Student World Assembly Interview with U Pyinya ZawtaPosted by nancy
Student World Assembly Interviews Monk from Burma’s Saffron Revolution
Natalie Jesionka, founder of the nonprofit organization the Prizm Project, a partner organization of Student World Assembly (SWA) advocating female leadership, recently interviewed U Pyinya Zawta, one of the monks who helped lead the Saffron Revolution in Burma.
Natalie Jesionka is an independent filmmaker and media literacy advocate. She has produced documentaries about human rights issues such as illegal immigration, human trafficking, and gender discrimination throughout the world. Natalie sat down for a taped interview with U Pyinya Zawta, whom she has developed a close relationship with while traveling in Burma. U Pyinya Zawta discussed how the monks were involved in the Saffron Revolution and ways in which students can support the movement for democracy in Burma.
U Pyinya Zawta was instrumental in the anti-government, pro-democracy protests in Burma during the Saffron Revolution. During the interview Mr. Zawta gave some history of the Saffron Revolution. He explained that in 2007, a decision by the ruling junta to revoke food and fuel subsidies made price of these necessities rise by as much as 66% – a terrible burden on many already impoverished Burmese people. This action led to protests in the capital city of Yangon, soon blossoming into a mass demonstration in favor of democratic reforms. Buddhist monks, who are highly respected in Burma’s highly religious society, played leading roles in the massive street protests, sometimes referred to as the “Saffron Revolution,” – a reference to the saffron colored robes worn by Burmese monks. Today, the Burmese people remain firmly under the rule of the State Peace and Development Council –the official name for the cabal of powerful military leaders who exercise absolute power over the country.
In his interview, Mr. Zawta also discussed how students can get involved in the cause for Burma. He urged students to put pressure on the United Nations to take a firmer line against the Burmese military ruling Junta, and to call for the release of the many imprisoned Burmese student activists. In addition, the monks emphasized that all people should be responsible consumers, paying attention to which businesses they support, being sure not to support businesses that suppress citizens or invest irresponsibly with the Burmese government.
U Pyinya Zawta currently lives in US, where he has political asylum. He continues to conduct educational sessions and join protests in New York and around the country for those detained and fighting against the military government in Burma. He hopes that one day his country will have an accountable, democratic government.