Thursday, October 23, 2008
AFT award to The 88 Generation Students' Group
U S CAMPAIGN FOR BURMA PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release, October 22, 2008
Influential United States Teachers' Union Gives Major Award to Burma's Student Activists
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum at (202) 234 8022
(Washington, DC) The American Federation of Teachers, the largest organization representing teachers and educational workers in the United States (with more than 1.4 million members) has awarded its "2008 President's International Democracy Award" to a leading Burma's pro-democracy group, the "88 Generation Students". The 88 Generation Students group is led by prominent Burmese democracy leader Min Ko Naing, who is locked up as a political prisoner in the Southeast Asian country of Burma. (The award certificate is attached.)
The AFT announced the award at its national convention, held on July 12, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. At the event, Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator Obama was a keynote speaker.
Since Min Ko Naing and the other leaders of the 88 Generation Students are locked up as political prisoners in Burma, AFT has sent the award to the U.S. Campaign for Burma to keep until it can be delivered to the 88 Generation Students. USCB will proudly maintain the award.
"We are honored to keep this award on behalf of the 88 Generation Students", says Aung Din, executive director of the USCB and close friend of the '88 student leaders since Burma's 1988 popular democracy uprising. "This award recognizes the enormous courage and sacrifice of Burma's students in the struggle for democracy and human rights," he added.
The 88 Generation Students group is comprised of Burma's most prominent human rights activists after Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. After Burma's military regime drastically raised the price of fuel in August 2007, the 88 Generation Students organized a non-violent protest walk in which they were joined by hundreds of everyday Burmese people. The 88 students were immediately arrested and have been held ever since. Anger at the arrests and the Burmese regime's treatment of Buddhist monks spiraled into last September's "Saffron Revolution" that saw hundreds of thousands of Buddhist monks marching peacefully for change.
In late August, in a blunt rejection of the United Nations Security Council and just days after two UN envoys traveled to Burma seeking democratic change and improvements in human rights, the country's military regime hauled dozens of the 88 Generation Students from prison cells into court in order to begin "sham" trials that will likely result in their long-term incarceration.
The most prominent of the 88 Generation Students, Min Ko Naing, has won numerous international awards for his peaceful, nonviolent calls for change in Burma including the Civil Courage Prize from the Northcote Parkinson Fund in the United States, the Homo Homini Award from People in Need Foundation in the Czech Republic, the John Humphrey Freedom Award from the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Canada, and the Student Peace Prize, widely considered the "junior" Nobel Peace Prize, in Norway.
Burma's military regime is among the worlds most brutal. Besides locking up Aung San Suu Kyi and over 2,100 political prisoners, the regime has recruited more child soldiers than any other country in the world and destroyed 3,200 ethnic minority villages, forcing millions of villagers to flee their homes as refugees or internally displaced.
Today, the Thailand-Burma Border Consortium, a coalition of non-governmental organizations administering refugee camps and assisting displaced persons along the Thailand-Burma border, reported that over 1/2 million people have fled from their homes and are living as internal refugees in eastern Burma. At least one million persons have fled their homes as refugees -- both outside of Burma and inside the country's borders. Also today, the Australian government expanded its travel and financial sanctions on Burma's military regime, banning dozens of cronies of the military regime from traveling to and doing business with Australian firms.##