(Interview) – 88-Generation Students met with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday to talk about their statement: “The Attitude of 88-Generation Students on the current political atmosphere and landscape” issued on December 5. The group will not run candidates elections until all political prisoners are released. Suu Kyi and former army captain Win Htein of the National League for Democracy (NLD) attended the meeting. 88-Generation Students included Soe Tun, Tun Myint Aung, Sanchaung Ko Ko Gyi, Mi Mi Lwin, Nu Nu Aung and others. Mizzima reporter Tun Tun talks with Tun Myint Aung about the current political landscape, the by-election, Parliament, ethnic issues and the group’s future plans.
Question: Why did you hold a special meeting with Suu Kyi?
Answer: The main reason is the fast-changing political situation in Burma, and another reason was to discuss how to cooperate with the NLD. We explained our statement. We wanted to talk about the rumours that said there were differences between us on the parliamentary democracy line. She had already read the statement. She told us that she understood clearly and had no problem with the statement. Our crucial point is the release of all political prisoners. We took this stand as 88-generation students. The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) has also said it could not stand for elections unless their leaders were released. Similarly, we cannot consider elections as long as our leaders are still behind bars.
Individuals can decide for themselves. We have no objection if people decide to contest the election. This will be their free, individual choice. She understood. And she also agrees with us on the importance of the political prisoner issue. We have no differences at all between us. We don’t say 88-generation students cannot stand for election. We just said the 88-Generation Student group could not stand for election, because our leaders are not yet released. It is impossible for us to consider participating in the election as an organization.
Q: What else did she say regarding this issue?
A: She told us that she understood our position. As I explained, the release of political prisoners and ethnic leaders are crucial for us. The release of our leader Min Ko Naing is important. We can consider the electoral process only after he has been released. We also discussed how to cooperate.
Q: What did you discuss regarding cooperation between the two groups?
A: One of us asked her how the political dialogue process would unfold. She said dialogue would exist outside Parliament as a political process along with the process inside the Parliament. These two processes will coexist. She said when these two processes can really emerge then Burmese politics will progress rapidly. She understands the political process outside the Parliament. She concentrates on it too. And another thing she said: not only cooperation with groups inside and outside parliament, but she said we need to cooperate with the Tatmadaw (armed forces) too. All of us agreed on that, too. We agreed to work together with all forces for the progress and development of our country. She said that the political prisoners would be released for sure. She asked us to allow her not to say more than that. Then we discussed the by-election. People must understand the electoral laws, and they need to express their choices confidently. We discussed in detail how to provide voter education for that purpose. We discussed how to cooperate on all of this.
Q: Will you provide training and voter education for the by-election and on political issues outside of parliament?
A: She wants us to send our people for training to study the laws and then to provide training to other people. For instance, she pointed out that one must be able to say why he or she does not like the Constitution point by point. Saying you don’t like this Constitution is not enough. They need to be clear in their vision. And at the same time, people need to be free from fear, she said.
Q: For what purpose will you hold a press conference after meeting with Daw Suu?
A: Yes, we want people to understand our the 88-generation students and popular leader Aung San Suu Kyi are working together closely for the progress and development of the nation. As Daw Suu said, we need to cooperate not only with democratic forces, but also with the armed forces for the progress and development of the nation. So we need to tell the people we are working together in a friendly and amicably way. And we want to say we do not oppose Suu Kyi and we are standing together.
Q: There are some criticism about your December 5 statement. Do you want to respond to that?
A: We do not respond to those who have different views on the issues. Today Aung San Suu Kyi clearly said to us that she understood our position. She knows we support her. She told us that she had already known about our views and activities.
Q: Did you discuss other topics?
A: We discussed the ethnic issue. Our 88-generation students recently visited Kachin State to provide relief assistance to war refugees. We helped them as much as we could materially and spiritually. We encouraged them. They told us that they desperately needed equality. We talked about these issues. Auntie told us that not only are ethnic rights needed but also rights for all nationals. We need fundamental rights for all citizens, she said.