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Profile: 88 Generation Students

22 August 07 10:50 GMT

The 88 Generation Students group is synonymous with the long struggle for democracy in military-ruled Burma.

Its name comes from the 1988 uprising, when troops opened fire on mass student demonstrations in Rangoon, leading to the deaths of thousands of people.

The group's key members were at the forefront of the protests, and have suffered harsh reprisals ever since.

Many have been subjected to lengthy prison terms, and human rights groups have catalogued a number of claims of torture.

But despite this, the group still plays a prominent role in pro-democracy campaigns inside Burma - and when rare protests against the government take place, the 1988 veterans are usually involved.

Most recently the group organised a series of protests to condemn the sharp fuel price rises that have been introduced by the government.

On 22 August, seven key group members were arrested for their role in organising the demonstrations.

Heavy price for dissent

Members of the 88 Generation include some of the most prominent dissidents in the country after Aung San Suu Kyi, the iconic leader of the opposition National League for Democracy party, who is currently under house arrest.

Perhaps the best-known member of the group is Min Ko Naing - who was the unofficial leader of the underground student union at the time of the 1988 uprising.

Originally named Paw U Tun, his nom-de-guerre Min Ko Naing means "conqueror of kings", and he has won numerous human-rights awards for his non-violent campaign for democracy.

He was arrested a year after the 1988 protests, and spent 15 years in jail, finally being released in November 2004.

Along with other key group members Ko Ko Gyi, Htay Kywe, Pone Cho and Min Zeya, he was detained again last September, ahead of the military government's annual national convention.

In January 2007 all five were released, with the authorities giving no explanation as to why they had been detained in the first place or why they had suddenly been set free.

But now most of them have been arrested again as a result of the fuel protests, with the authorities accusing them of "undermining stability and the security of the nation".

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