The 88 Generation Students group has called for calm cooperation to resolve issues surrounding the government’s brutal crackdown on the peaceful anti-copper mine protest, but two leaders decline positions on the investigation team headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
A statement issued by the group before their press conference in Rangoon on Monday evening said they will keep representing the desires of local residents, protesters and activists by independently investigating events by themselves.
“We believe Daw Aung San Suu Kyi can lead the commission which aims to assess the whole copper mine project and the recent crackdown on protesters, and we will support her,” leading group member Htay Kywe, who met with the democracy icon in Naypyidaw, told The Irrawaddy after the press conference.
Two prominent former student activists, Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, were originally appointed on the 29-member government investigation commission led by the National League for Democracy chairwoman. Lawmakers, politicians, government officials and local residents of the Letpadaung area were also included.
But the 88 Generation issued a statement on Sunday that revealed they will not take part in the commission despite consistently calling for the formation of an independent probe. On Monday, the government reduced the total number of members to 16 with Kyaw Tint Swe, currently vice-chairman of the Myanmar Human Rights Commission, serving as secretary.
“We talked with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and [President’s Office Minister] U Aung Min over the issue. They understood our stand as well as our resignation from committee,” said Min Ko Naing.
“The revision of the commission is a result of discussions between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and respective authorities, I think,” added Htay Kywe. “We think it is better to work effectively outside of the commission to represent local people’s voices.”
Group members visited the area on Friday in the wake of Thursday morning’s violent raid on six protest camps. They met local residents and injured monks in Monywa Hospital as well as President’s Office Minister Aung Min and Suu Kyi who were also visiting the area.
The group urged the government to apologize to injured monks and provide medical care to those suffering severe burns. They called for the commission to review and analyze the Letpadaung copper mine project, to postpone all work until the probe’s findings are published and to stop arresting activists as well as release those already detained.
Local people requested that Suu Kyi postpones the project during her investigation which is due to last until the end of the month, but she rejected these calls by saying that work should continue as normal during this time.
Aye Net, a leading protester from Wethmay Village who met the Nobel laureate, told The Irrawaddy that, “Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told us that the investigation can only be effectively carried out if the project runs. That way we will be able to access how much impact there is on the environment.”
The authorities arrested protest leaders in Rangoon over the weekend and charged them under the 505(b) of the Burmese Penal code. Injured monks are also being transferred from Monywa to Mandalay Hospital for treatment but have complained of being treated as criminals.
Wai Moe contributed to this report.