The military coup in Myanmar prompted a quick shift by major ethnic Burman political actors—including the National Unity Government (NUG)—to adopt the language of a “federal democracy” and commit to meaningful federal reform. While political uncertainty and repressive military rule persist, conversations continue about what political changes are necessary to enact meaningful decentralization, but also what complementary processes are needed within Myanmar society to counteract decades of entrenched discrimination and inequality. This discussion features panelists David Thang Moe (Asbury Theological Seminary), Naw May Oo Mutraw (Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego), and Dr. Sai Thet Naing Oo (Pyidaungsu Institute), and will be moderated by Htet Min Lwin (York University).
This event is supported by a grant from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada.
Register for the webinar: https://munkschool-utoronto-ca.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_c4pgL5biSFa-TFse8i1iMA
Htet Min Lwin is a doctoral student in Religious Studies at York University, Toronto. He received an MA degree in political science from Central European University, Budapest. As founding country director (2016-2020) of Forum of Federations Myanmar Office, he worked with many major stakeholders in Myanmar on federalism/decentralization and local governance. His interests are in the intersections of religion and politics, religious ideology, Buddhism, social movements, local democracy, decentralization/federalism, culture, Burmese political philosophy, and Southeast Asia.
David Thang Moe is a Ph.D. candidate in historical-theological studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, USA (originally from Mindat, Chin State of Myanmar currently under martial law). His research focuses on the politics of Buddhist nationalism, ethnic identity conflict, public theology of religions, liberation, and reconciliation in Southeast Asia. He is the author of a book, Pyithu-Dukkha Theology (2017), and has published over 70 scholarly articles in encyclopedia, edited books, and academic journals. He also has contributed analyses of Burmese politics of ethnoreligious conflict for academic and popular audiences in Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, Notre Dame’s Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, and others. He serves on the editorial teams of four academic journals. Moreover, he is a popular advocacy speaker. Following the coup, he has been invited to speak at Harvard, Columbia, Brown, Boston, Yale (where he shared a panel with former U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel), University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky University, University of Sydney, Australian National University, Oxford, Cambridge, Hamburg, Yonsei (where he shared a panel with the legendary Southeast Asianist political scientist James Scott of Yale on the comparison between South Korea’s Gwangju historical democratic movement and Myanmar’s current democratic movement).
Naw May-Oo Mutraw, a Women PeaceMaker Fellow (2021) at the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, University of San Diego, is a Karen born and raised in Burma. Mutraw is a graduate of San Francisco State University where she read Speech Communications. After serving as the first Women’s Affairs Coordinator of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (the then exiled government) in New York, Mutraw continued her graduate studies in public international law at Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington in 2000 and received a Master of Laws degree (LL.M). She was also a Snyder International Law Research Scholar at the Lauterpatch Research Center for International Law at the University of Cambridge. In 2005, Mutraw began her doctoral study in constitutional law and federalism at Indiana University Maurer School of Law and was working on a dissertation titled “Designing Constitution for Post-Conflict States: Burma.” Academically, her focus has always been on the emergence of democracy, peace, and nation-building of multiethnic states engaging in war against the ethno-chauvinistic military regime. In 2012, she returned to Burma to take part in the peace process. Mutraw serves as a Senior Policy Advisor with the Salween Institute for Public Policy, an Advisor to the Karen National Union, and a Technical Advisor to the Women’s League of Burma (WLB).
Dr. Sai Thet Naing Oo is research director at the Pyidaungsu Institute for Peace and Dialogues for the past eight years. He is a Shan ethnic and has been involved in the struggle for democracy, justice, and self-determination in Myanmar for more than thirty years. He has worked extensively in Myanmar’s Peace Process between 2014 and 2020 and was a key political negotiator for the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs). He has provided technical assistance in developing federal principles and constitution drafting work of several EAOs. He and his team have worked with several ethnic organizations in eight different states and regions to support their state constitution drafting processes. He received his Ph.D in political education from the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.