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Bush Institute's Young Leaders are Pioneers for Burmese Democracy (Part I)

August 6, 2015 by The Bush Institute

On July 1, eighteen Burmese men and women gathered in the Bush Institute’s Presidential Seminar room anxiously awaiting a special guest:  His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Joined by President George W. Bush, Mrs. Laura Bush, and Secretary Margaret Spellings, His Holiness talked about the nonviolent struggle for freedom in Tibet and his shared belief with President Bush that people everywhere desire freedom.  The Dalai Lama’s powerful messages resonated with the young leaders, who had just arrived in Dallas for the second Liberty and Leadership Forum.

Through the Liberty and Leadership Forum, the Bush Institute equips young men and women with the knowledge and skills they need to lead during a democratic transition. While on a path toward democracy, Burma’s destination is not yet guaranteed. One key to success is ensuring that the country’s young democracy advocates are prepared to be tomorrow’s political and civil society leaders.

The Young Leaders kicked off their participation in the Liberty and Leadership Forum with a three-week seminar in the United States, including coursework at the Bush Institute and a four-day experience tour of Washington, D.C. Their yearlong journey continues through a combination of an intensive curriculum on leadership and democracy, hands-on skill development, and practical application.

We’ll be introducing all the Young Leaders in the class of 2015-2016 over the next few days.  Meet the first 9 here:

Aye Aye San

Aye Aye San is a senior program coordinator at the People’s Alliance for Credible Elections (PACE). She is responsible for PACE’s election observation program management and implementation in Yangon as well as cooperation with local electoral stakeholders. Prior to Joining PACE, Aye Aye San held supervisory and managerial positions with the International Federation of Red Cross, the International Organization for Migration, the Myat Myanmar Humanitarian Assistance Group, the Myanmar Survey Research, and People in Need. Her work has focused on issues such as human rights, advocacy, land rights, women's empowerment, and capacity building for civil society organizations.

Aye Aye San works toward strengthening the capacity of local civil society organizations in support of the democratic transition in Burma. Her professional goal is to be an expert on democratic elections. She is also interested in expanding economic and educational opportunities for women in Burma, as well as protecting their human rights. Aye Aye San received her bachelor of arts from Yangon University and master of development studies from the Institute of Economics.


Chit Min Lay

Chit Min Lay is deputy program head with the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society organization, where he focuses on human rights, the educational sector, transitional justice, and memorialization. He was arrested in 1998 for taking part in student demonstrations and pro-democracy activities and sentenced to 31 years in prison. After his release in 2012, he joined the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society and traveled across the country to assist in education reform efforts. He is also a founding member of the Myanmar Institute of Democracy.

Chit Min Lay has taken part in numerous trainings, exchanges, and activities promoting human rights documentation. In 2013 he participated in a one-month fellowship at the Documentation Center- Cambodia, and received intensive training in genocide education and documentation. He is currently involved in efforts to develop the 88 Museum and other memory projects in Burma.

A graduate of the British Council Active Citizenship and Capacity-Building programs, Chit Min Lay has conducted trainings to promote tolerance and understanding among people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds.  He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Yangon.



Evelyn is deputy director of operations with the Civil Health and Development Network and a member of the Karenni Nationalities People Liberation Front. Through these organizations, she promotes democracy and minority rights.

In 2006, Evelyn graduated from the University of Loikaw with a bachelor arts. After graduation, she participated in the Foreign Affairs Training program in Prague, Czech Republic, where she also served as an intern with the People In Need Foundation. Evelyn cofounded and served as the secretary of the Union of Karenni State Youth, an alliance of five different youth, women's, and student organizations.


Khin Thar Shan Zaw

Khin Thar Shan Zaw is a physician with the National Health Network-National League for Democracy (NLD-NHN) and the Muslim Free Hospital. The NLD-NHN was established in 2013 to provide health care services to the poor using mobile clinics, particularly in the Lower Myanmar regions. Through the Action 500/40 project, she provides health care services to political prisoners. Khin Thar Shan Zaw's previous positions include working as a medical doctor with a local organization that provides services for individuals with HIV/AIDS. Her volunteer work began in 2008 in the wake of the Nargis cyclone. SKhin Thar Shan Zaw graduated from the University of Medicine in Yangon in 2009. She is also an alumni of the DeBoer Fellowship, a leadership training program in Burma.


Kumbun Lanung Tu

Kumbun Lanung Tu is an assistant coordinator and trainer with the Naushawng Education Network (NSEN), which provides civic education and training for young people who are working to build democracy in Burma.  He teaches courses on transitions to democracy, federalism, and other subjects. Previously he was a civic education trainer with the Youth Education Reform Entrepreneur organization and an administrative assistant and assistant liaison officer at the Kachin Independence Organization in Myitkyina. After the civil war broke out in 2011, Kumbun Lanung Tu began teaching English and politics to internally displaced children.

Kumbun Lanung Tu studied transitions to democracy with Educational Initiatives in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He also participated in an introductory course on international politics and Scandinavian politics and government at University of Oslo. He has published articles in English and in the Kachin language for Jinghpawkasa online media and other publications in order to highlight the suffering of the Burmese people.


Lum Zawng

Lum Zawng is a lawyer and political activist from Kachin State in Northern Burma. He cofounded and now directs the Public Legal Education Department at the Kachin Legal Aid Network Group. In this role, he provides legal training in the areas of politics, rule of law, criminal law, and women’s rights. He is also a frequent lecturer on these and other topics.

As a university student, Lum Zawng was a member of the All Kachin Students and Youth Union (AKSYU), where he advocated for political and human rights in relation to the 2008 Constitution and the Myitsung Dam Project. In 2012, he was elected general secretary of AKSYU and now organizes youth political empowerment training, human rights advocacy, and political education across Kachin State. In 2015, Lum Zawng was elected General Secretary of the Kachin State Youth Network (KSYN), which is a branch of the National Youth Congress. After graduating in 2010 with a degree in law from Myitkyina University, he started an internship program on human rights and international law at the Burma Lawyer’s Council and the Peace Law Academy at Maesot. 


Lway Aye Nang

Lway Aye Nang is coordinator of the Women’s Leadership Program with Educational Initiatives. In this role, she provides training for women throughout Burma who are seeking political office or nominations. Her responsibilities include facilitating trainings and traveling within Burma to recruit young women leaders. Lway Aye Nang is originally from Shan State but lived in exile in northern Thailand until 2013. During her time in exile, she became an advocate of women’s rights in exile communities as well as in Burma.


Maw Day Myar

Maw Day Myar is an associate program officer with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Previously she worked with Oxfam in Burma as a governance program officer, overseeing programs for social accountability engagement with sub-national government officials, civil society organization leaders, youth groups, and the media. As a program officer with Actionaid Myanmar, she assisted with relief and resettlement programs for victims of Cyclone Nargis and engaged in community mobilization development with rural youth. She is also involved with youth movements both regionally and globally as a member of the Activista Youth Network.

Maw Day Myar holds a bachelor of arts from Taunggyi University in Shan State and is working towards her master’s degree in political management at the Myanmar Development Resource Institute-Center for Strategic and International Studies in Yangon.


Sai Aike Sam

Sai Aike Sam is a political awareness trainer with the Tai Lai (Shanni) Nationalities Development Party and a cofounder of the Shanni Youth Network. He advocates for the rights of the minority Shanni people of the Kachin State and Upper Sagaing regions who historically have been marginalized.  Sai Aike Sam recently conducted community based disaster risk management trainings in the Zinpyonegone Village, the Lapputta Township, and the Ayeyarwaddy Division. He graduated with a bachelor of arts from Myitkyina University in 2011. He also studied community development and civic empowerment at Chiang Mai University in Thailand.