The Oxford Burma Alliance is a student-run organisation working to bring Burma issues to Oxford and to join together Burma activists and others with an interest in human rights and education. The OBA aims to provide a platform for discussion of and advocacy for Burma issues to the students of Oxford University and the general public, and to establish sustainable links with students and activists on the Thai-Burma border.
OBA News & Updates
Political Transition and Challenges in Burma: Roundtable with Dr Miemie Winn Byrd
Date: Friday, 20th February
Venue: The Shulman Auditorium, The Queen's College
Burma's first free and fair general election in 25 years will take place at the end of 2015; its results will greatly influence the country’s putative democratic transition and the government's approach to ethnic minorities, geopolitics and other challenges.
Dr Miemie Winn Byrd is the President of the Suu Foundation, founded by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to revive healthcare and education in Burma. Dr Byrd currently researches and teaches on the subject of US/Burma relations at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu. She has vast professional experience with multinational corporations such as Gillette, General Telephone and Electronics (GTE), and Ernst & Young, and serves on the boards of the Pacific Gateway Center, the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at Claremont McKenna College, University of Hawaii Shidler School of Business, and Socio-Lite Foundation.
Visit the Facebook event here.
'Myanmar Midwife': Presentation & Film Screening
Date: Friday, 13th June
Venue: Mordan Hall, St Hugh’s College
Every year, approximately one million women in Myanmar give birth; of these, more than 2,400 die from pregnancy related causes. In addition, 33,000 newborns die annually within the first month of their lives. Most of these deaths are preventable. The scarcity of skilled health workers and health facilities in rural Myanmar mean that government-trained midwives are obliged to provide not only mother-and-child but also primary health care. Myanmar Midwife takes an eye-opening look at the situation for midwife Nwe Ni Cho, who serves seven villages with a total population of 2,760 people in the Yangon River delta two hours to the north-east of the country’s former capital.
As it explores her working day, this documentary also demonstrates how a ‘mother support group’ trained by an NGO is helping her to inform villagers about a variety of health issues and build trust between their communities and the government’s health care system – which is itself in urgent need of reform as Myanmar emerges from almost fifty years of military rule.
Before the film screening there will be a short presentation by the film’s initiator Carine Weiss, and by representatives from the Royal College of General Practitioners Thames Valley Faculty. RCGP Thames Valley Faculty run a programme enabling Burmese health practitioners to visit the UK and experience primary care within the NHS; following the film they will be collecting optional donations to support their work.
All are welcome!
Visit the Facebook event here.
Impunity Under Civilian Rule: Sexual Violence in Modern Myanmar
The OBA will be hosting a roundtable on sexual violence in Burma, chaired by Dr Kirsten McConnachie, Joyce Pearce Junior Research Fellow at the Refugee Studies Centre and Lady Margaret Hall. Participants will include Zoya Phan from Burma Campaign UK (BCUK) and Dr Phyllis Ferguson from Oxford Transitional Justice Research.
Date: Thursday, 5th June
Venue: Nissan Lecture Theatre, St Antony’s College
In January 2014, the Women’s League of Burma released a report documenting a “widespread and systematic pattern of sexual violence” perpetrated by the Myanmar military in ethnic regions of the country since the election of Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government in 2010. In April 2014, a Burma Campaign UK (BCUK) report termed these infractions “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”. This roundtable addresses the issue of on-going sexual violence in Myanmar, specifically asking: what can, and should, the Myanmar government and international community be doing to address these abuses?
Zoya Phan will present a picture of on-going cases of sexual violence in Myanmar under civilian rule ; Zoya is a prolific political activist, Campaigns Manager at BCUK and author of the memoir ‘Little Daughter”. In 2010 she was recognised by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader.
Dr Phyllis Ferguson will then respond to Zoya from a comparative standpoint, drawing lessons for Myanmar from wider contexts. Dr Phyllis Ferguson served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in East Timor after University teaching and research in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe; she was the coordinator for African Studies in the University of Oxford and founding member of the Oxford International Human Rights Law Group at CSLS and is now with Oxford Transitional Justice Research, writing on women’s economic and political empowerment and gender justice in post-conflict Africa and Southeast Asia.
Discussions will be informal and opened to the floor. All welcome!
You can visit the Facebook page for the event here, or download the poster here.
Blog Post - Who will go to the polls in 2015? Out-of-country voting and the global Burma diaspora
Click here to read our recent article by Karen Hargrave, OBA Vice President and MSc student at the Oxford Refugee Studies Centre, on Burma's 2015 elections and out-of-country voting.
“Musical Performance as Political Engagement: A Performance and Conversation with Two Composer-Scholars”
Date: Monday, 9 June
Venue: Talbot Hall, Lady Margaret Hall
Event co-sponsored by Asian Studies Centre & North American Studies Programme, St Antony's College and IGS at LMH
Erin Kamler, Composer of “Land of Smiles”
PhD, Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, University of Southern California
Matthew J Walton, Composer of “Sun Dance”
Aung San Suu Kyi Senior Research Fellow in Modern Burmese Studies, St Antony’s College, Oxford
Erin Kamler and Matthew Walton are both composers and scholars who combine their research and writing with political activism. Erin’s musical “Land of Smiles” addresses the trafficking of women in Thailand, as seen through the eyes of sex workers, grassroots activists, and NGO employees. Matt’s opera “Sun Dance” tells the story of Native American political prisoner Leonard Peltier and the history of interactions between Native Americans and the U.S. government.
Erin and Matt will show video excerpts and perform several songs from each of their works. They will also discuss issues related to the creation and production of political works of musical drama. Erin will speak about the concept of “dramatization as research” and how her work on trafficking on the Thai-Myanmar border led to “Land of Smiles.” Matt will discuss the idea of opera as a subversive medium of political performance and the challenges of writing a political work about a group that is not one’s own.
For more information on the event, email: [email protected] or tel: 01865-274559
For more information on the music, visit: http://www.erinkamler.net/musicals/land-of-smiles/ and http://www.sundanceopera.com/
You can download the poster here.
"Burma: Towards 2015 and beyond"
The Oxford Burma Alliance will be hosting a roundtable discussion on the future of Burma. The speakers will include Andrew McLeod, Stipendiary Lecturer in Law at Lady Margaret Hall, Benedict Rogers from the Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Hervé Lemahieu from Oxford Analytica.
Date: Thursday, 13th March
Venue: Maplethorpe Building, St Hugh's College
Will 2015 prove a game changer in the country’s trajectory, and how radically will the political landscape be transformed afterwards?
Burma is at a very sensitive moment in its transition. The peace process with ethnic armed groups is in a delicate phase, the divisive constitution is being debated in parliament, Buddhist nationalism pervades sectors of society, and elections in late 2015 could be the first relatively free polls in a generation. As Burma and its captive audience look to the future, this roundtable addresses the question of what lies in store. Drawing on different areas of expertise, participants will discuss: To what extent is 2015 likely to live up to expectations as a turning point in Burmese history? How will elite-level politics be affected by issues from below? And just how radically will the political landscape be transformed afterwards? Discussions will be informal and opened to the floor.
All are welcome.
Visit the Facebook event here.
Burma Art Exhibition: “Burma Unmasked”
Friday 21st February 2014 , 6.30-8.30pm
The Swiss Church, 79 Endell Street, London, WC2H 9DY
Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) is holding an Art Exhibition that will explore the theme of “Burma Unmasked”, portraying the plight of Burma's ethnic nationals through a variety of art forms. The artwork is submitted by young people across the UK as part of the HART Scholarship Competition to raise awareness of the ongoing human rights violations. There will also be drawings made by children living in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border. The art work will be displayed alongside photographs, stories and information from recent visits to their partners in the region.
In the last few years Burma has been applauded internationally for its progress towards democracy. However, the ethnic national peoples, an estimated 40% of Burma’s population, continue to suffer severe human rights abuses: extra-judicial killings, rape, abduction and torture at the hands of the Burma Army. The poverty is deep and deliberate: caused by destruction of livelihood, confiscation of land without compensation and forced labour, amongst other things.
During the exhibition, there will be a prize-giving for the winner of each category, followed by a short speech from Baroness Cox.
For more information, please contact [email protected].
New Volunteering Opportunities
We have recently added a wealth of new information to our volunteering page:
We now provide details about a wide range of volunteering placements and links to the organisations which provide them, both from within Burma and on the Thai-Burma border. These opportunities range from working with human rights and women’s groups, to teaching in high schools in Mandalay. There are also upcoming internship opportunities for Oxford students with the Burma Lawyers’ Council and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
If you would like to be kept up to date about new volunteer placements, please e-mail [email protected].
New Blog Post - The Rohingya Revisited
Our most recent blog post is written by Regina Paulose, a lawyer in International Crime and Justice and author at acontrarioicl.com. Her piece examines the continued violence against the Rohingya within Burma, and how this reflects a wider emerging trend of anti-Muslim violence and bigotry.
The Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Lecture 2013: Burma's reform process: a beacon of hope or a project destined to fail?
The Daw Aung San Suu Kyi lecture for 2013 was delivered by Andrew Heyn, the former British Ambassador to Burma. In his speech he discusses the role of various people and institutions in establishing meaningful reform in Burma.
You can view other speeches and events hosted by St. Hugh's college on their Youtube channel here.
Video © St Hugh’s College, Oxford, 2013
Southeast Asian Studies Symposium 2014: "Southeast Asia in Transition"
Registration is now open for the Southeast Asian Studies Symposium for 2014, which this year will take place from 22 – 23 March, at Keble College, University of Oxford.
The two-day event will involve several perspectives on Burma, including a roundtable discussion entitled:
‘Regime Transitions in Southeast Asia: Lessons for Myanmar?’,
As well as several seminars:
‘Evolution or Revolution: Imagining a future for Burma’s rural economy’,
‘Tangled Crossroads: Flows of ideas, commodities and people through the Thai-Myanmar borderworld’
‘Burma and Drugs: national problems, regional solutions’
‘The Rohingya: Past, Present, and Future’
And many more discussions examining South-East Asia generally.
Visit the SEA website for more information, and to register now.
They Call it Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain
Oxford Burma Alliance, in partnership with St. Hugh's College, presents a screening of
'They Call it Myanmar: Lifting the Curtain' by Robert H. Lieberman.
Date: Wednesday, 4th December
Venue: Mordan Hall, St Hugh's College
Time: 19:00 - 20:30
Shot clandestinely over a three-year period in the second-most isolated country on the planet, Burma, 'They Call it Myanmar' lifts the curtain to expose the everyday life in a country that has been held in the iron grip of a brutal military regime for 48 years.
Culled from over 200 hours of striking images, the film interweaves spectacular footage of this little-seen nation with interactions with its people, including an interview with the recently released Nobel Peace Prize winner, and St Hugh's College alumna, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Though Burma has tumbled from being one of the most prosperous and advanced countries in Southeast Asia to being one of the world's poorest, 'They Call it Myanmar' is a story of beauty, courage and hope.
Please feel free to invite friends.
Watch the trailer of the film here.
Visit the Facebook event here.
"Gender and Leadership, Power and Authority from Urban, peri-Urban and Rural Perspectives"
Thursday 21st: "Reflections on the role of women in education and the peace process, in light of Myanmar's reforms"
Thursday 28th: "Women, conflict and identity: exploring women's economic roles in the Kachin region of northern Burma/Myanmar"
Old Library, Lady Margaret Hall
As part of their weekly seminars, the department of International Gender Studies will be hosting two talks on the roles and experiences of women in Burma in the next two weeks. The first will be given by Dr Marie Lall, Reader in Education Policy and South Asian Studies, Institute of Education, London, and the second by Dr Mandy Sadan, Lecturer in the History of South East Asia, SOAS, London.
For more details, visit the website of the IGS centre, or view the flyer.
Ethnicity and Experiences of Conflict in Burma
Wednesday 30th October, 18:30
Nissan Lecture Theatre, St Antony's College
The participants in this roundtable will address the question of how ethnic identity affects people's experiences of conflict in Burma.
Matt Walton, the Aung San Suu Kyi Senior Research Fellow in Modern Burma Studies will discuss ethnicity and differential experiences of suffering more broadly, as well as the ways in which geography plays a role in mediating the effects of government/military repression.
Dan Hkung, a Charles Wallace Trust Visiting Research Fellow, will consider the Kachin struggle, a case of particular importance at present as the intensification of conflict in Kachin state has occurred alongside the widely praised "democratic" reforms of the new Burmese government.
Paing Soe Hlaing and Karen Hargrave, the President and Vice-President of the Oxford Burma Alliance will discuss Mon perspectives on ethnic identity, conflict and political transition. Paing will relate his own experiences of the challenges of negotiating mixed Mon-Burman heritage, whilst Karen will share the perspectives of Mon friends and colleagues working to advance human rights for this ethnic population.
You can visit the Facebook page for the event here, or download the poster here.
For more information, please email: [email protected]
"The Emerging Agro-Industrial Complex in Burma: The politics of land reform, land grabs and resistances, and the Chinese presence"
On Wednesday, 16 October, from 2.00-3.30pm Kevin Woods of UC-Berkeley will be delivering a seminar on his particular area of research regarding the emerging agribusiness sector in Burma.
Most of his work has focused on examining Chinese agribusiness in northern Burma as part of China's opium substitution programme, and its entanglements with drug militias, counterinsurgency and land grabs. Most recently Kevin has conducted participatory action research on farmers' resistances to land grabs during the current reform period under the new military-backed government. Kevin's land reform research at the national scale, supported by specific cases studies in contested ethnic resource-rich territories, allows him to go beyond the veneer of 'the new Myanmar' to understand how Burma's infamous military institution and crony capitalism begin to merge with neoliberal development, this time backed by western development aid and finance institutions.
The talk will be held in the Deakin Room, Founder's Building, St Antony's College. For more information see the website.
'CEASEFIRE: Reflections on community, politics and social change in the Kachin region of Burma (Myanmar), 1994 to the present'
On October 12th 2013, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London will be hosting a day-long seminar examining the recent history of the Kachin region, particularly on how armed hostilities arose in 2011 from a 17 year long ceasefire. The event will be held in Room G3, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG, from 9.30 - 18.30 followed by a book launch from 18.30 - 20.00.
The event is convened by Dr Mandy Sadan, with the support of SOAS History Department and the Centre for South East Asian Studies, and will host a range of expert speakers.
There will be a registration fee of £10 (£5 for students), payable on the door (prior registration essential). All of the registration fee will be given to the Kachin Relief Fund(http://kachinrelief.org.uk/), which is helping to supply aid to people from the Kachin region displaced by recent conflicts. The registration fee will include a lunch box prepared by members of the Kachin community in London, all light refreshments during the day, and wine and/or soft drinks at an evening party to celebrate the launch of Being and Becoming Kachin (Oxford: British Academy & Oxford University Press, 2013).
Visit the seminar webpage for more information.
‘Myanmar: A Celebration’
On Sunday 15th September, from 11:00-16:30, St. Hugh’s College will host ‘Myanmar: A Celebration’: an event with speakers on a range of topics, from experts in Burmese history and art, to experienced travellers to Burma, and representatives from The Myanmar Family Medicine Project - a group which supports and strengthens the development of Primary Care and Public Health in Burma. The event is a collaboration between the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), The Oxford Burma Alliance and Project Southeast Asia.
Tickets can be purchased for £45 in advance, £50 on the door.£25 for students and children. Lunch, tea and coffee will be provided, and all proceeds will go towards The Myanmar Family Medicine Project of the RCGP.
For more details, read the flyer here.
Tickets can be booked from the RCGP here.
3rd Annual Southeast Asian Studies Symposium 2014
"Southeast Asia in Transition"
22 - 23 March 2014
Keble College, University of Oxford
Project Southeast Asia is currently inviting proposals for Panels and Papers for the 3rd Annual Southeast Asian Studies Symposium at Keble College, University of Oxford, 22-23 March 2014.
They are accepting proposals for Academic Panels, Roundtables, Workshops, and Cultural Events. Proposals should be sent through the Project Southeast Asia website (preferably) or via email to [email protected]. Please review all instructions and guidelines carefully before submitting your proposals.
In particular, panels which focus on contemporary Southeast Asian issues; transnational Southeast Asian studies; interdisciplinary approaches and collaborations; and methodological issues relating to Southeast Asian studies, are highly encouraged.
Please note that the deadline for proposal submission is 15 September 2013. Final details for all sessions are due by 15 December 2013.
For guidelines and complete details, please visit their website at http://projectsoutheastasia.com/academic-events/sea-symposium-2014/call-for-panels
Dr SaSa: Lessons in Perseverance from the Indo-Burma Border
On the 6th June 2013, the Oxford Burma Alliance invites you to a talk by Dr. SaSa, who will be sharing with us his personal story of struggle and perseverance for an education for himself as well as a new hope for his community.
Dr SaSa was born in an isolated and impoverished village in Southern Chin State in north-western Burma. Life for the villagers of the Chin Hills of western Burma was difficult: lack of healthcare and education, on-going isolation, restriction of religious freedom and threat of military oppression. Hearing of his dream to become a doctor, the people of SaSa’s village gave up all they could to support his further studies in medicine. Regularly homeless, hungry and facing expulsion, SaSa was determined to do his best and graduated in 2009 with three distinctions before returning home to his people.
As SaSa often reminds those who hear his story, “blessed are those who are poor.” With a donation of land from a nearby village, he established ‘Health and Hope,’ a primary health care training centre and has trained hundreds of community health care workers from 150 villages every year.
Visit the Facebook page for the event here.
Where are the Women? Negotiations for Peace in Burma.
The Swedish Burma Committee has released a report detailing the ways in which women have been excluded from participating in negotiations for peace in Burma at all levels, despite the fact that international consensus has been built around the need to involve women in peace processes in order for peace building to be sustainable, democratic and inclusive, and that women’s organisations in Burma are well qualified and well placed to be involved in the peace-making process.
You can read the report here, and read the press release of the Swedish Burma committee here.
'All You Can Do is Pray'
The Human Rights Watch has just published a new report detailing the path and the extent of the violence against the Rohingya since June 2012. The 153-page report describes the role of the Burmese government and local authorities in the forcible displacement of more than 125,000 Rohingya and other Muslims and the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
You can read the full report here, and visit the website of the Human Rights Watch here.
Racism in Burma: The Silent Persecution of the Rohingya
On Thursday 2 May the OBA will be hosting a panel discussion on the plight of the Rohingya ethnic minority in Burma. Panel speakers will include Tun Khin, President of Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, and Benedict Rogers from the Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
The Panel will discuss the persecution and discrimination of the Rohingya, as well as the recent violence and the rise of religious and racial intolerance, and the wider implications this has for democracy and true reform in Burma.
The panel will be held at 18:30 in the Event Space at the Oxford Hub, Turl Street Kitchen.
Visit the Facebook page here.
Blog Post: Billion dollar mine and the missing faces...
Click here to read our new post, a reflection on the copper mine protests in Letpadaung and the issues involved, written by OBA member Aileen Phyu.
Crimes against Humanity in Western Burma: The Situation of the Rohingyas
We have just added this report from The Irish Centre for Human Rights which gives background on the status of the Rohingyas in Burma, and details the abuses that they have suffered in the years before the report was published in 2010, which include forced labour, rape and sexual violence, deportation and forcible transfer of population, and numerous denials of fundamental rights.
Read the report here, and learn more about the Irish Centre for Human Rights here.
AAPP Annual Report - 2012
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma has released its annual report for the previous year, documenting their achievements, important landmarks in 2012, the structure of the organisation, the current situation for political prisoners in Burma and how this will affect its focus for the coming year.
The concerns of the AAPP include healthcare for those currently in prison and those who have been released, education for political prisoners and their children, mental health counselling and social support. They are also heavily involved in advocacy and lobbying efforts to increase international awareness of the plight of political prisoners.
Tate Naing, the AAPP Secretary, commented: “In this changing environment one thing remains the same: there can be no democracy or national reconciliation in Burma until all political prisoners are free unconditionally and able to express themselves freely once outside of prison in accordance with international law.”
You can read the full report here, and learn more about the AAPP in Burma here.
Report on Violence in Kachin state: Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
The Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) has recently published a new report which describes widespread civilian casualties from recent Burma Army offensives in Kachin areas and urges international pressure to end military aggression against the Kachin people.
“State Terror in the Kachin Hills” documents the killing or injury of 26 civilians, including women, children and the elderly, by Burma Army shelling during offensives against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) since September 2012. Attacks have continued in the past few days, despite ongoing peace talks.
You can read the full report here, and visit the website of the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand to learn more.
Shoklo Malaria Research Unit
The Oxford Burma Alliance is pleased to announce its new fundraising goal: we will be raising funds for the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU), a field station of the faculty of Tropical Medicine, of Mahidol University in Bangkok. The SMRU has five clinics along the Thai-Burma border which provide free medical treatment, antenatal care, and perform deliveries for hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrant workers.
The SMRU connects its free healthcare services with vital and groundbreaking malaria research, which has helped to change modern malaria therapeutics worldwide. Almost all studies of malaria in pregnancy have been conducted by SMRU, and it has developed a system of antenatal care which has eliminated maternal malaria-related mortality.
SMRU urgently needs resuscitation equipment for newborn babies. The Oxford Burma Alliance and Oxford Global Health Group are launching a fundraising project to help provide SMRU’s Special Care Baby Units with neonatal resuscitation equipment.
You can donate directly here. More details to come soon.
Write for Peace: Demand an End to the War in Burma's Kachin State
As you may know, the conflict in Kachin State in northern Burma has been going on since June 2011, when government troops broke a 17 year cease-fire with the Kachin National Organisation. The fighting has resulted in what can only be described as a humanitarian disaster; there are about 100,000 IDPs, including 75,000 in KIO-controlled areas where international aid is being blocked by President Thein Sein, resulting in widespread hunger and disease. Burmese Army soldiers have committed horrific human rights violations against civilians which may be considered war crimes and crimes against humanity under international law.
Because of this, the Oxford Burma Alliance is joining a campaign to lobby MPs to sign Early Day Motion 909, asking Parliament to condemn the attacks of the Burma Army on the Kachin people. We would therefore ask that you write to our Oxford MPs, Andrew Smith ([email protected]) and Nicola Blackwood ([email protected]), as well as your own local MPs. So far 20 MPs have signed the motion:http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2012-13/909 .
Click here for a template letter that you can use, which only requires you to put in the name of the MP you are writing to as well as your own. However, you may of course write your own letter. If you find that your MP has already signed the motion (see the link above), you can use this document attached to send your MP a thank you letter.
We do hope that you consider joining our efforts to lobby the UK Parliament and to demand an end to the war in Kachin State.
Human Rights Watch World Report 2013
The Human Rights Watch has just published their report on the events of 2012. In their assessment of Burma, they emphasise the fact that the human rights situation remains poor, despite the apparent moves towards reform and the enthusiasm of the international community. Read their report on Burma here, or download the full report.
Website update 30 January 2013
We have added a new page which will provide updates on the Status of Political Prisoners in Burma.
Website update 29 January 2013
The 'Learn About Burma' section of our website has been updated with a new page about Foreign Investment in Burma. Expect more updates here soon!
Website update 22 January 2013
The pages for Volunteering and the Burma Volunteer Program have been updated to reflect the fact that the Burma Volunteer Program is phasing out its volunteering program, and has instead decided to concentrate its efforts on training its local partners to recruit themselves.
Blog Post: The ICC: Protection for the Rohingya?
Regina Paulose, J.D., LLM, International Crime and Justice and author at acontrarioicl.com, has written a new post for our blog discussing the current state of the Rohingya in Burma, and the potential involvement of the ICC.
_‘Htwet Yat Poute’ [Great Escape] by Khin Aung Aye
Khin Aung Aye is a Burmese poet who presented some of his poems, published in the anthology 'Bones Will Crow', at an OBA event in Michaelmas Term 2012. Below is a poem he wrote in the UK, a month after his trip to Oxford. The OBA is grateful that he shared it with us!
‘Htwet Yat Poute’ [Great Escape] by Khin Aung Aye
(Translated by Aileen Ei Pwint Phyu, OBA member)
We say we have our victory
And we dance.
Whether once in a decade
Or a score of years,
We gather, and dance.
Whilst in secret
Our subconscious admits defeat,
And with it everyday
We wipe our eyes in discreet.
17th December 2012
Chilton Grove, London 19:04
*The translation ‘Great Escape’ does not do justice to the poem’s title. Htwat Yat Poute refers to a term used in ancient rituals when people believed their souls have transcended the human body to acquire a better life. The term was also used metaphorically by Ba Maw and General Aung San in founding Bama Htwet Yat Gaing (Freedom Bloc), a political organization established in 1939 against colonial forces, in support of Burmese independence and democracy.
Zoya Phan interview in the Oxonian Globalist
After her lecture on ‘Rape as a Weapon of War’ on November 6th, Zoya Phan spoke with Archit Guha of the Oxonian Globalist about the current state of reforms in Burma and how this has affected women and ethnic minorities. See the interview here.
Website update 19 November 2012
The OBA has updated the page on political prisoners, to include the most recent figures given by the AAPP, and a list of the 45 confirmed political prisoners released on 19 November.
Obama's visit to Burma
On Monday 19th November President Obama made history by becoming the first acting US President to visit Burma. In this speech made from Rangoon University he struck a note of cautious optimism about the importance of the current reforms and the prospect of future changes:
‘This remarkable journey has just begun. It has much further to go. Reforms launched from the top of society must meet the aspirations of citizens who form its foundations. The flickers of progress that we have seen must not be extinguished, they must be strengthened, they must become a shining north star for all this nation’s people.’
This video is used with the permission of DVB TV.
Bones Will Crow: Burmese Poetry Reading
On Tuesday, 20 November 2012 the OBA will be delighted to host a reading with leading Burmese poet Khin Aung Aye and James Byrne, the co-editor of 'Bones Will Crow'. The reading will be held at the Library, in the Oxford Hub, 16 Turl Street.
Khin Aung Aye is regarded as one of the key postmodern and pioneering poets to emerge from the Khit San (‘testing the times’) era of Burmese poetry. He has published 11 collections of poetry. While his earlier collections reveal a somewhat more traditional approach to poetry—exemplified by four-syllable metered verse—his work is steadily becoming more influenced by modernism. However, Khin Aung Aye stresses that his style as a writer emerged from close readings of the old masters in Burma. He is published significantly in Thailand where he lives, but is also known to audiences outside of Southeast Asia having recently read his work in Europe.
James Byrne is the Editor and co-founder of The Wolf poetry magazine. James has been consistently talked of as one of the leading poets of his generation, remarked by The Times as one of the ten rising stars of British poetry in April 2009. His works include Passages of Time, published in 2002, and The Vanishing House in 2009. James's own poems have been translated into several languages, including Arabic, Serbian and French.
Come listen to Khin Aung Aye reading a selection of poetry by poets from Burma including himself, followed by a short discussion on Burmese cultural and literary issues, exploring the poet's influences, ranging from Burmese writers to the New York School and LANGUAGE-poetry.
Visit the Facebook page here
Website Update 12 November 2012
The OBA has added details about an exciting new internship opportunity offered by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) in Mae Sot, Thailand.
AAPP is an independent, non-profit organization that works for the release of all political prisoners incarcerated throughout Burma. The internship position will principally involve assisting the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Advisor for the organisation.
For more details, see our volunteering page.
War Crimes in Burma: Rape as a Weapon of War
On Tuesday 6th November, at 6:30pm in the Harris Lecture Theatre in Oriel College, Oxford, Zoya Phan from Burma Campaign UK will speak about the use of rape as a weapon used by the Burmese Army against women in the armed conflict in ethnic areas.
Zoya is from the Karen ethnic group and grew up in Karen State in eastern Burma. When she was 13, the Burmese Army attacked Zoya's village, torching houses and burning crops. For two years, she dodged capture, enslavement and torture, hiding in the jungle with thousands of other displaced people and ending up in a Thai refugee camp. She eventually won a scholarship to study in Bangkok, and became more involved in the activist community along the Thai-Burma border. After an assassination attempt by the Burmese Army in 2005, Zoya claimed asylum in the UK.
Currently an International Coordinator of the human rights organization Burma Campaign UK, Zoya Phan is an outspoken critic of the Burmese government and has repeatedly called for democratic reform in Burma, as well as economic sanctions from both the British government and the UN.
Visit the Facebook event here.
OBA's Treasurer report 2011-2012
In its first year, the Oxford Burma Alliance raised £716.59 for the Arohana Scholarship Fund, £976.10 for the Young Generation's Note, and £57.19 for aid to internally displaced people in Kachin State.
Generous donations were received from Hertford College, St. Hugh’s College, University College, and St. Catherine's College from the University of Oxford, as well as from Rex Bloomstein and Andrew Bartley. Additional money was raised from sales of WEAVE merchandise and film nights organised by the OBA.
In total, the OBA raised £3373.30, including an amazing £1178 from a charity auction at St. Catherine's College.
The Oxford Burma Alliance would like to thank all its donors, and we hope to continue to build on these successes in the coming year.
Website update 5 August 2012
The OBA has updated the page about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to include information about her recent trip to Europe and her speeches at the UK Paliament and at the Encaenia Ceremony at the Univeristy of Oxford.
Website Updates 4 August 2012
The OBA has added Teach For Myanmar to its volunteer partner organisations. TFM is a non-profit organisation based in Burma, that provide local organisations with volunteer teachers to teach English and academic skills to young adults.
The following reports have been added to our 'Resources' page:
- "The Government Could Have Stopped This", Sectarian Violence and Ensuing Abuses in Burma's Arakan State (Human Rights Watch, August 2012)
- Report on the Human Rights Situation in Burma, March 2011-March 2012 (Network for Human Rights Documentation - Burma)
- List of the most problematic provisions in the 2008 Constitution and Burmese laws
(Burma Lawyers' Council, June 2012)
The Young Generation's Note has published its first English issue! You can download it in pdf format here:
Daniel Di Francesco, the OBA's Special Representative for St Hugh's College, and Agnieszka Fal, Email Friend Project Coordinator, have posted their article 'Internal Displacement: the Elephant in the Room of the Burmese Reform' on our blog about the situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Burma.
St. Hugh's College Ball
We would all like to extend our sincere thanks to the St. Hugh’s College Ball committee and to everyone who donated when buying their tickets for helping to raise £1000 for the OBA! The money will be used to support the Arohana Scholarship fund – an organisation which allows talented Burmese students to go to university and to return to support their communities with their new skills. It will also support the Young Generation’s Note – a magazine started by young Burmese migrants on the Thai-Burma border, full of content developed by and for migrants and refugees.
Displaced But Not Forgotten 365
The OBA is pleased to announce its new awareness raising campaign - Displaced But Not Forgotten 365. We are seeking to inform and educate on the current situation affecting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Burma. It is open to everyone, whether you are an Oxford student or not, know a lot about Burma or don’t know much at all.
It involves three simple steps:
1. Get informed, by following us on Facebook and twitter and reading the resources on our website and in other places;
2. Spread the word to your friends and invite them to the join the campaign;
3. DONATE YOUR FACEBOOK PROFILE during the action week; this involves changing your profile picture and cover photo (if you're using timeline). For more instructions, see here: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=300548650028174
OBA Statement on Aung San Suu Kyi's Oxford Visit
We are excited to learn that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be visiting Oxford, and we are happy that she will be able to spend time with her family, as well as finally receive her much-deserved honorary doctorate. Daw Suu has served as an inspiration for all the members of the Oxford Burma Alliance, and we hope that we will be able to show her that Oxford students are committed to supporting Burma and the Burmese people on their journey towards democracy and freedom.
However, we would like to remind Oxford students that Burma is not yet on an irreversible course towards democracy - a fact that Aung San Suu Kyi herself has noted, and that armed conflict is still raging in parts of the country, with human rights violations occurring on a daily basis against ethnic minorities. Furthermore, many of the oppressive laws remain in place – including the highly undemocratic Constitution – and hundreds of political prisoners remain behind bars. Nevertheless, the visit of Daw Suu will be hugely important and it is our hope that it will serve to make Oxford students, and the British general public, more interested in Burma issues.
-Nora Godkin & Ebba Lekvall
OBA Co-Presidents & Founders
The Young Generation's Note
The OBA is now helping to raise money for a new magazine - 'Young Generation's Note' - run by and for young refugees and migrants on the Thai-Burma border. The YGN brings news, stories, articles, photography, and more to people along the border, especially those in refugee camps, who do not otherwise have access to sources of news and information. It also provides free media training so that young migrants and refugees can help build a strong national media once they return to Burma, and it gives young people a voice!
HOW YOU CAN HELP
•Buy a bracelet or coin purse from the OBA at one of our events, from the Hertford College lodge, or the St. Hugh's College Bar.
•Donate cash through the OBA
•Go to www.indiegogo.com/ygn to donate and learn more
•Spread the word!!
'Dreams Without A Home'
_'Dreams Without A Home' is a project (led by filmmaker Sascha Schöberl) to give Burmese refugee kids a voice. They have a chance to tell their dreams, their wishes and their situation. This is a movie is told by them and for them.
These children and their families live on a landfill in Northern Thailand. They are originally from Burma, but famine, the military junta, landmines and poverty forced them to leave their home country to survive. As they say, their lives are better living on a dump site of a country where they have no legal residence compared to their old lives in Burma.
This movie will give these children a voice to be heard. Their dreams deserve to grow, not to die out. They deserve a chance at being able to leave this dreadful situation and live. We want the attention to be on THEM.
Read more about the film here. Spread the word! Share this project on Facebook and Twitter and help this film get made!
You can donate to 'Dreams Without A Home' safely via Indiegogo. If you want to help the people on the rubbish dump directly, please support The Best Friend. They started a relocation project, support the people with food donations and provide medical assistance.
Social media campaign: 'Displaced But Not Forgotten 365'