E.U. Honors Myanmar Rights Defenders, Including Jailed Peace Activist

By Nyein Nyein 15 February 2019

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The European Union honored three Myanmar peace and human rights advocates, including jailed Kachin community leader Daw Nang Pu, with its 2019 Schuman Awards in Yangon on Thursday.

The other two recipients were peace advocate U Aung Kyaw Moe, who provided humanitarian aid to thousands of families after the 2017 Rakhine crisis, and lawyer U Robert Sann Aung, who often represents victims of human rights abuses.

Daw Nang Pu — a well known advocate for displaced people, gender equality and peace in Kachin State — is director of the Htoi Gender and Development Foundation and founder of the Kachin State Women’s Network.

“She has dedicated her life to helping some of the most marginalized members of the conflict-affected communities in Kachin,” said Denmark Ambassador John Nielsen at the awards ceremony.

“Her foundation has rescued, counseled and defended the survivors of sexual violence in conflicts. Through her work, women who lost family members due to decades-long conflicts in Kachin have been empowered to rebuild their lives and livelihood,” he added.

Nang Pu was sentenced to six months in prison in December along with two other ethnic Kachin for leading a peaceful protest calling for the rescue of thousands of civilians trapped by fighting between the Myanmar military and Kachin Independence Army. The Kachin communities also honored the trio with Kachin human rights awards this week.

“Nang Pu should be here today to accept this award,” said her sister-in-law Nang Bawk, who accepted the award on her behalf.

“She can’t, because she is in prison,” she said. “But Nang Pu shared her words. She thanks the E.U. for this honor even though she thinks she does not deserve such an award. She added that she will keep working for peace in Kachin State whether she is honored with such an award or not.”

The Schuman Award — named after former French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, one of the founding fathers of the European Union — was established in 2017 to recognize Myanmar citizens who foster positive change in their communities and promote democracy, rule of law, peace and human rights.

“The Schuman Award is given every year as recognition of those who dare carry the flame for others,” E.U. Ambassador Kristian Schmidt said.

He said the three winners “have decided to speak up for those who have no voice, those who are vulnerable, those demanding respect for basic human rights, not for themselves but for their fellow human beings,”

In 2017 the inaugural awards went to U Aung Myo Min of Equality Myanmar, Janan Lahtaw of the Nyein (Shalom) Foundation, and U Ko Ni, the slain lawyer and adviser to the ruling National League for Democracy.

Last year’s recipients were Ko Swe Win, chief editor of Myanmar Now, human rights activist Cheery Zahau, and women’s rights activist Daw Khin Than Htwe.