Myanmar Speakers Stress Importance of Supporting Grassroots Efforts
Last month Pangea member Therese Caouette hosted a lively and informative update on Myanmar for 20 Pangea members and friends. Two featured speakers from Myanmar provided firsthand descriptions of the current political and social context in the country.
Pwint Htun came to the US in the eighties, studied electrical engineering and telecommunications. She has pioneered and been the architect for Myanmar’s digital financial services industry which has brought a large percentage of the rural poor out of isolation. Pwint reported that 83% of households at this time have access to cell phones and can transfer money cutting out the middle-man. This development has allowed dollars to flow more easily to grassroots organizations as well as to provide opportunities for digital learning.
Zau Bawk, the second speaker, came to the US nine years ago to flee the violence in Myanmar having witnessed five of his family members being killed. He is an active member of the Seattle Myanmar community. He reported that Aung San Suu Kyi, the President of the country, has little power and gave up sanctions against the military too soon. Although Burma receives more aid than anywhere in the world, the aid is not distributed to the ethnic minority communities.
The good news is that despite the continued repression and corruption in the country, both Pwint and Zau Bawk affirmed the importance of Pangea’s support of small organizations. They stated that there is much to be done at the grassroots level and that communities are actively engaged and committed to working together to affect change.