News

Activist seeks freedom for Burma

ON A MISSION: Rotary Peace Fellow and former Burmese activist Naing Ko Ko is learning about Australian politics with Federal MP Janelle Saffin.
ON A MISSION: Rotary Peace Fellow and former Burmese activist Naing Ko Ko is learning about Australian politics with Federal MP Janelle Saffin. Doug Eaton

BURMESE political activist, democracy advocate and former political prisoner, Naing Ko Ko was in town this week, visiting old friend and Page MP, Janelle Saffin.

Naing's story is a powerful one, both uplifting and saddening.

He began fighting for democracy and peace after his experiences as a teenager in Burma, including seeing friends shot by generals.

He began appearing in protests and organising student groups, requesting democracy and human rights, before being arrested by the Military Intelligence Service in 1992 and made a political prisoner.

"I really would like to learn about Australian democracy. There's a lot we could learn about the Australian federal democracy system," he said.

He was incarcerated until 1998, spending time at different interrogation camps and jails, including the notorious Insein Prison, where he was kept in a dog cell - where prisoners were treated like dogs, even forced to bark - as punishment for learning English.

While in prison, Naing said he kept himself sane by reading and writing in English - even though that was what was getting him punished.

He said he knew if he wanted to make a difference he needed to learn English, and that kept him going.

Secondly, he felt he had a responsibility to help all the political prisoners and friends who were still on the inside when he was released.

"Most of us are students. We are not terrorists. We are not criminals," he said of himself and his fellow prisoners.

"We just wanted human rights and democracy."

After his release in 1998, Naing was invited by many European countries to work there, and spent time working with democracy groups and the European Parliament.

Now a resident of New Zealand after becoming a political refugee there, he is studying his Advanced Masters of International Relations at the University of Queensland via a Rotary Scholarship. He's also using the time to observe Australian democratic processes.

"I really would like to learn about Australian democracy. There's a lot we could learn about the Australian federal democracy system," he said.

"I hope that Burma is a free, peaceful democracy in 20 years, instead of (a country where everyone is) killing each other."

He said he could see change in the country now known as Myanmar, although there was still a long way to go.

"It is good; it is going in the right direction, step-by-step."

Naing said to create national reconciliation they must have open dialog between civilians and generals.

Topics:  burma myanmar page mp janelle saffin



Baird bunny-hops on bicycle ID plan

New laws for passing cyclists are now in place.

NSW Government puts brakes on plan to force cyclists to carry ID

Trainer chases top prize in Tweed track farewell

FINAL HOPES: Trainer Lee Wylie with Birkdale Bandit and Youi who will run in the final race meeting at Border Park.

Wylie plans two-pronged assault on Border Park prizemoney

Heatwave to continue for days as temps top 40 in some areas

Beachgoers cool down at Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast. Temperatures have hit 46 degrees Celsius in parts of outback Queensland today, with a heatwave predicted for the state's central and southern regions.(AAP Image/Dan Peled)

Outback towns scorching under the Friday afternoon sun

Local Partners

Ricky Gervais announces first dates of world tour

Ricky Gervais has announced his first world tour in seven years.

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in 'final stages' of divorce

Depp's outstanding divorce money to be paid over 15 months

Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher welcome their second child

Mila Kunis won't be naming her second child 'Hawkeye'

First look at Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise in The Mummy

Russell Crowe in a scene from the first teaser trailer for the movie The Mummy.

HOLLYWOOD heavyweights helm serious reboot of action franchise.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Fame is 'unhealthy'

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Joseph Gordon-Levitt feels bad perpetuating celebrity culture

Man who played Manuel in Fawlty Towers has died, aged 86

Manuel from the comedy hit Fawlty Tours, has died aged 86

Coast high-flyer's fight back from bankruptcy, $72m debt

Scott Juniper went from millionaire developer to declaring bankruptcy in2012, now he is back on top of his game again with new developments including this one in Coolum.

'Apocalyptic lending storm' causes financial collapse.

Multi-level waterfront living in Bilambil Heights

121 Peninsula Dr, Bilambil Heights

Check out this week's feature property.

Retreat along the Rous River

701 Dulguigan Road, North Tumbulgum

Check out this week's feature property.

How your home can earn you big $$$$ this Christmas

This luxury Twin Waters home rents out over Christmas for more than $6000 a week.

Home owners earning thousands renting out their homes this Christmas

2000 jobs at multi-million dollar Ipswich project

INSIDE: Artist's impressions of the interior of the new Eastern Heights aged care precinct.

Sub-contractors needed to build $15m aged care facility

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!