Escaping to Freedom with Aung Myo Tint

14 Jul

Escaping to Freedom with Aung Myo Tint


Many of the popular 1988 Generation student leaders arrested after the 1988 uprising were freed from prison before the 2007 Saffron Uprising occurred. When freed most returned to the Democracy movement immediately. As tensions increased leading up to the 2007 uprising, some of the 88 Generation leaders were hunted down and arrested. Whomever political activists associated with, and even the very words uttered at any given time at a teashop, or anywhere, posed danger for them, for their families, friends, and acquaintances. During several months leading up to the 2007 Saffron Uprising some 1988 Generation student leaders were even featured on wanted dead or alive posters.

One such 1988 Generation student leader was Aung Myo Tint. Aung, was one of the least known and most revered of the main core of 1988 Generation student leaders, who since 1988 have personified the relentless spirit of the nationalist democracy movement. Just before the 2007 Saffron Uprising began,
Aung photo was on Wanted: Dead or Alive posters.

Once the 1988 Uprising was dealt with by the military, with over five thousand pro-democracy demonstrators killed, as many as thirty-thousand demonstrators, male and female, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim, from all ethnic backgrounds, fled to the countryside and mountains to join the student army called All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF). The army was supported by a variety of sources, including indigenous armies in the borderlands of Northern, North Eastern, and Eastern Burma, all seeking autonomy from the Burmese government. Each region presented enormous challenges for the mostly urbanized youth. They were immediately dependent on their new allies who welcomed the influx of bodies and financial support, which they, in turn, used to help fight their ongoing campaigns for independence.

Aung fled to Moulmein and on to the mountains of Mon State with thousands of others. Many eventually spread out into Kayah and Kayin states led by the forces of various armed factions fighting not only the Burmese government but each other as well. According to Aung, who became an ABSDF leader, they negotiated with several armed groups for their support, training, and supplies. The ABSDF recruits were free to choose with whom to follow.

 

With Aung and my Dad, Edward, In Albany, New York

Aung and several hundred others were convinced to join the Karen National Union (KNU) army. They were taken to a small village. Before meeting up with the regional armies, many students had rejected the hardships of traversing mountains and jungles. Several students perished in the forest. Completely unprepared for the extreme conditions like the steamy daytime heat and frigid nights, lack of food, water, medicine, and proper clothing, many students succumbed to exhaustion and frustration. Day to day, hundreds of the students gave up their attempts at armed rebellion and returned to Rangoon. By the time Aung and his contingent of ABSDF volunteers met with the KNU, more than half, over one thousand six hundred, volunteers had returned home.

In the KNU controlled village the men and woman, by then famished from lack of food, some sick with dysentery and malaria. They were offered refuge and salvation inside a church and in other small buildings where they were fed and slept safely under a roof. Within several days small numbers of the students made decisions to return home. Upon announcing their decision to their hosts, KNU soldiers prevented the ABSDF volunteers from leaving. They were captives and for the KNU, bargaining chips to in negotiations with supporters of ABSDF who lived in Thailand. The KNU made threats to turn the students over to the Burmese Army. Aung and several others were sent to Thailand to seek support for not only ABSDF but also money for the KNU to assure safe release and passage for their compatriots held captive by the KNU.

Over a period of two months in Mae Sot and Bangkok, one or two of Aung’s partners abandoned Aung and sought asylum in Western countries or Thailand in the Burmese refugee camps along Thailand border near Burma. Aung was a dedicated nationalist whose love for Burma, his honesty, and his loyalty to the cause was beyond reproach. His negotiations yielded minimal results yet adequately assured the safety of his compatriots held by the KNU. At the same time, he learned about the factional differences between the KNU and other groups like the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). While the KNU insisted the student ABSDF volunteers would be safe, they also insisted they were not free to abandon ABSDF or the KNU. The KNLA and KNU were enemies, and the KNLA promised Aung the needed training and supplies, and they also promised him that the ABSDF students under their command would be free to leave and return home if they chose to do so.

With negotiations settled and promised continued support from ABSDF supporters in Bangkok, and from other Burmese ABSDF supporters abroad, Aung returned to Mae Sot and from there, back to the KNU and his compatriots. Over the next few days, Aung did his best to discretely convince as many of the roughly eight hundred remaining ABSDF volunteers their situation with the KNU was unlikely to improve and possibly was terminal. While the KNU was not abusive or harsh in their treatment of the students, they were insistent the students would not be allowed to resign their commitment to ABSDF as a sub-faction of the KNU.

One evening Aung, along with close to two hundred students made a maddening dash from the church or their shelter into the forests, and they never stopped moving until they reached the Mae La Refugee Camp on the Thailand side of the border. In Mae La, they joined with the KNLA. After several days of waiting for others who may have escaped, and for some of those who fled but got lost in the mountains, they departed and trekked to the KNLA area and began their limited training.

The ensuing six months of living and training as a rebel army, subjected to training and the moderate discipline of the KNLA’s attempt at turning urbanized students into rebel warriors, and the harsh realities of jungle encampments, was far too much for most of young men and women to endure. Close to half of the students abandoned the rebel life and slipped away.

Aung led the ABSDF army’s central unit in Kaya State in Eastern Burma called Phoenix 13. Phoenix 13 was a demolition unit consisting of 39 soldiers. They were equipped and trained well enough to join the KNLA and engage the Burmese Tatmadaw Army with other ABSDF units and the KNLA. Phoenix 13 laid mines and set off bombs and harassed the Burmese army as much as they could without engaging in direct actions. Eventually, they fought in five offensives and surprise attacks that routed the Tatmadaw soldiers while each side suffered casualties. The last battle, a major Burmese Tatmadaw Army attack against ABSDF camps on March 26, 1989, was a disaster for Phoenix 13 and the ABSDF soldiers. The student soldiers were surprised and overrun by the Tatmadaw.

With limited options, many continued fighting with the KNLA. But the defeat signaled an end to Phoenix 13 and for Aung. Aung began to question his motives for taking up armed struggle and with what seemed to him to be futile outcomes of deadly battles in jungles and forests far from his home in Rangoon. His involvement with demolitions and installing land mines caused unseen havoc and Aung never thought much about the damage he caused. However, the attack by the Tatmadaw that day put Aung directly in the center of battle where he was forced to face his enemy and defend his existence. During the retreat, he saw a young woman fall as her back exploded in a bloody mess. He was running for his life, and there was nothing he could do for her. At one point he made a decision to return to the line at the edge of his former camp held by the Tatmadaw and began returning fire. He watched as what he called, his bullet, struck the torso of a soldier at medium range. The soldier died instantly.

Imprinted in Aung’s mind were the destruction and loss life of his compatriot whom he could not name and that of another man, a Burmese man he considered his fellow countryman, not his enemy. Struggling with the human tragedy, as if in a nighttime dream he awoke from with no real way to put into context, he vowed not to fire another weapon. He set out immediately towards his home in Rangoon. His belief in armed struggle as a way to enforce democracy for his beloved Burma was no more.

Though unable to reconcile killing another human being, Aung remained combative.
Eventually, he went underground and maintained very careful and discrete relations with people from the movement. With several associates, or sometimes alone, Aung traveled around Burma. They planted and set off small bombs in places that destroyed minor property like bus stops or at vacant roadsides. The explosions were vain messages meant to threaten the government without killing or injuring anyone. He would travel from Rangoon to Myitkyina, to Moulmein, to Bago, to Taunggyi, and Mandalay, setting off bombs. Without his knowledge, one of his associates got captured in a far off city. Within a week Aung was quickly caught since he hadn’t known he was a suspect. For his known crimes of setting off bombs, he was awarded a sentenced to sixty-five years in prison.

As usual, Aung’s captors enticed him with a comfortable life and a valuable license and seed money to conduct any business he wished to have in exchange for his written assurances not to engage in politics, protest, or support for Democracy activists. He naturally refused any attempt to coerce him into betraying his convictions.

 

In 2005 Aung was released from prison along with many other 1988 Generation students. Aung returned home to Rangoon where he immediately, as with most political prisoners newly released from prison, went back to work. He re-joined his lifelong friends and fellow 1988 Generation student leaders in the non-violent resistance. Their goal was an end to the reign of the Generals and the Burmese Military Dictatorship. They began making plans to realize their dream for a Democratic Burma. By 2007, a new underground protest movement was gaining momentum and at its boiling point. Eventually, it would be known as The Saffron Uprising.

The few months leading up to the Saffron Uprising were electrifying. The resistance movement was making progress as they sought to ignite a new mass uprising across Burma similar to the one in 1988 and a lesser degree in 1996. At the outset of the demonstrations in 1988, word of mouth, hand-delivered messages, secret recording on tape mixed in with Dharma talks, and radio broadcasts by the BBC, Voice of America, and Voice of Asia were the main channels of communications or for critical information. But in 2007 communications and mobilizing was much different. Mobile phones, the internet and new forms of communications made planning easier until the moment the
government switched off electronic communications and silenced some of the Sky Full of Lies.

With a new generation of activists and their predecessors from the 1988 Generation, the movement knew it was swelling and about to overtake the nation. At the same time the Military, Police, Special Branch, and Military Intelligence grew more vigilant. A mass uprising was about to occur at any time. It was only waiting for the right kind of spark like an unusual event such as the 1988 national BBC broadcasts of young female students raped by police while in detention. Due to his previous experience setting off bombs years earlier, Aung was high on the government’s watch list. Individual activists got arrested when the authorities deemed the time was right.

Then by July of 2007, as tensions around Rangoon grew tight and twisted, officials thought the time was right to get Aung. But Aung was already in hiding. Word reached Aung one day that he appeared on a “Wanted: Dead or Alive’ poster. With particular activist like Aung, known for their willingness to take up arms, the authorities were taking no chances. The cat and mouse match began. Special Branch police and Military Intelligence followed leads and chased Aung all over Rangoon. If only they could find him.

For more than two months after Aung had learned he was targeted Aung stayed only one or two nights in any place. Sometimes he’d stay with a friend. Sometimes hunkered down in a guesthouse. Sometimes he’d hide in a monastery. Sometimes he’d sleep outside in an alley or on a trishaw at a corner where sympathetic trishaw drivers often spent the night, sleeping, smoking cigarettes, and keeping and eye out on their streets. Police visited everyone Aung knew. They visited anyone who they believed knew Aung. As with many activists sought for arrest, the police told Aung’s associates and relatives their entire families would get arrested if they were found to have sheltered Aung for even one minute. They were serious.

Aung Myo Tint Wanted: Dead or Alive

One usual calm sunny day in Rangoon, according to Khin, Aung’s youngest sister, a messenger told her she was asked to appear at the Sanchaung Police Department for questioning about her elder brother’s activities. She was just five years old when Aung went to prison in 1989. Most of her memories of her Ko Ko Gyi, her big brother, were from her long, arduous monthly trips with her elder sister and her Mother to visit Aung where ever he was in prison . She had very few memories of Aung as a brother and friend since there simply weren’t many times when Aung was home.

Sitting down in the police station at the desk of a police investigator, on the wall directly in front of Khin at eye level was a poster with an enlarged photograph of Aung. Below Aung’s photo was a list of his crimes. The poster displayed big black letters that said, “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” According to Burmese customs when having guests or visitors, Khin was offered tea and modest snacks. Khin was a sincere and devout Buddhist, and the police inherently observed a code of conduct and treated her with respect. Though the questions were of a  serious nature, they accepted her answers as her truth, and they refused to press her with accusations of disbelief. It was not an interrogation. On the other hand, if Khin or her family were found to have harbored Aung, they would no doubt be imprisoned. Since the young woman had barely seen Aung after his release from prison in 2005, she had nothing to share with the investigator. Under the circumstances, she would never have revealed Ko Ko Gyi’s location even if she knew where he was. The message on the poster though was not an idle threat. It was as real as real could be.

Aung and Phyu Phyu’s Escape

As Aung became more and more dangerous to anyone harboring him, he quickly ran out of places to hide. Aung was encouraged by one of his oldest and closest friends, Ko Htay Kywe, to flee Burma and head to the refugee camps in Thailand. After several days hiding inside the Australian embassy, while trying to decide between fleeing Burma or staying in Rangoon to face many more years in prison or execution, Aung found shelter inside of the American Center compound by a close friend who worked there. It was a temporary refuge that gave Aung time to consider his fate. Though, after a few days, he was no longer safe inside the American Center compound. The compound and its two small buildings were a small place with little privacy. While inside the American Center Aung got word to a close childhood friend, Phyu Phyu Htun. Phyu Phyu was also in hiding since she was hunted for attending a political meeting. Phyu Phyu was new to the democracy movement, but because of her elder brother’s lifelong involvement, she was automatically considered a serious threat. Aung and Phyu Phyu decided to abscond to Thailand and made plans with fellow activists who would help to get them out of Rangoon.

Their journey out of Burma was perilous. They were in constant danger of getting caught. Scores of roadblocks were set up in areas inside of Rangoon prohibiting anyone from traveling across the city without being questioned or searched multiple times. It was also nearly impossible to go over the roads leading in and out of Rangoon without encountering numerous roadblocks. Moving on foot through neighborhoods and across open fields, they reached a rendezvous point with a friend who then drove them by truck to Mandalay. Posing as a married couple expecting a child they narrowly made their way past several unexpected roadblocks in remote areas. At times when approaching known roadblocks, they learned about from fellow travelers they exited the truck and walked overland around the roadblock to meet the truck parked miles away. Once inside Mandalay, it was safer to walk past the checkpoints posing as locals or long-term visitors. They spent one night at a safe house in Mandalay and planned to reach the Mandalay airport the next day. Their plan was to fly to Tachilek where they would cross a bridge from Tachilek over the Mae Sai River to Mae Sai, Thailand, where they would begin their new lives as political refugees.

The Mandalay Airport was an hour’s drive or more from downtown Mandalay in the middle of a vast, dusty, grassless scrubland that resembled a desert region. The land was used for subsistence farming and mostly for cattle or goat grazing. The homes or lean-tos sheltering the families of farmers and herders were scattered intermittently across the plain. According to some world travelers, I had met, the extreme heat and the arid land with bright, giant red sunsets and hovering diaphanous waves of heat resembled places they’d seen in Africa. During the monsoons, the entire region flooded. The herders and their families and animals were forced to use the narrow, miles long elevated road crossing the plains leading to the airport as a refuge from the very deep flood waters. Such as the airport terminal was, situated so far away from the city, no one casually went to the Mandalay airport to go inside the terminal only to change their mind and leave unless for an extreme emergency.

When entering and passing through the terminal, they passed through several pre-boarding searches. Aung and Phyu Phyu had identification cards with alias names. Such an ID card was something not difficult to get or to make. Still, their faces were searched against a long list of the Dictatorship’s public enemies. The cavernous Mandalay airport terminal seemed like a trap. Inside the intermittent dim fluorescent lights gave the appearance of a little-used warehouse with many unused hallways and more dimly lit staircases. With few signs telling unfamiliar passengers where not to wander, getting to the only boarding gate would have been like searching for the exit in a haunted house if not for other passengers leading the way. Once inside the terminal and at the gate there was no turning back without appearing suspicious to the dozens of police personnel on guard. Aung and Phyu Phyu were committed to board their flight, even after they realized all of their fellow passengers were police and military officers.

As one tension-filled moment passed, at a checkpoint or overnight in the truck waiting to go to the airport, boarding a plane fill with police and military, the next tension-filled moment increased with severity. Nervously anticipating capture at every juncture of their journey to that point, their ruse to fly paid off. Usually, only wealthy civilians, upper echelon government workers or high-ranking police and military people could afford to air travel. The idea of political enemies of the state using the airport, where scores of uniformed and undercover police and army police people would be, was possibly too much for any ID checking policeman to imagine. Aung casually watched the policeman when in fact he was extremely worried as the policeman flipped page upon page of “Wanted” faces attached to his clipboard. Aung saw his face go by unnoticed by the police officer. Aung and Phyu Phyu boarded the small plane and saw their flight was, as they suspected, full of military people. Aung sat next to an Army officer and conversed with him the entire way to Tachilek while Phyu Phyu, pretending to be pregnant by hiding some cloth under her clothes, feigned sleepiness.

Immediately upon landing in Tachilek, after exiting the plane, a policeman once again flipped through photos of wanted posters when checking identification of arriving passengers. Aung again watched as his name and photo was passed over by an unobservant policeman. It was sheer luck and steady nerves that enabled Aung and Phyu Phyu to escape the airport. Unable to make a decision when to cross the bridge, they spent one week in a guesthouse in Tachilek. On the third night, they felt their luck was running out. They were leaning towards crossing into Thailand late at night by wading and swimming across the Mae Sai River. An enabler they knew told them trying to cross the river anywhere near Tachilek was extremely dangerous. Then they considered leaving Tachilek to cross the river at a discreet spot, but they learned the risk of capture increased substantially. In that case, upon leaving Tachilek by road any resident or policeman up or down the river would see they were outsiders. As such, they would have no sensible explanation for being anywhere in the region outside of Tachilek.

By the sixth day, Aung and Phyu Phyu grew paranoid. They suspected eyes were watching them since few people from Rangoon spent a week hunkered down in a border town guesthouse in the Golden Triangle for no innocent reason. Considering their options, they decided their best chance was to cross the border bridge the same as everyone else seeking to enter Thailand. They could not go back to Mandalay.

At the crossing, Aung watched yet again as another policeman flipped through pages of photographs of those sought by authorities. Only this time the policeman was a trained Customs Agent in the Golden Triangle who, no doubt, had every reason to be suspicious of anyone from Rangoon crossing the border into Thailand in a place few innocent people dared to wander. At one turn of a page, Aung believed his luck had run out. The Policemen paused at Aung’s photo, and then he looked at Aung, and then he looked at Aung’s identification card. To Aung, each action took an eternity. He was consciously trying to stay calm, not to sweat, not to fidget, not to speak. Aung briefly imagined grabbing Phyu Phyu and running for the bridge, and then jumping from the bridge into the Mae Sai River to escape into Thailand where they would at least be alive.

Somehow, the policeman accepted Aung’s ID card and resumed flipping through his photographs of criminals wanted for arrest. Aung’s mug shot on the poster was from many years earlier, and his appearance by 2007 was not the same. His Identification card was new, and it correctly reflected Aung’s current image. It’s also entirely possible the policeman was a sympathizer of the Democracy movement and a supporter of Aung San Suu Kyi, and he decided to allow them to escape. Or, maybe the policeman ignored his instincts and reasoned the resemblance was only coincidence.

Once cleared, Aung and Phyu Phyu began to walk across the bridge thinking with every step they took the policeman would call them back. Aung was so anxious during the crossing at one point he told Phyu Phyu they should run across. Phyu Phyu convinced him to be patient. They walked to Thailand without incident.

Once Aung and Phyu Phyu made it across the border to Mae Sai an enabler from Rangoon, then living in Thailand, discretely met them. An arrangement with a Thai Army Colonel whom Aung knew from years earlier during his time with ABSDF was made. When Aung knew him, the Colonel was a junior officer who assisted Aung and ABSDF with supplies for the student army near the Three Pagodas Pass near the Mae Sot region. Having risen in rank over the years, the Colonel quickly recalled Aung as an old friend. He drove Aung and Phyu Phyu to Chiang Mai under his protection. After staying two weeks in a Chiang Mai safe house Aung and Phyu Phyu, who were by then officially recorded as refugees by the Colonel, were bussed to Mae Sot where they spent six months in the Mae La Refugee camp. They received political asylum from the United States, and when presented with three choices of places to resettle, they chose Albany, New York. To this day, Aung and Phyu Phyu are in exile in Albany along with hundreds of Burmese exiles and refugees.

Prelude to The Saffron Uprising

In 2012 many of the famous Burmese 1988 Generation student leaders in exile were given Burmese passports and welcomed to return home to Myanmar, the new name for Burma. Even though reforms seemed to be defining a new and re-emerging political openness, the Dictatorship was continuing its the practice of using past unlawful transgressions to persecute and imprison political activists. The famous exiles decided it would be safer to return toBurma together under much fanfare and media exposure and not to risk returning quietly only to be picked up discretely by police.

 

Aung and Phyu Phyu in Albany, New York

The group was met with fanfare by family, friends, and media at the airport in Yangon, the new name for Rangoon. Though wishing to return home, Aung was not among them. Without comment, the Burmese government refused to issue Aung a Burmese passport as they had with all the other 1988 Generation exiles. Instead, Aung got given only a letter of safe passage, not a passport. It allowed him only to enter Myanmar. Since he had no American passport, Aung accepted the advice of his peers and others that without a passport of any kind it was not yet safe for him to return to Burma.

In 2007 the Saffron Uprising began several weeks after Aung, and Phyu Phyu escaped from Rangoon, Burma. The 88 Generation leaders had brought together the younger activists and the National League for Democracy youth wing and various monastic leaders, or Monks, from famous monasteries around Burma. Tensions in Rangoon began to break through the surface of fear laid out by the threat of arrest and prison sentences. Individual actions of public protest were occurring with more frequency. Speaking or shouting out on a busy street or near a market, or attempting to hold a sign of protest aloft, were selfless and courageous actions since the demonstrator of each protest certainly knew the police would quickly converge upon them and swiftly take them to prison. Police and military in Rangoon were many and on high alert. Although there was no organized and detailed plan for a nationwide uprising, a mass protest was deemed inevitable.

As in 1988, in 2007 a spark was all that was needed to ignite a new national popular uprising. The authorities closely watched 1988 Generation leaders. Their movements and frequent clandestine meetings and plans to instigate a new mass uprising were not unknown. The activists were playing a desperate and extremely dangerous cat and mouse game with the police. Such was the reason necessitating Aung and Phyu Phyu’s treacherous journey seeking refuge in Thailand. The police were detaining and arresting anyone they suspected. In the weeks leading up to the uprising, monks sympathetic to the movement and critical of the government were harassed and attacked by police across Burma. Then, in a monastery outside of Rangoon, police brutally assaulted some monks inside of their monastery. That was the spark.

The Saffron Uprising began on September 17, 2007, when the monks began marching through streets of cities around Burma demanding an end to the oppression and forced suffering of the Burmese people. Once the uprising began, the core group of 1988 Generation student leaders stood in front of the hundreds of thousands of Burmese people. No longer young students, the men, and women who along with Aung San Suu Kyi were famous for their roles as leaders of the Democracy movement led the march. The frustrations of millions of people in all areas of Burma blossomed in protest like a sudden explosion of colorful fireworks against a forever darkened and hopeless night sky. The people of Burma could not stand another day of poverty, misery, and unnecessary abuse.

The names and faces of the well-known 1988 Generation student activists represented the tens of thousands of unnamed and unknown Burmese people detained, imprisoned, tortured, and disappeared over the years since the 1988 Uprising. They bravely took the lead, stood above the mass of Burmese people and made speeches well knowing that without the dictatorship’s collapse, they would again be arrested and allotted lengthy prison terms. Their actions were a collective sacrifice. No matter if married, engaged, wealthy, or poor, with children waiting for them at home, they stood before hundreds of thousands and faced off with one of the world’s most oppressive regimes. They displayed to the world the Burmese people were not going to quit their quest for freedom.

The Saffron Uprising, the same as previous mass uprisings, was violently put down in the streets. Outside Burma though, the world had changed. Technology and instant communications displayed to the world the grisly scenery of unarmed civilians shot down for their wish to live free from fear of their government. The slaughter of the demonstrators was documented in various ways but none more monumental than by the efforts of the brave Burma VJ’s as relayed through their discrete efforts on the streets and detailed in the documentary film called Burma VJ. During the putdown of the Saffron Uprising, untold numbers of Burma’s citizens were killed and imprisoned. Among them were the famous 1988 Generation student leaders who were re-arrested, and imprisoned.

 

Chaos supervened in Rangoon for weeks as police hunted activists and demonstrators. Many absconded to the countryside, to the mountains, to refugee camps in Thailand or assumed alias names and pretended to be laborers looking for work upcountry. The 1988 Generation leaders were caught immediately or reverted to hiding out in Rangoon. Running out of places to hide and with the risk of safety to those offering shelter growing by the hour, one evening a group of the 1988 Generation leaders discretely converged in the Sanchaung Township at a seventh story home in a building within walking distance of the Burma’s beating heart, the Shwe Dagon Pagoda.

 

Over the preceding years, as likewise with many middle-class families with children in the Democracy movement, Aung Myo Tint’s parents were well-known for their great generosity, at all times unceremoniously helping everyone and anyone in need. They were exceptionally kind and supportive to families of democracy activists and the National League for Democracy. While Aung was in prison, his father passed away. His loss forever changed the family’s good fortune and fate. The remaining women in the family, Aung’s mother, grandmother, and younger sisters, continued their generous offerings and general habits even when rice was in very short supply.

 

Assembling that evening were 1988 Generation leaders Ko Htay Kywe, Ko Mya Aye, Ko Min Ko Naing, Ko Zaw Myo Aung, Ko Maung Maung, and Ko Zaw Zin Tun. They climbed the exhausting high steps to the seventh floor home of their lifelong friend and fellow patriot, Aung Myo Tint. They paid homage in the traditional Buddhist way with offerings and small gifts. Aung’s family offered a modest meal and tea. Then the 1988 Generation student leaders knelt in prayer position and bowed towards Aung’s mother and asked forgiveness for their failures and shortcomings. They prayed together for a short time. For fear of lingering and due to arriving discretely and unannounced, they departed solemnly with the blessing of their hosts. With sadness but not disillusioned as the departed all knew the activist would be arrested and sent to prison. Most of Aung’s friends returned to their destination to be with friends or at home with family, and there they waited for the police to arrive.

On October 12, 2007, from Thailand Aung and Phyu Phyu called their close childhood friend, Ko Htay Kywe. He was at his family’s home in Rangoon. It was Phyu Phyu’s birthday and as Htay Kywe sang Happy Birthday to Phyu Phyu loud pounding on the door and shouting interrupted their celebration. Htay Kywe told Phyu Phyu, “They are here to arrest us” and the call went dead. Many years had passed before they spoke again.

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