VOA's Burmese Service located Min Ko Naing in Rangoon after making a series of calls to contacts inside Burma. Just as the ceremony was beginning in New York City, they got through to him on an unusually clear phone line and put him on the air. As VOA broadcast his remarks live to Burma, the student leader said, "Fifteen years after general elections, some people start losing their hope to see any improvement or [democratic] changes in Burma. But this award clearly shows that people in the world have not forgotten us and still support democracy and human rights in our country. We are very grateful for this."
Min Ko Naing was released last year after serving a 15-year prison term. As a student in the 1980s, he organized a nationwide student union to oppose military rule. In 1988, the union coordinated a nationwide nonviolent uprising that was crushed by the military junta. Min Ko Naing was arrested in 1989 and remained in prison until his release last year.
What the student leader said over VOA reached many more people than if the Burmese government had permitted him to travel to the U.S. to accept the award in person. At one point in the VOA Burmese language broadcast last night, VOA broadcast a three-way conversation between Min Ko Naing in Burma, VOA's reporter at the ceremony in New York City, and VOA's Burmese Service broadcaster in Washington, D.C.
VOA's Burmese Service broadcasts on radio 90 minutes daily. The Service's website is www.VOANews.com/burmese/
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages.
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