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Watch the new Freedom Collection interview with Burmese youth leader and civil society activist, Min Yan Naing.  A musician and rapper, Min Yan Naing became active in a series of 1996 and 1998 student protests against the military junta ruling the country.


In 2007, together with several schoolmates, he founded Generation Wave, an underground civil society group.  Generation Wave works to motivate young Burmese to become engaged in politics through music and nonviolent protest actions.  Using a variety of musical styles, including rap and hip-hop, Generation Wave recordings and videos encourage youth to take a stand in favor of democracy and human rights.  View a sample video from Generation Wave here.


Like many opposition groups, Generation Wave has been unable to register as a non-governmental organization and has faced many obstacles to its activities, which are illegal in the eyes of the military regime.  Many of the movement’s activists have faced arrest and detention.  “You need to register if you are an NGO,” said Min Yan Naing.  “You cannot concern yourself with politics and political parties like this, but we are concerned with politics and human rights, democracy.  We cannot apply.”


Generation Wave uses a variety of techniques to spread its anti-regime messages, including loading material onto CDs and flash drives for distribution in public places.  The group is also known for adapting tactics used in Serbia in 2000 to oust dictator Slobodan Milosevic, such as using graffiti and distributing leaflets to encourage youth activism.


As the Burmese government has eased some of its repressive tactics, Generation Wave has moved into greater visibility.  Many of its detained activists were released by the government in early 2012.  Generation Wave was active in the by-election campaign that saw opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi elected to the Burmese parliament.  Min Yan Naing describes the ongoing efforts of Generation Wave to bring democracy and reform to Burma:  “One generation after another will hit the [political] system – wave by wave.”


Watch the interview with Min Yan Naing here.


Lindsay Lloyd is Program Director of the Freedom Collection.