-democracy groups and monks.

Tun Myint Aung is one of the 88 group's leading members still at-large, following the arrests of 13 leading members, including prominent Min Ko Naing, on August 21 following street protests against the regime’s sharp hike in fuel prices.

“People today are more aware of politics, and the current political situation thanks to the media abroad,” the activist said by telephone from his hiding place. 

Tun Myint Aung said the Burmese people are facing an economic crisis as great as that in the 1980s. And people, including businessmen, can visibly see the ruling generals and their families and cronies enjoy unearned economic privileges, he said.

“The general discontent in the public is high,” said Tun Myint Aung . But he added that fear of the junta’s iron-fisted rule keeps many people from joining the protests, although they support goals. Another reason is simply that most people can't risk leaving their daily job upon which they are barely surviving.  

He said protesters in recent demonstrations are more courageous than those in 1988.

“In ’88, we wore masks while protesting so we could not be identified,” he said. “The protesters today wore nothing though they knew they would be arrested later.”

Tun Myint Aung said pro-democracy groups must show leadership. “Our groups, including the main opposition National League for Democracy, should have strong and decisive leadership” that mirrors the needs and the feelings of the people.

In terms of the current leadership strategy, he said, “We have been in hiding in order to carry on the movement” but organizing has become more difficult, because members of his group have lost close communication following the cut off in recent days of mobile cell phone and land-line service to prominent activists and groups.
“Our movement has gone underground again,” he said. 
However, he was optimistic about the current protests. “Pro-democracy groups will be able to grab opportunities this time,” he said. “Unlike ’88, we have the NLD and other political groups. And Daw Suu [Aung San Suu Kyi] is here though she is under house arrest.”

During the ’88 uprising, the then late dictator Ne Win’s authoritarian government, then called the Burma Socialist Program Party, lost control of many government ministries, but the military troops put down the protestors. However, at the time there were no organized opposition groups, he noted.

“This time we want to get this movement done beautifully without bloodshed,” he said, recalling the bloodshed in 1988 when an estimated 3,000 protesters were killed by the government’s soldiers.
Can bloodshed be avoided this time? Tun Myint Aung said he isn't sure.

“Because that’s their [the junta’s] choice,” he said. Looking back at the junta's violent crackdown on protestors in August and early September, he said there are no signs the junta has changed its attitude and a violent, bloody crackdown could easily happen in the coming days.

As Tun Myint Aung spoke to The Irrawaddy, events were moving forward inexorably.

Monday was the deadline set by “The Alliance of All Burmese Buddhist Monks” for the junta to apologize for the violence used against monks in Pakokku, located about 370 km north of Rangoon, in early September. Apparently, no apology was offered.

On Monday morning, hundreds of monks staged peaceful demonstrations in Chauk in Magwe Division and in Kyaukpadaung in Mandalay Division.

The alliance of monks has called on fellow monks in cities across Burma to peacefully march from their monasteries to local pagodas on Tuesday in protest against the junta. Local analysts say the stage is set for what could be a violent clash between monks and the junta's supporters. 

“Whether or not the current protests will rise up to the level of the one in ’88 depends on the ruling generals and the way they treat the protests,” said Tun Myint Aung.

Please read our policy before you post comments. Click here
E-mail:   (Your e-mail will not be published.)
You have characters left.
Word Verification: captcha Type the characters you see in the picture.

more articles in this section