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Min Yan Naing

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Min Yan Naing is a Burmese civil society activist, youth leader and rapper. He was born and lives in Rangoon. He became active in a series of 1996 and 1998 student protests against the military junta ruling the country.

In 2007, together with several schoolmates, Min Yan Naing 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. 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.

Generation Wave uses a variety of techniques to spread its 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.

A number of Generation Wave’s music videos are available on the Internet, including these:

Generation Wave's Hip Hop song 


Generation Wave Mother 64 Daw Aung San Suu Kyi 


Most of our founders – we are very interested in music. We are –most of us singers. Me I’m singing since 2000. Some of my friends also – one is a – he’s now a member of parliament. His band name is Acid. It’s a very famous band in the 1990s and 2000s – hip-hop band. They started in Burma. He’s a very famous – the band is very famous in Burma – young generation. Another guy he’s a composer and singer. He is an alternative singer. I’m also interested in hip-hop music in 2000. That’s why we will like to give the message to the young people cross – like music encouragement. We got the idea. That’s why we also produce music.

We encourage and we give the message to young people by music. In 2000 we were very famous and very popular; right now also, because rapping is – we can give a lot of messages. And then hip-hop music, for my view, it’s very free. I can be talking about anything, like rapping. That’s why I like hip-hop music. Firstly is that old generations don’t like this music. Right now they – I think so – they accept any kind of music. This is our freedom of, you know, what we like, I think. I like hip-hop, rapping. I like is hip-hop music.

I like Eminem, Snoop Dogg or Dr. Dre, but not for the politics, just like – it’s interesting. For our music is a Generation Wave project is mostly political and the current situation, and we never give up to this – the leadership government like this song. We give the message. Our generation will never give up like this. Also, what we are doing in that we have a collaboration with a Danish band. We have an English traditional electro and Burmese traditional music. We mix, and you can find on the website YouTube also. One of our members he’s a very famous hip-hop singer.

Now he is a role model for young people, also involved as a member of parliament. He is always beside Aung San Suu Kyi. You can see in many pictures. But young people are very admiring, very admiring of him. This is important social change, yes, important. But in the Generation Wave song – (sings in Burmese.) Yes, this is – I just remember – just like this – (sings in Burmese) – this is – we not never go backward, we not never give up. (Sings in Burmese.) Yes, I just – this is a chorus. Yes, we will be fight – we do not fell down, we will stay fighting. Yes. (Sings in Burmese.) Yes, yes, I forgot the lyrics, because one of my college friends, he is a very famous singer in Burma.

He also just involved in the member and volunteer to the Generation Wave; that’s his song for us. But this is a politics song. That’s why some people politic interesting. They already listen – yes, I know this song, but some people not interesting in politics, they didn’t know this song. Also, we honor to Aung San Suu Kyi we say, “mother.” Yes, talking about Aung San Suu Kyi. We also, in the MTV, yes, Aung San Suu Kyi talking about young people is important in our country. Her speech also include – we put in the song. We also talking about – some people say one of our member’s thing is he is escape from country.

That’s why he cannot take care for girlfriend, but also his mother. His girlfriend and his mother – but he say to his girlfriend, mother, OK, we cannot be together right now; I am very important to do for our country. Another – he talked to his mother, don’t cry, mother. I am doing good thing for my country. Like this – give message. And then another – my friend’s song is – (Sings in Burmese.) This is a Generation Wave song. He said we don’t need to wait the U.N. helping and we need to do ourselves for our freedom. Like this – give message – and our education system is so bad, our degree papers are like a toilet paper. Useless – give like the education system message.

Also, the Nargis Cyclone – OK, they don’t care about anything. [The Nargis Cyclone was a powerful tropical storm that struck Burma in 2008. Over 138,000 people were killed and the suffering was aggravated by the military government’s initial refusal to accept international assistance.] They keep doing for the election. We give messages on the current situation like these songs also include. Also, in 2007 revolution, some also include rock music. Very powerful guiding song for us. Also, we’re talking about our situation.

Don’t cry, ma, this song title is – yes, this is our talking about ourselves. But we are this – at the time, we are the – staying in Mae Sot [across the] Thai border in our safe house but we’re very missing to our country and our mother. Yes, we write like this; our situation is like this, but you don’t cry, mother. We are doing for one day, we will meet also, music type is many music type. Rock, hip-hop, alternative, slow rock, like pop. Like some recalibration with Danish and English electro and Burmese traditional. Many types of music. My plan is that we also would like to sing our traditional music, but our young people are not interested.

In our country is not listen only to hip-hop and rap. Some people like rock, alternative. That’s why we give like this – yes they are because in the song lyrics – not for the – only represent one person feeling – represent for the revolution, represent for the good team, represent for our country’s situation. 

Burma, a Southeast Asian country with about 57 million people, is ruled by a military regime that seized power in 1962. Although the reformist National League for Democracy (NLD) won overwhelmingly in a 1990 election, the country’s military rulers ignored the results and arrested NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 “for her nonviolent struggle for democracy and human rights.” The military government held a referendum on a new constitution in 2008 and a parliamentary election in 2010, neither of which was regarded by international observers as free or fair, and both of which resulted in overwhelming majorities for pro-government positions and candidates. The military regime has committed widespread and systematic human rights violations, including extrajudicial killing, torture, rape, and denial of freedom of expression, association, assembly, and religion.

Throughout its existence, the regime has been at war with a number of Burma’s ethnic minority groups. Ethnic minority voters overwhelmingly supported the NLD in the 1990 election, and after the suppression of the democracy movement several of these groups continued or resumed armed resistance to the de facto government. Although the government signed cease-fire agreements with several of these groups ostensibly granting them autonomy within their respective regions, the Burmese military has used a range of brutal techniques, including the killing of civilians, forced labor, rape, and the destruction of homes, crops, and villages, in cease-fire zones as well as in areas where there is still armed resistance.

In 2007, as on several previous occasions, there were mass demonstrations throughout the country demanding freedom and democracy. The 2007 demonstrations were led by Buddhist monks and eventually became known as the “Saffron Revolution” after the color of the monks’ robes. The armed forces brutally suppressed these demonstrations—estimates of the number of protestors killed range from 31 to several thousand—and intensified popular dissatisfaction with the government by the killing, beating, and public humiliation of monks.

The nominally civilian government resulting from the 2010 election has been widely regarded as a façade for continuing military rule. However, in October 2011, the government released 206 of Burma’s estimated 2,000 prisoners of conscience. The next month, the government announced that it would soon release all remaining political prisoners. The NLD, which had declined to participate in the 2010 election, registered to participate in the next election and announced that Aung San Suu Kyi would be among the NLD candidates.

Although the military regime announced in 1989 that it had changed the English name of the country from Burma to “Myanmar,” the United States government and other international supporters of democracy in Burma have generally continued to call the country Burma because this is the name preferred by Aung San Suu Kyi and other democracy advocates who won the 1990 election. 

More from Min Yan Naing

Min Yan Naing: Music How Generation Wave Uses Music to Motivate Burmese Youth. Min Yan Naing: Founding Generation Wave Min Yan Naing Discusses the Founding of Generation Wave. Min Yan Naing: International Support How Serbian Civil Society Helped Generation Wave. More + Min Yan Naing: Civil Society How civil society is repressed in Burma. Min Yan Naing: Technology The Difficulty of Using Technology in Burma. Min Yan Naing: Youth The Role of Youth in Burma.