Fill out the brief form below for access to the free report.
The southeast Asian nation of Burma (also known as Myanmar) is set to hold nationwide multiparty elections on November 8, 2015, the first since 1990 when the country’s former military junta denied the opposition a landslide victory and put Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.
Burmese Young Leaders participating in the Bush Institute’s Liberty and Leadership Forum offer their perspective on the upcoming elections and the future of their country.
Imprisonment. Discrimination. Isolation. Wai Wai Nu, a member of Burma’s ethnic minority Rohingya population, endured all these things before her twentieth birthday. She spent seven years as a political prisoner before being released in 2012.
Bush Institute staff witnessed Wai Wai’s strength of character and passion for freedom during her time in the Liberty and Leadership Forum. It’s no surprise she’s becoming a globally-recognized champion of minority and women rights in Burma.
Now, with Burma set to hold nationwide multiparty elections on November 8, the first since 1990 when the country’s former military junta denied the opposition a landslide victory, Wai Wai has been sounding the alarm over Burma’s systematic discrimination of minorities, particularly the Rohingya.
For decades, Burma’s government has persecuted Wai Wai’s people, passing legislation in 1982 that stripped many within the Rohingya community of their citizenship and more recently failing to prevent, and reportedly even perpetrating, religiously-motivated violence against them. This year, the legislature enacted a series of laws known as the “Protection of Race and Religion” bills. The new laws empowers authorities to regulate interfaith marriages, impose limitations on when minorities can have children, and reject an individual’s religious conversion. What’s more, the “Protection of Race and Religion” bills have coincided with government-led efforts to disenfranchise the Rohingya.
Since June, Wai Wai has traversed the United States sharing her story with universities, the Washington Post, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, and President Barack Obama to rally support for Burma’s suffering minorities.
As Wai Wai observed in an interview with Foreign Policy, “When a minority isn’t enjoying freedom with you, that isn’t democracy. Everyone in the society should enjoy freedom. Unless everyone’s rights and freedoms are protected, you will never achieve democracy and freedom in your society.”
Learn more about Wai Wai Nu 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
ICYMI: Burma’s Crimes Against Humanity in the Headlines
Headlines continue to cover the well-known persecution and forced removal of Rohingya Muslims from Burma, but we're also beginning to see more visible coverage of Burma's lesser known conflict with the Kachin, a mostly Christian ethnic group near Burma’s resource-rich northern border.
Two-Minute Take: U.S. to Provide $44 million for Vulnerable People in Burma and Bangladesh
The U.S. has provided more than $299 million in humanitarian assistance for people in and from Burma since October 2016. This additional aid aims to help bring relief to more than 9.3 million people who are affected by conflict and lack basic human necessities. Read more on the details of the announcement.
Nowhere to Call Home
In May 2018, a U.N. Security Council delegation visited Burma’s Rakhine State, where more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims, a persecuted ethnic minority group, have fled military-led violence. The visit is a step in the right direction, but more must be done.
My Medical Journey Through Burma
Nay Lin Tun, a 2017 Liberty and Leadership Forum (LLF) graduate from Burma, is a medical doctor and a Master’s student in the National University of Singapore’s Public Policy program. He recently completed an internship in Burma’s deeply conflicted Rakhine State.