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  • There are many incredible, inspiring leaders in Burma, these are just a few:

dasskleadAung San Suu Kyi

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is one of the world's most renowned leaders, championing the rights of individuals, freedom and democracy in the face of a brutal dictatorship in Burma. The Burmese people call her "mother", indicative of the important and endearing role that she plays in her country. It has been 24 years since she was thrown into the midst of the country's biggest political upheaval. She has spent over 15 of the last 24 years under house arrest.

Born on June 19th 1945 in Burma, she is the daughter of the country's independence hero, General Aung San. She was only two years old at the time of her father's assassination. As her mother was the Burmese ambassador to India and Nepal, Suu Kyi was always on the move, and she received her education in Burma, India, and the United Kingdom.

In 1988, while living in London, she returned to Burma to attend to her ailing mother, and was thrust into the forefront of the country's nationwide uprising, often referred to as the 8888 Uprising. She joined the newly-formed opposition political party, National League for Democracy and became the General Secretary of the party. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made several public appearances, gave speeches and campaigned far and wide calling for freedom and democracy while exposing the Burmese military regime for its lack of legitimacy and competence.


Watch Her Speeches

Watch videos of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's speeches since her release in Nov. 2010


National League for Democracy

Visit the website of the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's party the National League for Democracy



khun tun OoKhun Htun Oo

Khun Htun Oo is recognized as the highest political representative of the Shan. He was a political prisoner between 2005 and 2012. Htun Oo, an ethnic Shan, was born on September 11, 1943. In the 1990 parliamentary elections he stood at the head of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) party, which gained 23 seats. However, the results were annulled by the military-government. After an unsuccessful attempt in 1998 to bring the military-government to negotiate with the NLD and SNLD about human and ethnic minority rights, Khun Htun Oo started urging all of Burma's political parties to boycott the SPDC. He did not shy away from being interviewed by Western journalists and publicly expressing his opposing views of the government. Eventually, in 2005, he was arrested and sentenced to 93 years in prison, following an unjust trial. Along with other fellow political activists he was released from imprisonment in January 2012.

(video: DVB - Interview with Khun Htun Oo after his release in 2012)

"The years in jail have made me more determined than ever to work for the people who had trusted me and elected me (in the 1990 general elections)." -2012


mknMin Ko Naing

The name "Min Ko Naing", meaning Conqueror of Kings, and he is one of the main public figureheads in Burma's struggle for democracy and human rights. Born in the Burmese capital of Yangon in 1962, Min Ko Naing became one of most prominent student leaders in Burma's country-wide pro-democracy uprising in 1988, because he managed to go beyond fighting merely for issues concerned with students, to become a proponent of the fight for human rights for the people of Burma as well. More than any other student leader at the time, Min Ko Naing managed to calm down the crowds in tense situations, to organize people for mass activities. Later, he was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment for triggering the "8888 Uprising". After being imprisoned for 15 years, he was released from prison and continued his pro-democracy resistance, organizing the 88 Generation Students group which greatly revitalized activism in the country. Finally he was re-arrested and sentenced to 65 years imprisonment for organizing a demonstration that gave rise to the Saffron Uprising. He was released again in January 2012. Min Ko Naing has won international awards for his efforts, such as the Civil Courage Prize 2005, the Homo Homini Award by People in Need Foundation, the Student Peace Prize in 2001, the John Humphrey Freedom Award in 1999, and the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in 2009. Despite all the years of imprisonment and torture he continues his fervent efforts as an activist leader of the 88 Generation Student group. 

(video: Prisoner of Conscience Appeal Fun - 2010)

"I would like to say this clearly and precisely today: we will not bow down our heads and take the injustice unchallenged" - RFA March 2006


kokogyiKo Ko Gyi

Ko Ko Gyi is known as a gifted strategist, and clear thinker. He is second-in-command to Min Ko Naing in the 88 Generation Students group. Ko Ko Gyi was also closely involved in the popular uprising on 8 August that year. He was first detained in April 1989 for about 6 weeks,then again in December 1991. He was eventually released in March 2005, after spending more than 13 years in prison. During a brief period that he spent outside of prison, between 2005 and 2007, he continued his agenda of bringing human rights and democracy to Burma and publicly spoke out against the military government. He helped organize the protests in 2007 that led to the Saffron Revolution. This resulted in another imprisonment, from which he was released in January 2012 along with other fellow political activists.

(video: Ko Ko Gyi's message to ASEAN People's Forum 2012)

“More needs to be done. There is simply no other choice" - AFP March 2012 interview


zipporahNaw Zipporah Sein

Zipporah Sein is a Karen political activist who has been living in Thai refugee camps since 1995. Zipporah Sein was born in 1955 and worked as a teacher before she had to flee Burma in 1995 to Thailand. As a child she was heavily exposed to the ongoing battle between the Karen and the Burma Army. Having experienced the hardship her mother went through to secure the survival of her and her seven siblings during times of war and conflict, Sein's interest in women's rights was only natural. From 1998 to 2008, Sein served as coordinator and executive secretary of the Karen Women's Organization. Her mission was to provide Karen refugee women with prospects for the future. Since 2011, Sein has been Secretary General of the Karen National Union, the political representation of the Karen people.

(video: VJ Movement interview June 2011)

"Our concerns must be brought to the negotiating table, and the abuses we have suffered must be redressed and prevented once and for all" - February 2012


cynthiaDr. Cynthia Maung

Dr. Cynthia Maung, widely considered as the Mother Theresa of Burma, was born on 6 December, 1959 in a small village near Moulmein, Karen state, Burma. She is renowned for her dedication and work as a doctor in Mae Sot, Thailand; founding and running the Mae Tao Clinic where she and fellow physicians treat over 150,000 Burmese refugees every year, free of charge. Fleeing General Ne Win's oppressive regime and Burma's military dictatorship, Dr. Cynthia Maung made her way to Thailand in 1988. With a passion to help other Burmese refugees fleeing to Thailand from persecution and human rights abuses by the Burmese military regime, Dr. Maung began treating patients with minimal supplies and a staff of only 6 people. The focus of the clinic when it first started was on treating basic communicable diseases such as malaria and pneumonia, and has grown with time to specialize in reproductive and maternal health, with over 2,700 babies being born at the clinic every year. Dr. Cynthia Maung has won six international awards for her courage and work and was named one of Time Magazine's Asian Heroes in 2003.

(video: BPP - 2006)

Learn more and support the work of Mae Tao Clinic:


bawkjaBawk Ja

Bawk Ja is the current Kachin State chairperson for the National Democratic Force (NDF) political party. She first rose to national prominence three years ago as a leading member of a group of 150 farming families who sued the Yuzana corporation and its notorious chairman for expropriating their land in the fertile Hugawng Valley. Ultimately Bawk Ja and her fellow farmers court action failed.  Bawk Ja briefly went underground in January 2011 after Northern Regional Command, Brig-Gen Zeyar Aung issued an arrest warrant against her in an apparent attempt to stymie her efforts to seek redress for her fellow farmers. She ran for a seat in parliament in the 2010 elections but lost to military supported candidate. She decided to run again the the 2012 by-elections, but elections were cancelled in Kachin areas. She runs many social welfare programs in Kachin state to help people. 



2012 NED Democracy Award Recipients

View information and videos on the five 2012 NED Democracy Award Recipients. They include: Hkun Htun Oo, Aung Din, Dr. Cynthia Maung, Kyaw Thu, and Min Ko Naing.