88 Generation leaders mark 1 year in detention

Aug 20, 2008 (DVB), It is approaching a year since 88 Generation Student group leaders including Min Ko Naing were arrested after staging a peaceful march against hikes in fuel and commodity prices.

On 19 August 2007, after the military government doubled the price of fuel without prior warning, 88 Generation Student group leaders walked from Kokine junction to Tamwe market in Rangoon in protest.

They had attended a memorial service for the late National League for Democracy leader U Kyi Maung, who died in 2004, and decided to walk to Tamwe rather than pay for bus fares which had shot up due to the increased fuel prices.

More than 400 people joined the march.

Three days later, authorities arrested more than 20 student leaders, including Min Ko Naing, Ko Pyone Cho, Ko Mya Aye, Ko Min Zeya, Ko Jimmy, Ko Arnt Bwe Kyaw, Ko Marki and Panni Tun Ko Yin Tun.

The families of the activists said they were told their relatives were being taken in for questioning, but they remain in detention almost a year later.

They face charges of opposing the national convention, illegal possession of foreign currency and violations of press and electronics laws, among many others, but have not yet been tried.

Arnt Bwe Kyaw's mother Daw Tin Tin Win said she had expected her son to be released soon after his detention.

"They never committed any serious crime," Daw Tin Tin Win said.

"When they came to get him, they told me that it was just for temporary questioning and assured me that he wasn't being arrested and that he would be released the following day," she said.

"So I am still living with the hope that he might come home soon."

U Win Maung, father of Pyone Cho, said he regretted that he could not do anything to help his son.

"I am in a position where I can do nothing for him. From business to social life, everything is empty. It is like a deliberate waste of life," he said.

The price of commodities has doubled since the demonstrators' arrests and the price of consumer goods continued to increase since Cyclone Nargis hit Burma in May, according to housewives and merchants.

Before his arrest, Hla Myo Naung said there would continue to be unrest for as long as people continued to experience difficulties in their daily lives.

"Consider the root cause of this disease. Consider the ways to prevent this disease from recurring," he said.

"I believe that we need to send a message to the ruling government openly and clearly."

NLD members and supporters again marked the passing of NLD chairman U Kyi Maung today with religious ceremonies in Rangoon.

Poet Pyapon Nilon Oo said supporters of U Kyi Maung had visited monasteries and made donations.

"We invited three monks to the house of a pupil of U Kyi Maung and offered nourishment to them. There were 30 people," the poet said.

"As Sasana Theikpan Monastery was sealed off, we went to the monasteries where the monks from Sasana Theikpan are living and offered them nourishment. We also donated money and materials," he said.

"Then we offered prayers and drip the holy water in memory of Saya [Teacher] U Kyi Maung."

Reporting by DVB

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