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Liberty and Leadership Forum in Burma: Where Are They Now?
The Bush Center has zero desire to impose American values on you. We have 100 percent desire to help you realize the blessings of liberty.
This was President Bush’s message to the 34 Young Leaders from Burma who were assembled at the Bush Institute last summer as part of the Liberty and Leadership Forum. They’ve taken it to heart, applying the skills and concepts from the program to help advance Burma’s historic democratic transition. We’re proud of everything our Young Leaders have accomplished and want to share some examples of their achievements and challenges:
This courageous husband and wife team was imprisoned after organizing non-violent protests calling for education reform throughout Burma. Neither attended the inaugural Liberty and Leadership Forum graduation in 2015 as Phyoe Phyoe Aung was incarcerated and James was in hiding. James has since been arrested and both face prison sentences of up to nine years. Their supporters have called on Burma’s new government to release all of the education reform activists who were arrested last year.
Htoot May was elected to Parliament in Burma’s historic November 2015 election. As a new Member of Parliament (MP), Htoot May is eager to engage with her constituents, advance Burma’s peace process, and promote economic development that lifts the Burmese people out of poverty. She’s working hard to keep regular contact with her constituents and get up to speed on the law, despite limited resources.
Kyaw Zeya managed a successful parliamentary campaign for Zin Mar Aung, a former political prisoner who is now a MP. Today, Kyaw Zeya works with the Yangon School of Political Science, an independent organization that educates young Burmese in politics and the democratic process.
Wai Wai Nu was named one of Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 Global Thinkers for advocating for minority rights, particularly the Rohingya, in Burma. Wai Wai also attended the White House’s Iftar dinner this past June where she met President Obama and he publically recognized her cause.
Tayzar San opened a public library in Mandalay that makes difficult-to-find texts available to university students and provides elementary students with a space to do homework and develop their passion for learning. A medical doctor by training, Tayzar San put his work at the library on hold in 2015 to serve those devastated by historic floods.
Learn more about the Liberty and Leadership Forum here:
Christopher Walsh serves as a Manager for the Human Freedom Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, Christopher manages communications, evaluation, and public policy research projects that advance freedom and democracy in the world. He also develops and implements efforts to make the Bush Institute a welcoming place for today’s generation of dissidents and democracy advocates, overseeing visits for training, inspiration, and insight.
Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Christopher worked with the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C. As IRI’s program officer for Central and Eastern Europe, he coordinated political party building and civic advocacy programs in the Balkans and Turkey.
A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Christopher is a graduate of American University with a B.A. in International Studies. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and three young children.Full Bio
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ICYMI: Bush Institute Young Leader Discusses the Rohingya Crisis on Nightline
Bush Institute Liberty and Leadership Forum young leader Nickey Diamond (Ye Myint Win), of Yangon, Burma, recently spoke to ABC’s Bob Woodruff about the Burmese government’s brutal persecution of the Rohingya people. During the interview, Diamond explained how one-sided messages from the Burmese government and Buddhist leaders manipulate the general public into hating the Rohingya and believing they are terrorists. The segment also enabled Diamond to share his human rights work, which documents Burmese military officers’ crimes against humanity. Diamond has been threatened and often worries for his family’s safety. Still, he told Woodruff, “They’ll never stop what I’m doing.” Watch the full story on ABC Nightline.