Zin Mar Aung won the International Women Honor Award by the US State Department for her role in promoting the role of women in politics, leading the efforts of several NGOs to promote this work and to help secure a democratic future in Burma.
We set up a 2 camera shot to interview Zin Mar Aung right before she accepted her award at the State Department. The most difficult part of the shoot was getting the hotel to agree to give us permission to film the interview. They were great sports and so was Ms. Zin Mar Aung.
VOA’s Khin Myo Thet: You won the International Women of Courage Award from the US Secretary of State. Why do you think they chose you for the award?
Zin Mar Aung : They (the award committee) told me that I was considered for the award as I was a political prisoner, who had endured 11 years in jail, and today I still continue to be involved in political movements- promoting democracy, after being released. In addition, I promoted the involvement of women in politics. I also worked with other organizations when promoting the rights of minority groups and peace in Kachin area. They told me that is why I had received the award.
VOA: You’ve endured an 11 year prison sentence. Why were you imprisoned?
ZMA: It’s a simple answer. I took part in the 1996-1998 students’ movements. We distributed pamphlets, calling on the government to allow us to organize a student union. In 1998, the National League of Democracy ( Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party- the opposition party of Burma) called on the government to call an assembly within 60 days. We distributed the letters and poems, supporting the NLD. That’s why I was imprisoned.
VOA: What is your life like as a woman political prisoner?
ZMA: It’s like other men and women political prisoners in Burma. I was one of them. The difference is long term and short term. It’s clear how I spent my days in the prison. I wasn’t the only one. There are many political prisoners in Burma. We were detained not because of acting in misconducts but because of doing the right things we should do for our country. I wasn’t the only one imprisoned for this way. I did the right thing and my family also supports what I’m doing. Thinking of all those conditions, I spent my days in the prison.
VOA: 11 years in prison isn’t a short term experience, it’s a long sentence. You were imprisoned because of your political movement. Now after being released, you continue to work on politics? Can you tell me why?
ZMA: Those 11 years in prison made me continue to work on politics. 11 years was unfair for me. So much of our country suffers for detaining good people in the prisons. Our country will not develop until this system exists. So, our country must have democracy to stop this system. We need to have a democratic government and a democratic society. We have a lot to work on.
VOA: What do you think of the role of women in a political movement? How important are women in a political movement?
ZMA: It’s clear. Each sector where the women from more than half of the world’s population involve, each sector will develop. The more involved women are, the more developed each sector will be. Hence, the quality of women is important. The lower quality the women have, the level of the economic, health and politics of the respective country will also be lower.
VOA: What would be your plan after returning to Burma?
ZMA: I’ll visit Kachin State. I’ll go there with small organizations in our network. I want to give them the message that I mentioned above. In addition, I’ll open the role of women involved in politics. I’ll continue to work on education foundations that we already have.
VOA: So, there are many things that you’ll continue to work on. How do you feel being awarded the International Women of Courage?
ZMA: Actually, it’s a coincidence. It happened after they’ve met me in Burma. There are many pro-democracy activists like me. Fortunately, I could come here and was awarded. So, I have more responsibilities.
VOA: Thank you so much for joining us Ma Zin Mar Aung.
Producers: Khin Myo Thet; Kaye Lin
Reporter: Khin Myo Thet
Videographer: Kaye Lin
Editor: Kaye Lin
Production Assistant: Lwin Nyein Chan
Translator of Text: Kyaw Thein Kha