We stand by the Burmese people in their quest for democracy and freedom. Listen to our podcasts to hear from activists, artists, leaders, monastics, fighters, authors, and more to learn more about what's really happening in Myanmar.
Resisting Until Victory
Episode #191: Myra Dahgaypaw was born in a camp for internally displaced persons in Karen State. Yet there was no safety there. From infancy, she had to flee with her family to escape violence, facing gunfire, airstrikes, and landmines. No matter where they stopped, the Burmese military found them and forced them to flee again. Myra wondered why this was happening to her and her family, and began to see the Bamar people as monsters.
Her parents died before she was a teenager, and she was raised by extended family in a Thai refugee camp, where safety was still elusive due to cross-border attacks launched by the military-aligned Democratic Karen Buddhist Army. But Myra's thirst for education pushed her to learn English, leading to work as a librarian in Thailand.
Her work eventually got her a ticket out of the camps to Washington, DC, where she works with the US Campaign for Burma, whose focus is uniting the diaspora and rallying both government and grassroots support. She highlights the urgent life-or-death situation in Burma and urges international intervention.
“No matter what we say here, no matter what we advocate for, we can still go back to bed at night and sleep peacefully. I know people in Burma are not having this luxury. Next time they're killed, they're beheaded, they're put in jail… just because they are fighting for freedom, they are fighting for their rights and the rights of the people, the civilians of Burma.”
Grahame White, Part 1
Episode #190: A carefree Australian surfer, Grahame White’s life changed dramatically on a chance encounter with Hermann Hesse’s, Siddhartha. After reading it, he decided to practice breathing based on a short line in the text. What happened next blew him away. “The mind became very bright and luminous after about five minutes and I said, ‘Oh, this is better than drugs!’” Grahame then practiced Buddhist meditation in the Mahasi style at a monastery offered by the Thai Embassy in London, before heading onto Bodhgaya and ordaining there as a monk.
At Bodghaya, he learned about an Indian vipassana teacher, S.N. Goenka, and Grahame made plans to go to the Tibetan monastery in Ladakh where Goenka would be conducting his second ever course.
Those days in Bodghaya were an amazing time. He met Joseph Goldstein and Munindra, among many other names who would become prominent in Dhamma circles. Goenka soon announced his intention to come there to conduct a series of courses. Even among all the other spiritual teachers he was encountering at the time in India, he found that Goenka stood out in a remarkable way. “I feel as though Goenkaji just had a presence about him from his meditation practice,” he commented, adding that his strong personality and humility also stood out. He spent long periods in Goenka’s presence, and listened to Goenka and Munindra converse for many hours on the Dhamma.
In those days, Goenka courses were intense, but quite relaxed. But little by little, Grahame felt an emergent “fundamentalism” in the organization as it rapidly grew in size, which made him uncomfortable, and so he returned to his Mahasi practice.
In 1973, Grahame made his first visit to Burma. With only 7-day visas given to foreigners, he practiced briefly at the main Mahasi monastery, where he studied under Sayadaw U Janaka.
Mahasi was also gaining a growing interest among Westerners, and when Grahame finally made it back to Australia, he began to involve himself with supporting Mahasi courses there. He eventually stepped into the teacher role himself, which will be the subject of Part 2 of our interview with him.
The French Connection (Bonus Shorts)
Episode #189: Nan Su Mon Aung took on a significant role to support her country and government by agreeing to become the NUG Representative in France. Despite acknowledging the challenges and responsibilities that come with the position, she embraced it with determination. Nan Su Mon Aung's mission is to inform French society about the situation in Myanmar, represent Burmese citizens in France, and foster communication between the NUG and French organizations.
She expresses gratitude for the support provided by the global Burmese diaspora while recognizing the sacrifices made by those in the resistance movement who are on the ground. Nan Su Mon Aung highlights the ongoing struggles faced by people in Myanmar, such as arrests and ongoing human rights violations. Having grown up under previous dictatorships, her aspiration was to provide freer and more open education to Burmese youth. She aimed to encourage critical thinking and create a learning experience similar to that of international universities. However, her plans were disrupted by the coup.
Nan Su Mon Aung also discusses her mixed, Karen/Pa’O background and the ethnic divisions still present in Myanmar. She praises the younger generation for their acceptance of diversity and their awareness of human rights and equality, and chalks it up to their easy access to information, which sets them apart from previous generations. She also emphasizes the global nature of the conflict in Myanmar, urging outside observers to recognize the involvement of Russia and China and the threat it poses to neighboring countries and the international community. Nan Su Mon Aung believes in the importance of eradicating dictatorship worldwide and encourages support for the ongoing revolution.
“As long as we don't lose hope in our revolution, we are already winning. And we should be believing in it, because our revolution should prevail
Picturing a Revolution
Episode #188: Min Ma Naing, a photojournalist and narrative visual artist, stumbled onto her path accidentally. While studying in Hong Kong, she often went to a park to take a break from the strain, where her innocent smiles were misconstrued by men. To deter unwanted advances, she carried a camera, igniting a passion for photography.
After attending an intensive international reporting training, she ventured to Meiktila, a town marred by religious tensions. In contrast to the media’s usual focus on the negative, she wanted to find positive stories to cover, and after further media training, she returned to Meiktila to do just that.
Employed by The Myanmar Times, disillusionment set in, not only with the media’s focus on the negative angle of stories, but also gender bias in the newsroom. So she began to explore the field of documentary photography.
Min Ma Naing ended up spending extended time living in Bangladesh, where she very much felt like an outsider. So when she ended up serendipitously meeting some Somali exiles there, she realized they both shared the experience of being outsiders. This led to a project she called “Jigsaw,” which shared many diverse, individual stories of displacement.
Her portfolio then expanded to encompass diverse topics, including nunnery life and human trafficking, as well as more personal stories, such as one project exploring a failed relationship. But the military coup in February, 2021, dramatically shifted her focus. Through film photography, she captured the diverse perspectives of those opposing the coup. Her stories explored the individual experiences of ordinary people because it was, after all, a people’s revolution.
The coup upended her life, and after surviving some close calls as a protester, she realized that the military would be coming for her sooner or later. She finally fled the country, with her family’s blessing, although her sister remains in prison to this day.
Now in living in safety, her art has become a double-edged sword, reminding her of her privilege in being in a place of safety and escaping arrest. Seeking healing, she began to chronicle her emotions in visual diaries on the advice of a therapist, which later transformed into poignant handmade books that help her bridge the emotional chasm caused by her exile and love of her country.
Min Ma Naing continues today to give a voice to her country’s vulnerable population who are struggling to be heard. Yet, she notes, “I don't like the term like a voiceless. We were not able to hear it, but they have their voice, and we [just] fail to hear it.”
A Light at the End of the Tunnel
Episode #187: Guillaume de Langre, a former adviser to the Myanmar Ministry of Electricity and Energy, paints a bleak picture of the country’s multiple, overlapping, energy crises. He describes how the junta's inadequate governance and years of mismanagement under past military regimes have exacerbated the situation. Today, power cuts are becoming more frequent, causing the spoilage of food and vaccines, business closures, and postponed surgeries, among many other disruptions.
De Langre points out that approximately 50% of Myanmar's power comes from gas they produce, but a resource expected to run out by 2030. this poses a critical challenge for the country's economy. Importing gas or transitioning to alternative energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower requires significant investment and time, both of which the current regime lacks. Foreign investor trust eroded after the coup, leaving energy projects abandoned. De Langre underscores the dire, society-wide consequences of failing to address the energy crisis.
De Langre notes that the military's primary interest is in securing foreign currency and funding, rather than developing energy for the people’s benefit. As a way out of the current energy crisis, and to build a better future, he suggests a transition to solar and wind energy along with hydroelectricity, coupled with rebuilding investor trust. However, the military's history of neglect hinders any possibility of progress in this area. Still, De Langre envisions a possible silver lining in this challenging period – an opportunity to reimagine a decentralized, renewable, power grid. But this would take an awareness and a shift in the current authorities’ priorities, something not likely to happen.
In closing, de Langre highlights the economic aspect of Myanmar's tragedy, which is often overlooked in light of the many other atrocities continuing to take place. “It is a massive opportunity cost for the development of regional unity and stability! It is a massive opportunity costs for keeping that qualified labor in Myanmar… that’s really critical to the economic freedom of people of households of individuals of businesses.”
A Double Minority
Episode #186: “The term ‘double minority’ simply means a ‘minority within minority,’” Christopher Win explains. “Rakhine is an ethnic minority group in Myanmar, and Maramagyi is an even smaller group than the Rohingya! I'm from that small minority group, and I work as an ethnic rights activist.”
The Maramagyi have faced discrimination and marginalization from the larger Rakhine and Rohingya communities, as well as severe restrictions placed on them from the Burmese state. Despite these challenges, Christopher has been involved in activism, documenting human rights violations and collaborating with organizations such as the UN Human Rights Office.
He views the issues faced by the Maramagyi as part of an "ethnically patriarchal system," where dominant ethnic groups oppress smaller ones. Christopher believes that smaller ethnic groups should unite to amplify their voices and push for their rights through a new federal charter, rather than narrowly seeking freedoms for their own groups alone.
The military coup in Myanmar has brought greater awareness to the ethnic struggles that were previously ignored or misunderstood by the majority Bamar population. Christopher sees a positive shift in the Bamar perspective, as they now recognize the importance of federalism and respect for ethnic diversity.
Christopher was politically active after the coup, which put him in the crosshairs of the dreaded Special Branch. So he had to make his escape, and eventually found his way to Washington, DC. Here, he joined the General Strike Committee of Nationalities, a group working towards a unified resistance against dictatorship and advocating for the rights of Myanmar's diverse ethnic groups.
“We’re making especially Bamar people understand that Myanmar is extremely diverse country and our rights have long been violated. We're experiencing all these atrocious acts every day, but since people of Myanmar are determined, and they are on the right path, I am hopeful that we will win eventually, because we never had this sort of momentum in the past!”
Great podcast about Burmese Buddhism
A really nice podcast sharing stories about Dhamma practice in Myanmar.
Wonderful Bhikkhu Bodhi interview
What a thought-provoking interview with Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi. No easy answers but i hope than in-country Burmese Buddhists both monks and lay-persons who have the opportunity to hear him or read a translation will benefit from his observations and carefully thought out responses. I also commend the host for keeping the questions based on Burmese citizens’ real need for answers and not simply an intellectual exercise. Thank you for bringing in the Rohingya persecution. I was encouraged to hear that maybe some Burmese Buddhists have repented for their attitudes and silence. They are facing the wrath of the same entity that persecuted the Rohingya. It would be a positive if the civilian government that condoned and defended that genocide and are now in jail or hiding mulled this over.
Particularly Episode 31 the storyteller is all over the place. It seems his story starts in the middle. Doesn’t set context or provide details that lead up to what happened. Even when guided to do so is unwilling. He rambles and has difficulty getting to the story he is trying to tell. He sounds attached to rambling peripheral details.