Dec 21, 2009

Shan: Youth Receives Leadership Award

Sample ImageA young Shan human rights activist, Sai Hsen Phan aka Shang Pun, was presented yesterday with the Sao Thusandi Leadership Award by the humanitarian organization Burma Lifeline, recognizing his efforts in the struggle to bring peace and democracy for his homeland, Shan State of Burma.

Below is an article published by: Shan Herald Agency 

The award giving ceremony was held yesterday, 20 December, in Chiangmai, Thailand. Sai Hsen Phan is the second recipient.

This award was established in 2008, to honor young people from Shan State who are committed to taking a leadership role in establishing a democratic, peaceful, and thriving Shan State. The recipients must have a desire to live in Shan State when that becomes possible. This award, worth $3,000, will be given annually by Burma Lifeline, according to its statement.
The reasons for choosing Sai Hsen Phan, according to an organizer of the event include his numerous trips in and out of Shan State in areas controlled by the Burma Army for over a decade, as a backpacked medical worker.  

The most well known of his efforts was “Deserted Fields”, a report on how hundreds of acres of rice fields in Mongnai township, central Shan State were confiscated by the Burma military in 2001. Furthermore, he was also one of the members who made a documentary called “Dispossessed” which highlighted the three-year [1996-1998] long forced relocations of 1,500 villages in central Shan State, comprising at least 300,000 people, of whom no less than 660 were killed by the Burma Army.

“This award is for all members of my organization, Shan Relief and Development Committee (SRDC), and to all the people from Shan State,” said Hsen Phan.

The same organizer, who is related to the Burma Lifeline founder Sao Thusandi added, “He is hard working, good natured and friendly. Never afraid to speak his mind even to donors. An outstanding leadership model.”

The first recipient was Sai Phu Murng, one of the founders of the Migrant Justice Program of the Human Rights Development Foundation (HRDF).

In addition, the awards also aim to “encourage and support the awardees in their work to uphold local customs and culture and to inspire others in Shan State to follow their example in pursuit of a democratic society in their homeland.”

The organization and the award founder is Inge Sargent from Austria, who was once married to Sao Kya Seng, the last ruling prince of Hispaw, northern Shan State. She is respected by the Shans people as Mahadevi (Celestial Prince) and is known as Sao Thusandi.

She was forced to return to her country with her children when her husband, Sao Kya Seng was arrested by the Burmese military during the coup in 1962. Before her return, she was also placed under house arrest by the Burmese military. As for Sao Kya Hseng, he was never seen alive or dead since.

In 1994, she published a book called “Twilight over Burma”, about her Burma experience. One year later, she established the Burma Lifeline, which is dedicated to raising funds to help refugees from the tyranny in Burma to survive in neighboring countries (principally Thailand).

Since the establishment, the organization has been sending funds to aid refugees and migrants along the Thai-Burma border and also providing aid to victims of last May’s Cyclone Nargis in the Irrawaddy Delta, as well as victims of the famine in Chin State like basic medical care and education programs.