People of 2006
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Sunday, July 21, 2019


People of 2006

By The Irrawaddy DECEMBER, 2006 - VOLUME 14 NO.12

(Page 5 of 12)

She admits to being married to the Karen struggle; her fiancé was killed on the frontline.


Born in 1955, she describes her teacher-mother and activist-father as her heroes: “Mother inspired me. She told us we had to be responsible to the needs of our people.” Forced by Burmese soldiers from her village, Zipporah Sein has never known true peace. “I was born into the conflict. [But] I only want peace and security,” she says. “It’s my dream.”


Phil Thornton is an Australian journalist based in Mae Sot

Maung Maung

Portrait of a ‘terrorist’

Maung Maung, according to the Burmese junta, is a terrorist. They accused him of sending trained terrorists into Burma to create anarchy and bring down the regime. They are ready to point a finger at him whenever bomb blasts occur in the country.

Maung Maung, general secretary of the border-based opposition umbrella group, the National Council of the Union of Burma, denies all charges.

He hopes some day to see the fall of the regime and admits that he and his team send people into Burma to gather information about workers rights. Pressure from outside and inside Burma, Maung Maung believes, could topple the regime. Labeling him as a terrorist is the regime’s attempt to discredit his work and his connection with international organizations, he says.

Maung Maung established the Federation of Trade Unions of Burma in 1991, following the military-led coup. He affiliated the federation with the International Labour Organization and other labor rights groups, such as the powerful US labor federation AFL-CIO, to highlight widespread forced labor and abuse of workers rights in Burma.

In 1996, Maung Maung, working with US-based lawyers and environmental NGOs, filed a lawsuit against the international oil company UNOCAL, which has invested in Burma. The case was settled out of court in Los Angeles in 2005. The settlement, which was reported in the press to be US $30 million, is still in court because of FTUB’s appeals.

But allegations circulated that Maung Maung received a large sum of money from the settlement. He firmly denies the allegations.

Born into a middle class family in Rangoon, Maung Maung’s father, Nyunt Wai, was a student union activist who later became a leading member of the National League for Democracy. Nyunt Wai attended Harvard University in the 1950s. Nyunt Wai’s wife, an ethic Karenni, and other members of his family, also received overseas educations.

Maung Maung was in Rangoon’s elite class before he became involved in politics. As a trained geologist, he worked at Myanmar Gems Enterprise under the Ministry of Mines, which was considered to be late dictator Ne Win’s “private company.”

In exiled opposition circles, Maung Maung remains a controversial figure. He is viewed as secretive, media-shy and arrogant by some observers. He is frequently accompanied by bodyguards. He claims the regime has sent assassins to kill him and other political leaders. Maung Maung has no shortage of enemies, but political and ethnic leaders acknowledge that he is a workaholic and devoted to overthrowing the regime.

Maung Maung belongs to the pro-sanctions camp and calls for tougher sanctions against the regime. As the military leaders work around the clock, he warned, “We can’t just sit down.

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