Friday, March 7, 2008

Press Release

The Homo Homini Award 2007 goes to three Burmese opposition female activists

Prague, March 5, 2008 – People in Need, a leading non-governmental organization in Central Europe, has presented the Homo Homini award today. This award for significant contribution in the field of human rights in 2007 was bestowed upon three Burmese women activists: Su Su Nway, Phyu Phyu Thin, and Nilar Thein. These women were heavily involved in the organization of last year’s pro-democracy protests in Burma. The award was presented by Vaclav Havel upon the occasion of the opening

ceremony of the One World Film Festival. Former Czech president expressed hope that the reception of the award will morally strengthen all three activists. “I know from my own experience how important international solidarity is for those who are unjustly persecuted for their political belief” he added. Burmese political prisoner Lae Lae Nwe, who spent four years in jail, accepted the award on their behalf. “The award is not only for those women activist but also it is for the people of Burma who struggle for democracy and freedom in my country” she said. The presented award included a photograph by Karel Cudlín taken during the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989, symbolizing that authoritarian regime can be overthrown. The photograph was signed by Vaclav Havel.

The executive board of People in Need decided to honor the women activists for their outstanding courage in openly challenging the brutal military regime in Burma. “With this year’s award, we wish to acknowledge the efforts of all women who fight to restore democracy in this country,” said Igor Blaževič, director of One World Film Festival. Women are an essential part of the Burmese democratic opposition and they are as severely punished as men for their activities. More than 130 women were detained for their involvement in the protests between August and November 2007.

This is currently the situation of one of the laureates, Su Su Nway, who is currently detained in Rangoon’s notorious prison, Insein. Award winners Phyu Phyu Thin and Nilar Thein are wanted for their part in the organization of the protests and are currently in hiding at an unknown location. “Our collaborators have confirmed that all three women have been informed about being granted the Homo Homini award,” said Marie Peřinová, head of Burmese projects at People in Need.

The award was officially presented today at the gala opening of the One World Human Rights Documentary Film Festival. The ceremony was attended by many important figures of Czech cultural and political life such as deputy prime minister, minister of culture, mayor of Prague, and representatives of Burmese exiled groups like Min Zin – an opposition activist working for Radio Free Asia, and Soe Aung, a spokesperson of the National Council of the Union of Burma. From the hands of Václav Havel, the award was presented to Lae Lae Nwe, former political prisoner, who accepted the award on behalf of the three honored women. Lae Lae New now lives in Thailand where she works for the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.

Profiles of the three laureates are attached below. Should you require any further information, please use the following contacts:

Marie Peřinová, head of Burmese projects, People in Need
+420 777 787 975,
Jan Líska, coordinator of Burmese projects, People in Need
+420 777 787 369,

Profiles of laureates:
Su Su Nway is a member of the National League for Democracy. She was the first Burmese national to successfully sue local governmental officials over the issue of forced labor in 2004. As a result, she was harassed by Burmese authorities and jailed for 18 months. She was detained again in July 2007 for participating in a public praying session in honor of Daw Aung San Su Kyi’s release. In September 2007, she actively took part in the pro-democracy rallies. She managed to escape from a violent attempted arrest during one rally, but was later captured while hanging anti-governmental posters. She is currently being held at Insein Prison. Su Su Nway is a laureate of the NLD Human Rights Award (2005) and the John Humphrey Freedom Award (2006).

Phyu Phyu Thin is a member of the National League for Democracy. She operates a clinic in Rangoon that provides treatment, medicine, and counseling to HIV and AIDS patients who were turned away from public hospitals. She was first detained in 2001 for organizing a protest rally in support of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and again in 2007 for participating in a public praying session in favor of Daw Suu’s release. She actively participated in the September 2007 protests and subsequently was put on a governmental list of wanted persons. She is currently in hiding.

Nilar Thein is a member of the 88 Student Generation Group. She has already been jailed twice for her pro-democracy activities – first in 1991 and second in 1998 when she, rather famously, slapped a policeman trying to block her way during one of the anti-governmental rallies that she co-organized. She spent the next five years in jail. Once again, she played an active role in the September 2007 protests and has been listed by authorities as a wanted person. She was forced to part from her four-month old baby daughter and is currently in hiding.



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