Myanmar was chosen as the first country program because of the unique conditions of its rapid transition from military dictatorship to quasi-democracy. The past 50 years of brutal repression have crippled the legal system and prevented citizens from raising their voices. The recent political opening raised popular expectations and unleashed suppressed demand for rights and justice at the
level and among lawyers, media, students, and activists. Despite a lack of training and experience, there is tremendous enthusiasm for promoting the rule of law throughout civil society.
However, the political rhetoric has not led to the practical realization of human rights in people's daily lives. Growing grassroots demands for justice and the rule of law are running up against the reality of entrenched military and police power enshrined and protected under Myanmar's 2008 Constitution. Coercive land grabs take place regularly and community leaders are attacked, jailed and their land rights denied. Lastly, religious and ethnic minorities and women face threats from on going conflicts and ultra nationalist movement seeking to limit people's rights.
Justice Trust's Myanmar Program carries out the following activities to support grassroots demands for justice, human rights and rule of law:
Thwet Thwet Win
"I didn't seek out to become a land rights activist, but when those in power take what is rightfully ours by force with little regard for our community's concerns, I knew we had to do what we can and demand justice."
Daw Thwet Thwet Win is a third generation farmer and is one of the key community activist leaders in her region (Letpadaung) of middle Myanmar. She is a vocal advocate for land rights in Myanmar.
She along with others in her community has had their ancestral farmland forcibly taken by the government due to an international mining project.
Daw Thwet Thwet Win has fought for justice on behalf of her community. She was one of many who were injured when the authorities deployed phosphorus weapons against peaceful protestors.
Robert San Aung
"Rule of law is something that we all must strive for to realize in Myanmar. And no matter how much those in powers try to resist, we all must persist in calling and working for change."
U Robert San Aung is a former student activist leader, political prisoner turned activist lawyer. He was called to the bar in 1982 and has spent his entire career taking on high profile political cases and defending other activists and journalists from being prosecuted by the military regime.
Robert is renowned for his commitment to his clients and is an outspoken advocate calling for rule of law in Myanmar. He has been imprisoned numerous times but none of these efforts by the military has deterred him from continuing his courageous work.
Davi Thant Cin
"As environmental activists, our role is to ensure that development in Myanmar is done in manner that doesn't harm the powerless communities. Unfortunately, development projects in Myanmar are done with little or no regard for the communities affected."
Daw Davi Thant Cin is one of the most well-known and respected environmentalists in Myanmar. She worked for the Ministry of Ecology but was forced to retire in 1990 due to her environmental activism. Her articles have been published in numerous national magazines and journals. Daw Davi Than Cin produces the bi-monthly Aung Pin Leh Magazine to help raise public awareness about environmental issues in Myanmar. She is also a founder of Myanmar Green Network. The organization works with grassroots communities to document environmental degradations and do advocacy work on their behalf.