Khun Htun Oo

Studied law. Elected member of the Burmese Parliament. Most senior political representative of the Shan,Burma’s largest ethnic minority. Sentenced to 93 years in prison in 2005. Jailed in Kachin state far from his family and where conditions are said to be very harsh. Aged 65 he has a number of medical conditions including diabetes and his health is said to be deteriorating. Awarded “Honorary Citizen” by Italy in 2008. His message from prison is: “We didn’t commit any crime. We reaffirm our aim to empower our people to bring peace, justice and equality to the people”.

Su Su Nway
An NLD member and a dedicated Labour Activist. Recognised by international human rights awards from Canada and the Czech Republic for her work in bringing forced labour to the attention of the ILO. Aged 38. Imprisoned for 8 years and six months in a jail 700 miles from her home in Rangoon. Recently placed in solitary confinement for three days for singing an independence anthem. In frail health, her heart problem has seriously worsened in prison. In 2007 she said. “We held demonstrations for all the people, including those who beat us. [They] are also facing difficult daily lives.”

Ko Ko Gyi
In 1988, he was a final year student in International Relations at Rangon University. He helped found the 88 Generation Students Group, together with activists from the 88 uprising. He has a reputation as a gifted strategist and as one of the most prominent activists. Aged 47 he was sentenced to 65 years in prison in 2008. He is reportedly suffering from poor health and has been very ill in prison. Speaking of his activities he has said: “We paid the price with our families, our youth and our society. But we are satisfied with that sacrifice .”

Min Ko Naing
Talented artist, poet and satirist. Co-founder and spokesperson of the 88 Generation of Students Group. Sentenced with other 88 Generation Group members to over 65 years in prison. He is 46 and in failing health. He has been held in solitary confinement and is suspected to have been tortured. At his trial he declared: “You can sentence us to a thousand years in prison for our political activities, but we will continue to defend ourselves in accordance with the law. Nobody can hide from justice.”

Htay Kywe Eng
“To support the needs of our people, we are prepared to give and lose everything.” Leader of the 88 Generation Students Group. Sentenced with others to 65 years for his part in the Saffron Revolution in 2007. Aged 20 at the time of the 8888 uprising, he was a student of geology and a prominent student leader. A natural leader, charismatic, calm and a good arbitrator in disputes. Creative, a talented musician and poet. Currently held in solitary confinement on the death row cell block in a prison in Arakan state, and denied proper food, exercise and medical care. There are reports that he has been tortured.

Htay Win Aung aka Pyone Cho
Leader of the 88 Generation Students Group Married in April 2007. He is described as a very kind and generous man and as a joker who makes people laugh. He was arrested a number of times including for the White Sunday campaign; he organised100 people to wear white like prisoners’ uniforms and visited families of political prisoners to support them. His brother was also a political prisoner but died in jail. Aged 42 he was sentenced to 65 years in prison, along with other 88 Generation Group members, for their part in the Saffron Revolution in 2007.

Min Zeya
A leader of the 88 Generation Student Group and from the Mon ethnic group. A lawyer by training. Tried with 35 members of the 88 Generation Students Group in 2008 for leading protests against the government’s economic mismanagement. Min and his codefendants were handcuffed at the hearing and their families denied access. Their defence lawyers were subsequently prosecuted. Now aged 50 and suffering from ill health brought on by torture during earlier periods of detention. In November 2008 he was sentenced to 65 years in prison.

Nilar Thein
Leading member of the 88 Students Group and sentenced, with others in the Group, to 65 years in prison for their part in the Saffron Revolution. She is married with a daughter. Her husband was arrested and Nilar Thein went into hiding. Fearing for her baby daughter’s safety, she sent her to her parents and has not seen her since. She has written the heart-rending “Who will save Burma’s women and children?” and spoken of Aung Sang Suu Kyi as a reminder to the world that the Burmese junta forcibly separates mothers and children.

Thin Thin Aye aka Mie Mie
Leader of the 88 Generation Students Group. Worked for the NLD election campaigning in 1990. Took part in the Saffron Revolution in 2007. Sentenced to 65 years with hard labour, the court refused her family permission to attend and subsequently handed down prison sentences to her lawyers for representing her. On sentencing Mie Mie declared “We will never be frightened!” She has a degree in Zoology and is married with two children aged 17 and 12. Her health is deteriorating in prison in Irrawaddy, a long way from her family in Rangoon.

U Thura @ Zarganar
Comedian, film actor and director from an intellectual and political family. Zarganar is a nickname meaning “Tweezers.” A qualified dentist, he was involved in the 8888 uprising and Saffron Revolution in 2007. Aged 48 and in deteriorating health, he was sentenced to 35 years for his involvement in cyclone relief efforts. He is incarcerated in tiny cell in a prison many miles from his family who have been denied visiting rights - even after making the trip. He has spoken of previous prison terms - of being kept with dogs,of seeing monks with gunshot wounds and broken bones and of young lives destroyed.

Sandar Min aka Shwee
A chemistry graduate from Rangoon University, her last job was working with a children’s NGO. She has diplomas in Business Law, Applied Psychology, English, Business Management and Banking Technology. Now aged 40, she was sentenced to 65 years with 13 other activists in November 2008 for her part in the Saffron Revolution in 2007; she and other activists led a peaceful march against the government’s economic mismanagement and hikes in fuel and commodity prices. Her lawyers were also sentenced to detention.

STATEMENT BY IVAN LEWIS MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS ON THE 8888 POLITICAL PRISONERS • This Saturday 8 August is the 21st anniversary of the 8888 Popular Uprising in Burma. It began as a student protest about corrupt government and economic mismanagement in Rangoon but spread throughout the country. The students were joined in their protests by people from all walks of life – saffron-robed monks, teachers, young children, housewives and doctors. A general strike took place on 8 August 1988, an auspicious date. But Burma’s first popular uprising was put down the next month in the most bloody and ruthless manner. A brutal repression of the people that has continued to this day, and which we last witnessed in the beating and killing of monks and civilians in November 2008. It was 8888 that brought Aung Sang Suu Kyi (ASSK) to the forefront of the struggle for democracy, freedom and civil liberties . ASSK is the best known of Burma’s political prisoners and she is the Burmese people’s beacon of hope. But she is currently subject to a political show trial and faces the prospect of a prison sentence on 11 August – a date the regime have set to avoid the anniversary of 8888, and because the Senior General believes 11 is his lucky number. Relying on numbers, lucky or otherwise, is a poor substitute for a clear strategic choice of an inclusive democracy. ASSK’s plight also highlights the appalling plight of the over 2100 other political prisoners. Here, to commemorate the 21st anniversary of 8888, are a few of these other political prisoners. It is important that we know their stories. Like ASSK, their stories are heart-rending. They are people with families from whom they are separated. Many of them are sentenced for decades, two from minority ethnic groups have been sentenced to over 100 years each. The regime wants to ensure its critics die in prison. They are people from different ethnic backgrounds and walks of life – Shan, Mon, Burman, lawyers, artists, activists, MPs, a comedian. They are talented people with professional qualifications. Their incarceration demonstrates how much human potential goes unrealised in Burma. Their diversity demonstrates that the regime does not discriminate – all dissent in any form is brutally crushed. What these political prisoners have in common with each other, and what the regime has against them, is an unwavering commitment to peace and national reconciliation. On the anniversary of 8888, I want to pay tribute to all Burma’s political prisoners. Their courage and resilience in the face of the abuse of their fundamental human rights is humbling. I also want to repeat the international community’s call to the Burmese regime to release unconditionally all political prisoners, and commit to a genuine and inclusive process of dialogue and national reconciliation. Until they do so, future elections, such as those they plan for 2010 will have absolutely no legitimacy.

• •

• •