Hsar Doe Doh Moo Htoo was the second of five children born to a teacher and political activist father, in Kaw Moo Rah region in the Karen State. In his application to Prospect Burma for a scholarship in 2004, Hsar gave us a glimpse into what it was like for him growing up:
“Being part of revolutionary movement, our family has faced many hardships in our lives. Between 1984 and 1985, Kaw Moo Rah was severely attacked by Burmese junta troops. As a result, my family and other villagers dared not to stay there any longer and sought asylum in Thailand.”
Hsar and his family moved to Maw Ker refugee camp in Thailand. In 1997 the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army attacked the camp with mortar bombs and burned it down, leaving the refugees without shelter and forcing them to find accommodation elsewhere. The family moved on, but the violence and displacement naturally had a significant impact on Hsar.
After completing a Further Studies Programme in Mae La camp, he completed an Intensive College Foundation Course, which allowed him to apply for university. He was supporting himself at this time by working as a teacher, and developed a love for educating others. He told us “after completing my study I will go back and work with my community and involve in educational development and empowerment.” In 2014, Hsar completed an MSc in Counselling Psychology from Assumption University, Thailand.
Hsar’s journey instilled in him a powerful desire to create lasting and authentic peace in Myanmar. Today, he puts his skills, experiences and education to use working as the Environmental Educational Coordinator for the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN).
He told us: “KESAN is an indigenous Karen organisation that empowers indigenous Karen communities, promotes locally-defined genuine peace, and protects environment, lands and livelihoods.”
One of the programmes that KESAN is working on is an inspirational initiative which bears out Hsar’s desire to build lasting peace: the Salween Peace Park (SPP). SPP aims to maintain a holistically sustainable environment for local biodiversity, and indigenous people in the Salween river basin. A locally led project, grassroots organisations are implementing plans to protect the 5,400 square kilometre area of park land from mining, damming, deforestation and other environmentally invasive processes.
Hsar told us “The Salween Peace Park is important because it can play a critical role to help us in achieving our local communities’ peace aspirations. The international community and Burmese government need to understand that it’s impossible to have sustainable peace in Burma without addressing our grievances for the recognition of our rights for equality and self-determination. The Peace Park is not only indicative of the geographical feature itself, it is a place where we can exercise our cultural activities freely, manage our own natural resources in a sustainable manner, conserve and protect the rich biodiversity, and rebuild and improve our livelihoods for the well-being of our next generations to come.” continued overleaf
“It’s been my dream to have a peaceful life since I was a child. And I am also certain that all human beings, including indigenous Karen peoples inhabiting in the Salween Peace Park want to have a peaceful life and freedom, to live freely in their ancestral lands, a country where our inherent rights are recognized. I envisage that the Salween Peace Park will become a symbolic model of genuine peace in Burma where a locally-owned and developed vision of peace is promoted and guaranteed. In the coming years, it is my hope that our Traditional and Cultural School in the Salween Peace Park will have its own curriculum, research on cultural knowledge will be executed systematically, and different occasions of cultural exchange programs will be organized and facilitated to achieve one of the core aspirations of the Peace Park-Cultural Survival.”
Hsar’s undertook a Prospect Burma scholarship with a desire to educate and to find peace. Today, his legacy is being handed on to the next generation through this incredible project.
Watch a video about the project here.
An education project with university students in the Peace Park
Hsar Doe Doh Moo Htoo (left) with assistant in the Peace park
A group gather for a photo