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Interview

INTERVIEW

The Conqueror of Kings


By THE IRRAWADDY Thursday, October 13, 2011


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One of Burma's most influential dissidents, Min Ko Naing, which translates as “The Conqueror of Kings,” was not among those released from jail in Wednesday's amnesty to over 6,000 prisoners. As one of the most influential leaders in 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 some 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 Irrawaddy spoke with Min Ko Naing in April 2007 before he was arrested and transported to a remote prison in Shan State. The following interview is a reprint.

Min Ko Naing
Question: The 88 Generation Students’ “Open Heart Campaign” has inspired ordinary Burmese to express their views about the country openly. What is the current status of the campaign and what has it accomplished?

Answer: The aim of the campaign is to encourage the people to exercise freedom of expression, which is their basic right. We have seen the people become increasingly aware after launching the campaign. Some citizens wrote their opinions on paper and hung them on the fence of their homes. We have received a huge amount of letters from across the country and can draw the whole picture of the Burmese people’s desires. We have categorized the letters according to social, health and economic issues, and we are preparing a research report. After that, we will announce the result to the world.

Q: You and other leaders of your group were arrested last year on the charge that your efforts might lead to civil unrest. Do you feel that the current climate in Burma could become violent?

A: I think that depends on both the regime and the democratic forces. First, we all have to avoid acting out of emotion. When we publicly express our opinions and attitudes, we always take care to avoid violence. On the other side, there should be those who have the ability to listen to us. It is crucial [for the regime] not to approach everything with doubt. If they translate the situation simply into an attempt to overthrow their power, it will end up in a great tragedy. What’s more important is the people have to exercise that right to express their desires peacefully and with nonviolent means. On the other hand, the authorities should approach them in a positive manner and choose the best way to improve the situation. If they view our activities as a threat to their power and respond violently, our future does not look good.

Q: Do you think the road to national reconciliation remains open?

A: Actually, the doors are on both sides—one on our side and another on the government’s side. Our door remains open. While we are the oppressed who have been struggling against injustice in the country, we continue to open our door because we usually find the answer to a problem is based on the principle of national reconciliation. The issue is the status of the government’s door. We will continue to knock so that we can give them the message that we need to work together in making a nation instead of annihilating each other.

Q: The military government has taken a one-sided approach to national reconciliation—one that excludes [opposition leader] Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy. Are you prepared to accept such an approach to reform?

A: We never focus simply on the view of an individual or a party. But we can’t accept a one-sided solution, which has forcibly distorted the results of the 1990 election. If we did, how could the people believe in any future election? An election can’t guarantee anything.



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U Nu Wrote:
16/10/2011
In Memory of the Democracy Struggle Heroes

In the land of Burma
Where justice there is none
Under the one-party system’s
Dark image
We grew up in the knowledge of red blood.
Our mentality is not a loser’s mentality
We do not fear brutality.
Don’t intimidate us with defeatist words.
We don’t nurture fear and because
We have this understanding and courage
We will face anything for freedom.
We will face military dictators and
Spill our blood in this and successive lives.
And then ... And then ...
In the campaign for democracy
We’ll inscribe our parts
That’s what we know in our hearts.

Mualcin Wrote:
15/10/2011
He is imprisoned but his love for freedom cannot be imprisoned. His sacrifice for our freedom will live forever and we all will reap the fruits one day sooner or later.

Myo Myo Wrote:
14/10/2011
Junta has to release MKN and 88 Group unconditionally and immediately. It is whole-hearted desires by our nation. The more delay the worst junta will face for survival.

Generals were using tools of “killing field” in 88 and “state-terrorisim” in Dapayin, 2003 (learned from China), but failed to stop People Power. TShwe and thugs used extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, and incommunicado detentions made no difference for their shaky power.

From Asia rice-bowl to LDC, from resource-rich country to bankraptcy today indicating the final day is approaching quickly.

With maximum shamble and unacceptable by all, Nagis Constitution, farce election and China connection reminded junta and thugs that their bullying has no more charms in Burma.

A humble suggestion: release all political prisoners including MKN and 88 Group. No time to waste for their contributions to the Nation. They are Burma’s new generation leaders. Stop non-sense bullying again and again. Enough is enough!

Kyaw Wrote:
14/10/2011
The history of Burma has been too dirty and fulled with the wicket tricks. The most ugliest and will never be forgotten and forgiven is disrespect of the 1990 election results. The Generations to Generations will never accept the 2008 Constitution,how long, this military proxy Government will last? wait and see? ASEAN will not qualify them for the Seat, The west will never lift the embargo unless the 1990 Election result is honored by Delegate the Power to NLD to revise the 2008 Constitution and to be responsible to organize a new election, which will never happen under Theinsein.

Terry Evans Wrote:
14/10/2011
The generals are frightened because of all the leaders who emerged during the heady days of Burma's pro-democracy uprisings in 1988,Min Ko Naing, the "Conqueror of Kings," stands out as perhaps the most heroic. He will never be bullied into silence.


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