Min Zaw Oo
Min Zaw Oo has led an extraordinary life. After matriculation from his studies in Myanmar, he joined the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, and took part in front line fighting against the Tatmadaw on the Thai-Myanmar border. Inspired by General Aung San’s rebellion and ultimately successful effort to liberate Myanmar from the British, Min Zaw Oo wanted to be at the forefront of the fight to win democracy for Myanmar.
While fighting, he experienced extreme deprivation and military combat. He reminisced in an interview with the New York Times about hiding behind a tree while being shot at, and taking a look to count the 6 bullets wedged into the bark that had been intended for him. In the midst of fighting, he was struck by the realisation that a successful coup would likely lead to more conflict and upheaval, which prompted him to undertake further study. While still in the jungle he applied for a scholarship to the US, and was offered a place at George Mason University to study Conflict Resolution.
In his application to Prospect Burma for ongoing scholarship support, he told us “After I left the 4-year armed struggle in the jungle to continue my education in the United States, I have learned from my education that democracy and development, even peace, do not necessarily come just after the transition from authoritarian reign.”
Today, Min Zaw Oo is still a freedom fighter, but in a very different arena. He is at the forefront of peace negotiations, as the Director of the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security. He works alongside the government to establish peaceful ways of solving conflict. The ongoing work to create a peaceful future for the country is by no means a simple one, or one with an immediate outcome, but important work is happening now. In his application, he wrote:
“Not only the future but also the present gives us the opportunity to invest our skills and knowledge in our democratization movement.”