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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 with the Center for Social Integrity, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) founded by LLF classmate Aung Kyaw Moe. Below is Nay Lin Tun’s story.
Last December, I received an offer from the Center for Social Integrity to visit 10 villages in Northern Rakhine State to provide medical care to the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group. These towns have been in a state of conflict for over a decade. Since last August, more than 700,000 Rohingya have been subject to mass atrocities and forced to flee their homes for refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.
Not all Rohingya were able to flee, and those who were left behind are continuing to experience human rights abuses. This exodus has received worldwide attention, but Burmese authorities are only permitting two emergency assistance organizations – the World Food Programme and the International Committee of the Red Cross—to provide care. These two nonprofits alone are unable to serve the entire population in the crisis area. Furthermore, military personnel guard town entrances and restrict access to outside resources. I was one of the few able to visit the villages and provide medical care.
Around 5:30 one evening in Maungdaw, I received a phone call from one of my patients about her mother being unresponsive. When I arrived at their home, the mother was suffering from severe hypoglycemia, very low blood sugar levels, and was close to going into an irreversible coma. Luckily, I had glucose injections in my medical box and started emergency lifesaving treatment that revived her.
It was not possible for this woman to receive care at a hospital. Discrimination, long travel times, and high costs of care limit Rohingya’s access to hospitals. Rohingya are also afraid to violate their strict 6 p.m. curfew. They have no emergency hotline number they can call, and if they go to the hospital after curfew, they could be arrested. Everyone lives in fear.
I treated 70 to 100 patients daily in each village I visited. Many lacked basic human necessities. Their homes were burned down, they had no food, they weren’t allowed to work, and they didn’t have access to clean water. As a result, I frequently treated people for malnutrition, diarrhea, and dehydration.
During my stay, I spoke with the Rohingya and Rakhine communities. I learned that politics, propaganda, and misinformation brought about this manmade disaster. People in Burma have dreams to build a democratic nation rooted in peace and prosperity, but this conflict delays those dreams from becoming a reality. The democratization of Burma cannot be achieved without solving the Rohingya crisis. And the next generation of leaders in Burma including myself is responsible for spreading the values of democracy and bringing together the communities.
Nay Lin Tun is a passionate social advocate for high-risk populations such as HIV/AIDS patients. He recently received a full scholarship from the National University of Singapore to attend their Masters in Public Policy program.
Previously, Nay Lin Tun was a program officer with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Myanmar and worked for the REAct Project (Rights Evidence based Action). Since 2013, Nay Lin Tun has advocated for high risk populations, engaging with 48 police stations and over 1,000 police officers to address violations of human rights related to access to care. As a result of his advocacy, he has presented his findings to the 21st International AIDS Conference as well as the 11th International Congress on AIDS in the Asia-Pacific region. He also contributed as Chairperson of the capacity building team for the 8th Asia Pacific Conference on Reproductive and Sexual Health and Rights.
Nay Lin Tun also served as the site coordinator for the Myanmar Medical Association and the University of Washington through a program that facilitates continued medical education for health professionals in the area. Approximately 1,148 doctors have participated in the program to date.
Nay Lin Tun was awarded a scholarship to join the Community Development and Civic Engagement program from Chiang Mai University. He also serves on the U.S. Ambassador’s Youth Council in Myanmar as a representative for marginalized youth.Full Bio
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Diaries from Seoul
This September, Human Freedom Manager Jieun Pyun, Leadership Programs Manager Chris Walsh, and Human Freedom Fellow Victor Cha led select Liberty and Leadership program alumni on a week-long training program in Seoul. The scholars took home lessons about South Korea’s democratic transition and economic growth. Below are daily team check-ins from Jieun and Chris.
Where is Burma’s Moral Leadership?
After the Holocaust, the world pledged that such a genocide would never happen again. We have since witnessed its horrors in Rwanda and the Balkans. Now, it appears to be happening again in Burma, demonstrating the dearth of moral leadership at the highest levels of Burma’s government.