Japan Day 4: NCUB, FTUB… and more Snow!

Despite looking like an upturned bowl of spaghetti when you are first faced with a map of it, Japan’s metro system so far wins the award for best thing about Tokyo. It’s way too early to be deciding the most memorable moment as we’ve only been here a few hours in this city that amazes you at every turn, but it’s atypical of quirky Tokyo and as we are living almost above the station here in Takadanobaba it’s doubling up as my early morning alarm call – the sound of Takadanobaba station when the doors are ready to close – you can hear it by clicking here: It seems that every station has its own tune. Brilliant. If you hear this sound anywhere else in the world other than at Takadanobaba station then it’s probably me – it’s now my ringtone.

Yesterday (Monday) was a well earned day off for us all after this hectic but enjoyable start to the trip which gave us a bit of time to wander around to sample the sights and sounds of Tokyo – Harajuku first but then it rained all day so we had to take refuge in shops which pleased the Secretary General! Unbelievably it snowed last night – it seems that ever since we were in Norway in December we’ve been blighted by snow. What chance it snows in Thailand when we’re there in April? We also managed some Karaoke last night – Burmese of course and reminding me of our time in Norway with Kyaw Soe Lin.

Today we had a meeting with Dr Min Nyo, representative of the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB), leading member of the Federation of Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB) and former political prisoner. We met at the Burma Office Japan. The meeting had been arranged thanks to U Nwe Aung the NCUB representative in Europe who deserves a very special mention of gratitude for being so supportive to me and to this campaign and for providing much help since day one. Dr Min Nyo was a second year Rangoon University student when he first became involved in political activities. Like so many at that time looking for a way to oppose the Ne Win regime he joined the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), but soon left realising it was as dictatorial as the military regime. He returned to Rangoon University to finish his studies and graduated in 1971. He returned to his home town in Mandalay and became more involved in the political activities that he had first started at University. At the time many of his colleagues were members of the CPB and he spent much time debating with them about the democracy movement. He was detained for two months in 1974 for his political activities and like many was under watch by the military intelligence. In 1976 when Brigadier General Kyaw Zaw went to liberated areas of the CPB headquarters the military regime started a long campaign of cracking down on the communist movement, arresting more than 1,000 people who they suspected as communists. In 1978 Dr Min Nyo a democracy activist and opposer to the communist movement was arrested through association to known communists as well as his own political activities. He was detained in Mandalay prison for sixth months before being transfered to Insein prison. He was released in 1980 where he returned to his home town of Mandalay, before fleeing to Japan the following year. With nothing more than the clothes on his back he started a new life in Japan, eventually enrolling in Nagoya University. When the democracy uprisings of 1988 happened, the sight of Sein Lwin becoming President of Burma sparked Dr Min Nyo to return to his previous political activities. When he had been in jail in Mandalay, he recalled a prison visit by Sein Lwin, then Minister for the Interior. Forced to sit for hours in excrutiating positions waiting to be inspected by Sein Lwin left an indelible mark on him. He gathered some fellow students at Nagoya University and established the Burma Association for Japan for the very first time and he was elected as Chairman. He returned to Thailand in 1989 to meet with student leaders to join in supporting the democracy movement and now more than 20 years later is NCUB representative for Japan.

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