PROSPECT BURMA KEEPING THE FLAME OF EDUCATION ALIVE ISSUE 24
HISTORIC VISIT TO LONDON ©Homer Sykes
INSIDE 2 Chairman’s Editorial 3 Burma Watch 4 Daw Suu’s visit 5 Daw Suu’s visit 6
7 Launch of the Lady Gore-Booth Memorial Scholarships 8 How to Help
“I appeal to our friends and supporters all over the world to help Burma towards a sound future by giving generously to Prospect Burma.”
Aung San Suu Kyi
On her historic two-week visit to Europe, the first in 24 years, Aung San Suu Kyi met with political leaders in Geneva, Oslo, Dublin, London and Paris. Highlights included her long-awaited acceptance speech for the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, an honorary doctorate from Oxford University and addressing a joint session of the British Parliament. Throughout her tour, she called on Western countries to help Burma build its nascent democracy, reiterated calls for “cautious optimism” and “human-rights-friendly investments”, and stressed the importance of education.
PROSPECT BURMA Keeping the flame of education alive
Chairman’s Editorial Prospect Burma’s Chairman, Robert Gordon, gives his views I write this in the aftermath of Aung San Suu Kyi’s memorable visit to Britain.
The Viscount Slim OBE DL
Martin Morland CMG
Chairman Robert Gordon CMG OBE Vice-Chair
Prospect Burma was asked to work with the local Burmese community to organise the Royal Festival Hall cultural event on 22nd June at which Daw Suu addressed almost 3,000 of her fellow nationals. I don’t think London’s South Bank has ever witnessed such a spectacular collection of family groups from all corners of Burma, in their stunning gaung baungs, htameins, eingyis and longyis as well as a wide variety of ethnic nationality costumes.
Trustees Anna Allott OBE David Colvin CMG Dr Thein Lwin Daw Kyi Kyi May Guy Slater Sir Robin Christopher KBE CMG Lindy Ambrose Caroline Courtauld MBE
Executive Director Fraser Wilson MBE Development Director Programme Advisor
Beth Bluck Steph O’Connell
Prospect Burma Porters’ Lodge Rivermead Court Ranelagh Gardens London SW6 3SF Registered Charity No: 802615 Tel: 020 7371 0887 Fax: 020 7371 0547 firstname.lastname@example.org Editor Beth Bluck
At our private meeting with Daw Suu, we consulted her on Prospect Burma’s future plans: she is keen for us to continue the scholarship programme. But she would also like us to explore ways in which we can assist the huge task of reconstructing the Burmese educational system and bring in badly needed professional training. Looking ahead, one exciting development is the plan to transfer Dr Thein Lwin’s Thinking Classroom Foundation from Thailand to his home town of Bago. If all goes well, this should be up and running in 2013 and will lay the foundation for a truly modern teachers training college. Another success story showcased at the Royal Festival Hall is the rapidly expanding work of Prospect Burma alumnus, Dr Sasa, in Chin State, where his health training programme now reaches over 400 villages and is already having a measurable impact in reducing mortality rates from dysentery and other diseases. In July, I accompanied the first official UK trade mission to Burma in 16 years, which allowed me to meet the newly-formed Myanmar Scholarship Alumni Association. These talented individuals – many former Prospect Burma scholars – are, I hope, forerunners of a much bigger cohort of alumni who will be returning in the months and years ahead to lend their skills to the rebuilding of their country. There is still a huge amount to do. Last October, I noticed that the mood of cautious optimism in Rangoon lent rather to the side of caution. This July, the emphasis has shifted more towards optimism. With each passing month, the conviction is growing that the country really is committed to change. The challenges are immense: many political prisoners remain in jail, communal violence has erupted in Arakan, serious conflict continues in Kachin and Shan States, old mindsets have still to adjust in both private and public sectors. But a start has been made, and Prospect Burma will do its best to build on this.
BURMA WATCH Political events have continued to move at remarkable speed during the first half of 2012. The new government under President Thein Sein appears publicly committed to democratic reform. Aung San Suu Kyi won a parliamentary seat in the April by-election and was subsequently allowed to make her first trips abroad since 1988. Government ceasefires have spread to the majority of armed ethnic opposition groups. Western sanctions are being lifted. And prominent international visitors have lined up to visit the country, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Just a year ago, such events appeared inconceivable. There remain, however, many reasons for caution. There have been too many disappointments in Burma’s troubled history for naïve expectations now. In a world of “rogue states”, the Western strategy is to embrace President Thein Sein as a “reformer” to try and encourage the country’s military leaders away from their repressive past. Diplomats and democracy supporters hope that, in the long-term, such a stratagem will work. Already there is a new social energy in Rangoon and the main conurbations; the government is opening up the economy and many long-closed issues for discussion; and foreign institutions – from the World Bank to media and human rights groups – are seeking to set up office. On the other hand, opposition voices warn that reform is at a very tentative stage. Firstly, previous military-backed governments in 1962 and 1988 also offered compromise with opposition groups before imposing more years of military rule. And secondly, little has yet changed in the real detail of Burmese politics. The next general election is not scheduled until 2015, and it is unclear how Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy can make political impact in the meantime. The NLD has just 43 seats in a parliamentary system dominated by the military. Even more stark, despite the recent ceasefires, the loss of life in ethnic conflict has increased during the past year. Ethnic leaders claim that the country’s generals are playing “divide and rule”, using a combination of force and negotiation to increase military authority. Communal violence has erupted in the Rakhine state, while over 70,000 persons have been internally displaced during government operations against opposition forces in the Kachin and Shan states. Burma is not a land at peace. In time, advocates on the different sides believe that the present divisions can be healed. There has lately been more good news from Burma than in many years. But if reconciliation and progress are to be really achieved, then realism about the country’s socio-political needs will be essential. In many respects, Burma is now beginning at a kind of “Year Zero”. The country currently ranks third from bottom, next to Afghanistan, on the corruption index of Transparency International; it is 149th out of 187 countries in the UNDP Human Development Index; and it has the highest disease burden and numbers of displaced peoples of any country in the sub-Asian region. Against this backdrop, it is clear that the hard work is just beginning. 3
An Encounter with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Prospect Burma was asked by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to help organise an event for her to meet the Burmese community in the United Kingdom during her recent historic visit. With a little over three weeks’ notice, the doors of the Royal Festival Hall opened on June 22nd to nearly 3,000 Burmese who had travelled from all over the country to attend “An Encounter with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the People of Burma in the United Kingdom”. Daw Suu took a short time out to meet Prospect Burma’s Trustees and staff before addressing her people. The Burmese community put together a vibrant cultural performance of dance and song introduced by Zarganar and Htein Lin. We are grateful to the students and supporters who attended the event and sent us these happy memories, in prose and poetry, of a truly wonderful day. (Photos copyright Homer Sykes)
A Bright Star at South Bank Arriving at Waterloo this past Friday on a grey blustery morning, you would have been treated to a scene at South Bank awash with colour and joy. On the one hand were the ladies and gents dressed up to the hilt for Royal Ascot. In contrast, it was a case of East meets West, with the presence of excited members of the Burmese community at the Royal Festival Hall for 'An Encounter with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi'. They presented a stunning array of colour in traditional Burmese dress, admired by passers-by and staff on duty. These very proud Burmese with their uplifted spirits filled the air with a sense of exhilaration. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's unique influence wherever she and her message for peace and democracy pervade, once again offered hope for the future as well as the prospect of shared prosperity and ethical investment that is so crucial for this resilient nation. How wholeheartedly the audience sang their national anthem and applauded Aung San Suu Kyi for her eloquent speech. The cultural music and dance was remarkable emphasising Daw Suu Kyi's fervent belief not to forget one's roots, and the representation of the different ethnic groups symbolised the message of unity for all peoples of Burma.
“I want to tell you how much we enjoyed the occasion. When I said we, I meant the thirty-nine of us from Manchester and Greater Manchester who travelled by coach for the day. And others I met and talked to after the concert. We had a wonderful time listening to all the songs and dances. And of course listening to Daw Suu, talking to us, answering questions from the audience and just having her there seemed to be pure magic. To see her there right in front of us was almost unbelievable. I had thought there wouldn't be any change in my life time and I'm the same age as her. Then this; although I must say that like most of us, I'm very cautious. The most moving moment during the concert was when we stood and sang the national anthem led by Daw Mar Mar Aye and Daw Suu standing there and singing along. Then another song 'Khit Hsan' (new era). I was shivering and tears were running down my face. It was most unforgettable. Daw Suu when she came up on to the stage was sitting right in front of us. So what more could I ask. Thank you very much again and thank you very much for what you've been doing for Burma.” “I thank Prospect Burma for giving me the opportunity to attend the event. It was an overwhelming experience and unforgettable day for me. Singing the National Anthem without shedding tears was particularly hard for me as it has been nearly a decade since I left the country for education and it reminded me and reinforced me to go back to my country. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is an exceptionally amazing person and I was thrilled that I had the chance to see her and listen to her questions and answers. I feel motivated by seeing her, listening to her speeches on television. I felt my dream has been revitalised.” 4
And the People of Burma in the United Kingdom Surreal moments Yesterday, SHE the noble one came, To Royal Festival Hall in the rain Three thousand of her countrymen, women and children strain to see her, greet her, thank her, love her, hug her, Every one wished to do the same A saint among her own people A stateswoman, among politicians Of the day She's been feted, praised and admired Equally by Lords and Dames. Her advice: love thy host and be grateful But do not forget your language and be faithful I pinched myself. Is it a sweet dream? A fantasy? Is this real? Is she here? Overjoyed crowds spilled out Smiling, laughing, from the Hall A momentous occasion A milestone not to be forgotten At all that was yesterday Today, I went there again The same Royal Festival Hall no 'Lady' nor lords and dames But Venezuelan orchestra for all Plays A different theme. A different scene, a different day I walk around Re-living yesterday Seeing Burmese men with Dainty 'pasoes and gaung paungs' Ladies with colourful sarongs And flowers in their hair cheering They are nowhere to be found this evening Was that life's precious moment? Was that life's fleeting moment? I do not know
But Thames nearby flows as ever
THANK YOU ZOE AND JONATHAN for sharing your precious day with us. Zoe Sprigings, who
DO YOU HAVE A VENUE WE COULD USE? Every other year Prospect Burma hosts a Summer Event to raise funds, and for the past two years Bloomsbury Auctions has generously allowed us the free use of their premises, and star supporter, Tina Blick, has donated the catering. We urgently require somewhere in central London that can take up to 200 supporters for one night in mid-June 2013, where we can auction works of art and gifts over an evening of wine and canapés. If you have a venue or gifts that we can use as prizes or lots, please contact me, Beth@ProspectBurma.org. Thank you so much.
spent several months of her gap year staying with her aunt, Vicky Bowman, in Burma, married Jonathan Mitchell earlier this year. Their wedding guests were asked to send donations to Prospect Burma in lieu of gifts. A huge thank you to all those generous guests and to the happy couple.
Do it for Prospect Burma! Each year our scholarship committee has to turn away hundreds of Burmese students who are desperate for an education due to a lack of funds. Could you help us by raising money with a coffee morning, a book sale, a jazz evening? Or get your own page on www.justgiving.com and get sponsored to climb a mountain or grow a beard, dress up as a reindeer or go on a diet—just look what Katie and Emma did for us! Emma Johnstone and Katie Newman kept to a diet of rice and beans for five days to raise £377 through Just Giving for Prospect Burma. “Katie and I really wanted to raise money for Burma as we felt it was on the verge of great social change and wanted to help in any way we could. We are also interested in aspects of education - as we work at a think tank which looks into improving education in the UK as one of it's aims. We were really impressed with the scholarships you offer as well as the emphasis that Burmese students should come back to their country and use their learnt skills to improve Burma themselves.” Thank you!
Dominic Nardi, the husband of one of Prospect Burma’s alumni, visited Burma recently for the University of Michigan to deliver the Wallenberg Medal to Daw Suu. The humanitarian award is named after a U-M alumnus who saved tens of thousands of Jews near the end of World War II. Past recipients include the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Dominic met his Burmese wife when they were both studying at Georgetown University, and she is now helping Prospect Burma to keep in touch with our alumni in Burma and is on the board of the American Friends of Prospect Burma. (See page 8 for Giving from America.)
A New Coat of Paint Despite the soaring temperature, staff helped out with painting PB’s English Language and Computer Training School in Delhi during the summer break. The school has just started its second semester and we are profoundly grateful to all the volunteers teaching English conversation classes.
A big round of thanks to Dr Aung Kyi Myint who sent us his recording of the Encounter with Aung San Suu Kyi, and for the superb Burmese community committee we worked with in putting the event together, especially to U Uttara, Ko Aung, Htein Lin and Dr Win Naing, and to Liz Hoskyn from the Royal Festival Hall. 6
Launching the Pat GoreGore-Booth Memorial Scholarships Prospect Burma’s Vice-Patron, Lady Gore-Booth, died in her 90th year on February 2nd 2012. Archie Mackenzie, a friend of the Gore-Booths for 69 years, has given us permission to reproduce extracts from the obituary he wrote for The Times. “Patricia Gore-Booth was the wife of a former head of the Diplomatic Service, Lord GoreBooth, but performed some of her most distinguished services after her husband’s death. Paul Gore-Booth’s first ambassadorial post was in Burma, 1953-56, where he encountered numerous controversies that followed the country’s independence after the war. This, however, did not prevent the Gore-Booths from developing a deep attachment to the Burmese people, especially the family of General Aung San, Burma’s nationalist hero, who was assassinated before their arrival. His widow, Daw Khin Kyi, continued to play a prominent role in Burmese affairs, and when the Gore-Booths were appointed to the High Commission in India, in 1960, Daw Khin Kyi was already there as Burmese Ambassador. She and Patricia continued their friendship and when the military coup happened in Burma in 1962, Daw Khin Kyi, like thousands of other Burmese decided to send her children abroad for their further education. The Gore-Booths, who had returned to London, became guardians to Aung San Suu Kyi and her brother. They acted in loco parentis to Suu Kyi, and when she became engaged to Michael Aris, an Oxford don, it was from the Gore-Booth’s home that she set out for her wedding. At her funeral, the present British Ambassador, Andrew Heyn, arrived unannounced with a hand-written tribute from Aung San Suu Kyi.” Pat was involved in the foundation of Prospect Burma in 1989, and was a constant visitor to the tiny basement storeroom in which Prospect Burma has its office. She took a keen personal interest in the students, was a fount of information, a guiding light, and is deeply missed. The Pat Gore-Booth Memorial Scholarships were initiated by one of Prospect Burma’s staff donating their month’s fee to launch the fund, and since then, other Trustees and supporters have donated amounts ranging from £25 to £10,000. We have one Trustee waiting to donate £500 if we can find someone else to match his donation, and are looking for further donors to add their contributions to the fund. Cheques should be made payable to Prospect Burma, but please make sure to note that they are for the Pat Gore-Booth Memorial Scholarships. In the next issue of our newsletter, we will reveal the amount raised and the scholars you have enabled us to support in memory of a very special lady. 7
PROSPECT BURMA – HOW TO HELP Prospect Burma is a UK registered educational charity supporting scholarships for Burmese students. We are endorsed by Aung San Suu Kyi who contributes to us with money from her Nobel Peace Prize Funds. Last year we received 717 applications from Burmese students for scholarships and were able to award just over 150. That meant that over 550 Burmese students desperate for an education were turned away. Prospect Burma has several educational schemes to help young people realise their dream of a democratic Burmese society. Our long-standing Partners of Prospect Burma provide us with essential core funding for our work. Joining this key group at just £25 a month (more if you wish) gives us the secure support so vital to our work. The Adopt a Scholarship Scheme costs £800 per part-scholarship per year or £3,500 per full scholarship and lets benefactors support scholarships in specific areas of study, providing muchneeded targeted support for individual students. We also have an Institutional Partner’s Scheme costing £2,000 per year for organisations wishing to support us. You can make donations to us by phoning or writing, or on our website and get your own free webpage using www.justgiving.com So PLEASE if you are going to climb a mountain, write a will, cross a desert or dance across England, please do it in aid of the many students who are hoping for an education and a future, and pledge it to Prospect Burma. Please send your donations, payable to Prospect Burma, to the address on page 2. If you are a UK taxpayer, signing a Gift Aid form with your donation, increases the value of your gift by 25% at no extra cost to you. Our IBAN number is GB07RBOS 161725 10019933 and SWIFT code is RBOS GB2L.
“I was very moved by the material you sent - clearly Prospect Burma is a wonderful cause. I’m signing up to be a regular donor and have completed the Gift Aid form.”
WHAT YOUR GIFT WILL PROVIDE £25,000
Supports our English Language Training School for desperately poor Burmese refugees in Delhi
English teaching in Kachin State for one year
for Institutional Partners for one year
Adopt a Scholarship for one student for one year—part grant
to cover a British Council scholarship in Rangoon for one year
to become a Prospect Burma Partner
towards training a teacher
GIVING FROM AMERICA There are two ways in which our supporters in America can make donations to Prospect Burma. The first is by making cheques payable to “American Friends of Prospect Burma” which has US501c(3) status, and sending them to Zali Win, Treasurer, at P O Box 257, Accord, New York, 12404. Alternatively, Prospect Burma is supported by the American Fund for Charities, a US501(c)(3) non-profit organisation EIN 52-2109597. Donations to the American Fund for Charities from US taxpayers are tax deductible to the extent allowed by US law. Prospect Burma has been reviewed by the American Fund for Charities and the Board of the American Fund has determined that Prospect Burma is a suitable organisation to receive grants from a US public charity. For further information please see: www.americanfund.info