When I was released from jail [in 2012] I saw some changes in Rangoon. But what I heard from the information and the news from my family who live in Rakhine State, the situation for them became… there was no change and it even got worse. [In 2011, Burmese President Thein Sein began enacting a reform agenda that has eased government restrictions on civil liberties and opened more political space for opposition parties. Rakhine State is a region in Burma situated on the country’s west coast. Since 2012, ethnic tensions between Burmese Buddhists and Muslims (Rohingya) in Rakhine State resulted in a series of violent episodes.]
And also, when I talked with a friend from another part of Burma [I heard that] there was no change. That is one of the reasons that as soon as I was released from jail, I engaged in political activities and youth activities. And also I continued with my studies. Because I had to delay my education for seven years [after being a political prisoner].
And then, in 2012, in June, there was violence in Rakhine State. And the situation, even after one month, became even worse and worse. Many people were killed. Many were arrested. And many were forced [to camps], to relocate.
And the hatred among the two communities, Muslim and Buddhist, in Burma is rising. Because of a lot of propaganda and also because of the continuation of violence. [Since 2012, ethnic tensions between Burmese Buddhists and Muslims (Rohingya) in Rakhine State resulted in a series of violent episodes.]
So I was thinking: what I can do? How can I get involved in this to solve the problem and to have a solution?
And I decided to form a women’s organization.
I saw that women in that area were very weak, they were very vulnerable due to the situation and the education.
So I was thinking that if I empowered the women from our community and also women from the rest of the communities, [if I] put them together and made them friends and built trust, then [we could] aim to build peace in Rakhine State and the rest of Burma.
With those purposes I founded the organization: Women’s Peace Network Arakhan. And now I am doing a lot of activities to get peace in Rakhine State and to get fair holistic and constructive solutions for everyone in Rakhine State.
Mostly what we are doing is giving training, giving political education training and civil education training and peace building training. And also English [language] training.
Why are we doing training? We don’t do training for only Rohingyas or only Muslims or only a particular group. First we put them in an English [language] class to be able to have a relationship, and then we ask them if they are interested in other political classes. If they are interested in joining other political classes, then we put them in the political classes. Then they have more chances to talk about politics and the suffering and [they can] build trust.
This way I hope we can have more… we are able to build more networks and more friendships with the rest of the people.
We are also engaging in other kinds of activities. For example, interfaith activities and workshops, [things] like that. Mainly focusing on the youth, women. Like that.
Anyway, we hope that if the society builds trust, if the society is united, it could be much easier to get a solution. If the society is divided… we are made to be divided, that is why we have conflicts. We need to reconstruct the society to have unity and trust.