VOA Burmese Blog

May 8, 2012

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Awards Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with the Elie Wiesel Award

The Elie Wiesel Tribute dinner was held to honor leaders who have made a difference in their communities and for humanity. Elie Wiesel himself is a fellow Nobel Laureate and a Holocaust survivor who had seen the brutality of mankind during the Holocaust, yet his faith stayed intact. This year, the United States Holocaust museum bestowed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with the honor of the Elie Wiesel award for her struggle towards democracy in non-violent means as she continues to fight- unshaken.

Elie Wiesel: “She’s an extraordinary human being with ideals and ideas. And all of these ideals and ideas are all there- not only for her own sake but for her country. And beyond that, to all of the people- men and women – anywhere and everywhere in the world- where ever people suffer. She is part of my consciousness – of my moral obligations. She should know that she’s not alone.”

Like Elie Wiesel, Ms. Gerda Weissman Klein is a Holocaust survivor, and she has experienced atrocities unimaginable. As she recalls the cruelty of mankind during the time of the Nazis, she also remembers the strength and resilience of the Jewish people which gave her as well as others freedom inevitably.

Ms. Gerda Weissman Klein: ” You, Madame, so far away in Burma, must know that you have inspired all those who look to the moon and who look to you who has been the guiding stars to so many who have lived in peril and in slavery. I too, have been deprived of freedom for 6 years in Nazi, Germany. Emptiness can be so heavy. How cries of pain can be so silent, yet you Madame are in every heart, every thought- of those present here tonight and all those who have worked for freedom and to the millions who are still yearning for freedom.”

Despite the despair that the memory of the Holocaust brings, ultimately, the night echoed the theme of courage and hope. Actress, Natalie Portman bestowed the Elie Viesel award to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi by reading a speech of hers from her book,“ Freedom from Fear”.

Natalie Portman: ” Here is what she said: It is not power that corrupts, but fear. It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it…”

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had words of her own for the tribute dinner. She spoke via a pre-recorded video.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi: “There are certain things we must not forget, because we would not like these to be repeated in the future. And I thank and honor all of you who are trying to make known to the world- what should not happen again. And individuals can make all the difference- individuals who survive in spite of the greatest cruelty – in spite of the greatest trials and to teach other people that it’s possible to survive. And to you all who have not only survived but helped others to survive – by speaking of your experiences- and by teaching them how to be brave and how NOT to lose your integrity in the face of the greatest difficulty. I would like to say, “ Thank you. I honor you. I respect you. And I hope that I too will be able to be like you.”

With on going talks between the United States and Burma, White House Chief of Staff, Jack Lew spoke of the Lady of Burma.

Jack Lew: ” Many times Daw Suu could’ve decided that she had done enough that it was someone else’s turn to sacrifice. But she refused to give up. Instead she continued to inspire the entire world with her faith in nonviolent action and her belief that freedom would ultimately prove greater than tyranny.”

The dinner was a successful charity event, which honored the lives that were lost during the Holocaust and commemorated the past while at the same time reassuring that such a tragedy never happens again. As the United States and the Western world is reaching out to engage in Burma’s new transition to democracy, all eyes are on the Lady of Burma, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi with her extensive belief in the nation’s reform towards freedom.

English Version:

Burmese Version:

Producers: Thet Su Naing/ Kaye Lin

Assistant Producer: Lwin Nyein Chan Kyaw

Reporters: Thet Su Naing / Kaye Lin

Videography: Lwin Nyein Chan Kyaw / Kaye Lin

May 3, 2012

Interview with Priscilla Clapp- Former Charge D’ Affaires of Burma

Priscilla Clapp- Former Charge D’Affaires of Burma and current Senior Adviser to Asia Society, joins VOA’s Khin Soe Win to talk about Burma’s new reforms and what these reforms could mean for the future of the country. She also speaks about the challenges that Burma has to face in building this new democracy -which she explains is more than just rhetoric. She says that Burma is no longer a one man top down system-meaning, that the military is no longer the primary rule. There are different branches that have to be built and established in a democracy and it will take some time.
English Version:

Burmese Version:

The EU and the US Easing Sanctions on Burma

The United States and the European Union have said that it will follow and reward Burma’s democratic reforms, and they have been bargaining. As the new government led by President Thein Sein enacted in a series of democratic changes such as granting amnesty on some political prisoners and announcing greater press freedom, the United States, Australia, European Union including Norway, Britain have rewarded those reforms by lifting some long-standing sanctions against Burma.

During the 1990’s, the European Union and America imposed sanctions on Burma for its human rights abuses. Sanctions on Burma drove the country closer to its big superpower neighbor, China, and the Burmese government is looking forward to attract more foreign investors as analysts disclose the Burmese government’s growing exhaustion of China taking advantage of its resources. The videos show case the World Bank’s forum on Burma’s progress towards economic reforms discussing the removal of the sanctions and the humanitarian issues that still face the country.

English Version:

Burmese Version:

Burma’s Historic By-Election and the NLD Wins by a Land-Slide

Burma’s opposition party, the National League of Democracy won by a land slide in the historic by – elections on April 1st. The NLD won 43 out of 44 seats in parliament up for grabs. This is a milestone for Burma and its people where the lady of Burma, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi who was under house arrest just over a year ago, was guaranteed a seat in Burma’s parliament.

Daw Suu made a victory speech at the NLD head quarters just after the announcement of her win, and in her speech she noted the irregularities and some of the illegal campaigning that she had seen, saying that it will not be over looked. Despite it all, the NLD and Daw Suu came out on top winning 43 out of the 44 seats in parliament.

She spoke in both Burmese and English. Here are the speeches:

English Version:

Burmese Version:

March 26, 2012

No Look Pass- Basketball and The American Dream


No Look Pass is a film about one girl’s search into adulthood to find a sense of belonging in the world. Through basketball, Emily Tay finds peace and herself. Melissa Johnson, the director and producer of the film, No Look Pass initially went to Harvard to create a film on the basketball coach at Harvard, but shifted her storyline when she saw Tay play. Instantly, Tay’s talent and more specifically her story captivated Johnson and her film crew. Johnson says, “Emily Tay is a first generation immigrant from China Town, Los Angeles. She was never supposed to play basketball coming from Burma. Her folks wanted to keep her at home and wanted to keep her from the gangs in Chinatown. Finally she wore them down. She watched Allen Iverson’s tape until she mastered his move. As far as I know she is the best basketball woman Asian player in Los Angeles.”

While the film has humor, there is also tension in the film between Tay and her parents. Although, Tay sometimes clashes with her parents due to cultural values, she still attributes a lot of her success to her parents who came to the US for better opportunities for their children. Tay is now in Germany, playing pro basketball, and she talks to us via Skype about her struggle assessing to the different cultures. Tay states, ” I would be living a completely different life if my parents lived in Burma. They came to America with very little money and came to the US with the idea of the American dream and they use that as motivation. They sacrificed so much- sacrificed everything for my brother and me to go to Marlborough highschool and college.”

After the sacrifices of putting their children in one of the most expensive high schools in the US, one of the family’s biggest accomplishments was seeing Tay graduate from Harvard University, allegedly the most prestigious college in the United States. Emily’s dad was in tears as he talks about his daughter’s graduation at Harvard, “ When I was in Burma, I knew of one school in America- and that was Harvard. Now to see my daughter graduate from Harvard University, is a dream come true.”

Even after all of her hard work, Emily said she didn’t feel like she fit in at Harvard-coming from a different background than her classmates. She did what she could do to make extra cash even if it meant cleaning toilets. Tay remembers her life at Harvard, ” I felt a lot of pressure. It was definitely the most stressful time in my life, and I felt pressured to be successful. And to be around people who were brilliant and super rich, it was a tough environment to be around, especially coming from my background and having immigrant parents and not be as wealthy as everyone else. It was definitely tough.”

Basketball was her escapism to not just fin in but to just be herself and let go of all the other pressures. Tay recalls, “Basketball has done everything for me. It’s given me everything in my life- the opportunities to go to great schools- to travel the world and to live in Germany, and to live a very comfortable life. It’s been a really true gift for me.”

Emily’s story conveys the lives of many immigrant families who have the opportunity to come to America and see the clash of cultures between children and the parents- with the barriers of communication. The film captures the pursuit of the American dream, of cultural values and finding oneself, and how basketball is used as a tool to escape.

Producer :Kaye Lin

Reporters: Lwin Nyein Chan and Kaye Lin

Translator: Lwin Nyein Chan

Videography: Melissa Johnson/ “No Look Pass” the movie

Editor: Kaye Lin

Burmese Version:

English Version:

March 22, 2012

VOA’s 2nd Interview with Derek Mitchell -Reform & Opportunity

VOA correspondent, U Kyaw Zan Tha met with US Special Envoy to Burma, Derek Mitchell for the second time, and they discussed the importance of the upcoming by-elections on April 1st, the United States’ position on sanctions now as well as after the elections, the road to reform and the opportunities that lay ahead for the people of Burma. Mitchell says that the US is going to be, ” assisting reform and assisting the movement from the privilege of the few to the benefit of the many.”

Watch the full interview here:

( Full text will be transcribed soon…)

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