(Photo taken at an AU-organized protest in front of the Chinese Embassy against the Myitsone Dam Project.)
Although Burma held supposedly democratic elections in November 2010, the process was neither free nor fair, and the Burmese still live under an authoritarian regime. The country is ruled by former and active members of the military junta which perpetrates gross human rights abuses against the Burmese people. Nevertheless, the Burmese people remain strong-willed and have frequently exercised their right to freedom and happiness through non-violent protests.
On this trip, participants will work towards understanding the challenges faced by the Burmese people; additionally we will explore the human rights situation in Burma. Our main goal will be to learn from organizations that work to promote democracy and freedom through grassroots-level empowerment programs.
Since we are unable to travel to Burma, we will instead visit two cities along the Thai-Burma border: Chiang Mai and Mae Sot, both cities with large Burmese refugee and immigrant populations. Throughout the trip, we will meet with human rights NGOs, youth empowerment groups, democratic organizations, religious leaders, and several other organizations that strive to empower the Burmese people into becoming agents of change. The myriad of organizations, groups, and people we will meet will enable us to have an all-encompassing view and understanding of the current situation in Burma. Additionally, we will gain insight into the bottom-up process aimed at promoting democratic change within Burma, and affording basic freedoms to its citizens.
Finally, our knowledge and understanding of the issues will be reinforced by a hands-on service project and reflection sessions. This trip continues a long history of Burmese democracy activism at American University, including the founding of the US Campaign for Burma by an AU alum.
American University's Center for Community Engagement & Service: