People of 2006
covering burma and southeast asia
Monday, July 15, 2019


People of 2006

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

(Page 6 of 12)

We have to keep working more to have an impact.”

He was awarded the Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award by the AFL-CIO in 2001.

—Aung Zaw

Free Burma Rangers

Aid with a Bible

Founded during Burmese army offensives in 1997, which displaced more than 100,000 people, the Free Burma Rangers are a multi-ethnic, Christian-based voluntary organization providing aid and a “love-thy-neighbor” philosophy to refugees in Burma’s conflict regions.

Their medical and food packages with a Bible don’t suit everyone, but most people recognize the “missions” by the FBR as both welcome and essential.

FBR teams have undertaken 300 humanitarian expeditions into war zones on foot, assisting 1,000-2,000 people each time.

The FBR is a shadowy group that draws in adventurers and ex-soldiers from the West, as well as locally trained medics. On its website, the group says it is “dedicated to the establishment of liberty, justice, equal rights and peace for all the people of Burma” under its motto De Oppresso Liber (Free From Oppression.)

The group, which is reluctant to discuss its funding sources or its operational base, also produces situation reports on refugees based on the findings of some of its teams that penetrate deep into conflict areas.

—Shah Paung

Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus

Regional force for reform

The Asean Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus was originally formed by lawmakers from the regional grouping in November 2004 and joined by other legislators—from both the ruling parties and the opposition—from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia.

Acting as a lobby group within Asean for democratic reform in Burma, the caucus from the 10-nation bloc has kept the pressure on Burma within the region and beyond.

Affiliated members and partners, in the form of national caucuses and parliamentary groups, now exist in countries such as India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia and Europe. The caucus has been a staunch critic of Asean’s long-standing, non-interference policy, which generally views human rights issues in member countries as “domestic issues,” particularly in regard to Burma.

Earlier caucus efforts to send a fact-finding mission to talk to the generals and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi were consistently rebuffed. The initiative was followed, however, by an official Asean mission led by Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar, who has acknowledged the AIPMC’s efforts as contributing to Asean’s recent policy shift toward Burma.

—Aung Lwin Oo

 Aye Myint & Su Su Nway

Standing their ground

The campaigns of Su Su Nway and Aye Myint for labor rights within Burma have won both of them international recognition. Su Su Nway won the 2006 John Humphrey Freedom Award from the Canadian Rights and Democracy group for her single-handed battle for human rights and dignity in her village—a cause that landed her in Burma’s notorious Insein Prison for nine months, until international pressure won her early release.

She has been recognized for not only publicly exposing the practice of forced labor in her village, Htan Manaing in Rangoon Division, but also for securing justice against two local officials after she and her neighbors were forced to work on a road without pay. She lodged a court complaint that resulted last year in a judge sentencing the village chairman and his deputy to eight months in prison—the first such verdict against the military regime’s long-standing practice of forced labor. But for her troubles, Su Su Nway, 34, who suffers from a heart ailment, was arrested and jailed for 18 months in October 2005 for “insulting and disrupting a government official on duty.” An international outcry brought her early freedom in June.

The John Humphrey award is named after a Canadian law professor who prepared the first draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Aye Myint has been a persistent campaigner for basic labor rights in Burma and has been jailed twice for his efforts. On one occasion, he was sentenced to death on a trumped up charge of treason for communicating with the International Labour Organization—the Geneva-based UN body that secured his early release in July from a seven-year jail sentence, this time for “spreading false information” by representing farmers whose land had been confiscated.

—Khun Sam

White Rainbow

Helping the helpless

Despite official disapproval, there’s no apparent end to this rainbow. Founded only last year, White Rainbow has raised nearly US $10,000 for HIV/AIDS victims and plans to extend its fund-raising activities next year.

The group was initially formed by a number of writers concerned about the plight of children whose parents had died of HIV/AIDS. Their initiative snowballed, attracting the support of others from the world of the arts and entertainment.

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