Paw Oo Tun better known by his alias Min Ko Naing, lit. “conqueror of kings”) is the President of Universities Student Union of Burma (Myanmar) and a leading democracy activist and dissident. He has spent most of the years since 1988 imprisoned by the state for his opposition activities. The New York Times has described him as Burma’s “most influential opposition figure after Daw Aung San Suu Kyi”.
Min Ko Naing was born in Yangon, the third son of Thet Nyunt and Hla Kyi, a Mon-Chinese couple from Mudon in Mon State. He has three sisters: Kyi Kyi Nyunt, Ye Ye Nyunt, and Thadar Nyunt.
Min Ko Naing’s interest in politics began at the Rangoon Arts and Science University in the mid-1980s where he studied Zoology. During his student years, he was an active member of the arts club, where he enjoyed reading, writing poems and drawing cartoons, especially satirical ones. According to classmates, Min Ko Naing was a member of a performance troupe which took part in the traditional Than Gyat competition during Thingyan (Burma’s annual Water Festival) in April. Taking the name “Goat-Mouth and Spirit-Eye”, the troupe performed satirical plays and sketches satirizing Burma’s military government and the lack of freedom and democracy. Though the troupe was popular, it also attracted the attention of Burmese Military Intelligence agents, who began to track Min Ko Naing’s movements. Despite the illegality of forming student unions in Burma, Min Ko Naing and other students formed clandestine study groups to discuss Burma’s political situation, which grew into a secret student union.