On The Record

A core member of the influential '88 Generation Students Group and a former political prisoner--released three months ago, Ko Ko Kyi, talked with Achara Ashayagachat how he saw the future of Myanmar in the post 1 April by-elections.

Q: The looming prospects of reforms in Myanmar is what you anticipated when you were imprisoned?

A: Not much surprise. When in prison, we were not just sitting by or giving up. We try to collect information about outside situations.

We know that military leaders have to change since they are dealing with the international community which does not like the government that crush their own people. They have to change from military to civilian government.

Q: Optimism runs high in Myanmar, but the recent brutal repressive history is still lingering. How do you read the post-elections situations?

A: This is a very interesting moment in our history since we will see for the first time the military and opposition groups sitting together in the parliament.

Still, a strange situation for us.  With 45 seats, even if the National League for Democracy (NLD) gets all, is nothing---a little portion compared to the 86% controlled by the military and the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).
Yet, Aung San Suu Kyi is a formidbale different genre, she can speak louder than other parliamentarians.

Q: How much do you think the civil society can be bloomed under the current peculiar environment?

A: Exactly, this is the most important thing in our country because we don't have the experiences before . Under one-party system, there were some peace and development and volunteer organizations. But after the '88 Generations-led movements and in fact the post-Nargis humanitarian efforts, Myanmar citizens have realized they have to engage in their own national and communities affairs .

The military government has shown that they could not properly deal with emergency problem; the young generation are therefore eagerly engaging in social issues.

Q: But what is the pace of reform given a civilian form of management just one year ago?

A: Yes, some of the executive and legislative branches are reluctant to change. They only react and approach things from security point of view. But as our society develops, they need to show respect for the people voices, the rights, freedom and liberty of our citizens.

There are also controversies whether economic or politics come first. Dictators have tried to transform the country into hybrid democracy and politically and economically reform upon their own convenient way.

Q: What about the prospects of ethnic negotiation and national reconciliation?

A: This is a very complicated issue because it has rooted for half a century so we cannot solve it at one time . Successive rulers have tried to solve the ethnic issues, by entering the ceasefire, but it's on and off, repeatedly. They also addressed it through development activities in the ethnic regions, but that is not enough.

They just deal with the issue from the military and security point of view. They should rather approach it from various aspects, especially from historical and cultural aspects as well as political aspects.

If not, we can't solve ethnic problems. Also, for a long time, such talks were held only between Myanmar and ethnic army leaders, not involving grassroots voices.

The ethnic commoners are very poor and innocent, they don't know their rights or how to express their needs . The majority of the voices are totally disappeared (from the reconciliation process), so if we want to have a sustainable peace in our country, we have to provoke and allow the voices of the silent to be emerged.

Q:  That will be your next mission---advocacy of human rights?

A:  On behalf of the '88 Generation Group, I've visited various regions. First trip after I was released from the prison three months ago was to Irrawaddy Division. Such a pity, they have no idea what's the open society and transparency is.

Yet, I'm optimistic as we have forged alliance and networks with many cultural, religious, development and volunteer groups over all, including the conflict-plagued Kachin Division.

The '88 Generation Group has already announced support to Aung San Suu Kyi and her party too. But apart from the parliamentary channel, the public democracy is still very important for Myanmar too. We need to work to empower the knowledge and raise their awareness and confidence of the residents.

It's already coming up such as the protest against the Myitzone Dam and Tavoy power plants. I'm now also heading a fact-finding mission for MP Khine Maung Yi after 10,000 residents of Dagon, eastern township of Yangon division, have petitioned about the government forcing them to sell back the land that they have paid up through their civil service salary.
Yes, this is the things that we are embarking on.....advocacy for human rights.


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