Imprisoned dissidents who are leaders of the 88 Generation Students group reportedly welcomed the recent meeting between pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi, Burma's minister of labor as well as minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement, and urged more pro-active dialogue aimed at national reconciliation.
Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and Htay Kywe, all of whom are serving 65-year priosn sentences, managed to get their comments to the public one week after the first meeting between Suu Kyi and a member of Burma's new government took office in late March.
Min Ko Naing, who is being held in Keng Tung Prison in eastern Shan State, said through an information channel that he thinks the meeting between Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi was “a good step.”
A message from Ko Ko Gyi, who is in Mong Set Prison in Shan State, said he supports the meeting and calls for more meaningful dialogue. Ko Ko Kyi, who is described by colleagues as a “strategist,” said that the pro-democracy leader should take a wider leading role in the development of democracy and peace in Burma.
Htay Kywe’s brother-in-law, Pyo Min Thein, who is also member of the 88 Generation Students group, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that Htay Kywe said the meeting between Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi was a positive step. Htay Kywe is serving his sentence in Buthitaung Prison, Arakan State.
“Even though the 88 Generation Students leaders have sacrificed a lot for the country, they are always optimistic. Therefore our party take their concerns seriously,” said Win Htain, one of Suu Kyi’s close aides at the National League for Democracy(NLD), in response to the 88 Generation Students leaders’ messages.
The 88 Generation Students group was formed by former student leaders who led the mass uprising against dictator Ne Win’s Burmese Socialist Programme Party in the summer of 1988, during which at least 3,000 people were killed by government security forces.
Throughout 1988-1991, most of the student leaders were arrested and given long prison sentences. Min Ko Naing was arrested in 1989 and spent 15 years in prison. Ko Ko Gyi was arrested in 1991 and imprisoned and released in 2005.
After their release, the former student leaders formed the 88 Generation Students group, which became a prominent dissident movement while Suu Kyi was under house arrest. The group undertook various political activities until its leaders were once again arrested on August 21, 2007 for their involvement in a protest march against fuel price hikes and given matching 65-year sentences.
The former student leaders reportedly take the same position—that they will not make an appeal to get individual sympathy from the government.