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Burmese President Thein Sein met with leaders of Burma’s pro-democracy 88 Generation Students group for the first time on Sunday in a bid to promote political reform in the former pariah nation, according to state media.
Members of the 88 Generation Students group were invited to Naypyidaw to discuss the ongoing challenges in the country’s democratic transition, including political prisoners, land grabs and civil conflicts.
The state-run New Light of Myanmar described the meeting as a “cordial” effort to develop a new “political culture” and “all-inclusive political process” in Burma, which is emerging from decades of military rule.
The 88 Generation delegation was led by pro-democracy activists Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi who both spent lengthy stints in prison under the former military regime.
The group played a prominent role in Burma’s 1988 student-led pro-democracy uprising, which culminated in a bloody military crackdown that left thousands dead.
They have previously met with other senior politicians, including the government’s leading peace negotiator, Aung Min, and the speaker of both the lower house and bicameral parliament, Shwe Mann. But this is the first time they have met with Thein Sein.
In a July interview with DVB, a group spokesperson said they were planning to press the president about Burma’s tumultuous history and discuss ways to rebuild the country.
“We’ll also urge him to stop the fighting in Kachin state and raise the issue of land confiscations,” said Mya Aye.
The 88 Generation Students group was formed in 2005 and played a major role in organising protests during the 2007 “Saffron Revolution”, which saw thousands of monks and civilians spilling onto the streets of Rangoon calling for democracy.
Several of the group’s leaders, including Min Ko Naing who had already spent 15 years in prison for his political activism, were later re-arrested and jailed for their role in the uprising, which was brutally crushed by the military regime.