Category Archives: Social

How to Support Myanmar’s Activists and Civil Disobedience Movement

Popularized by Thai protesters in 2014, the three-finger salute has become a prominent symbol against the coup in Myanmar. Photo by Gayatri Malhotra.

Khin Mai Aung shares how Buddhists and other allies can support Myanmar’s activists and Civil Disobedience Movement in the aftermath of the February 2021 military coup.

As Myanmar spiraled into chaos after a February 2021 military coup, the international Buddhist flock and other friends of the country who had been heartened by its transition to semi-democracy watched with mounting concern. To be sure, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been backsliding on civil liberties for a few years – with an exodus of over 700,000 persecuted Rohingya Muslims, an alarming rise in religious nationalism, surging discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, and targeting of political opponents with arrest.

But in the months since the coup, a widespread and rapid erosion of order and security has engulfed Myanmar, with scores of peaceful protestors gunned down, internet shutdowns, large scale targeting of journalists and media institutions, and a looming threat of all out civil war. The people of Myanmar – Buddhists and religious minorities, Bamar as well as ethnic minorities – collectively face a singular threat, the barbaric junta which has ruthlessly taken power despite a resounding loss in last year’s elections.

As international observers reflect on how to support Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement of boycotting government workers and brave protesters taking to the streets, Burmese community groups within the country’s diaspora and international Buddhist organizations have sprung into action. Partnering with vetted intermediaries in Thailand and Myanmar, these groups are dispersing aid in grants and in kind support on the ground within Myanmar.

The Clear View Project, a Buddhist nonprofit that funds social change and relief efforts from a socially engaged Buddhist perspective, is one such organization. In partnership with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), Clear View has conducted fundraising for relief projects, including for telecommunications equipment like SIM cards, personal protective equipment for protestors, medical and funeral expenses, and financial support for government workers boycotting the junta.

Clear View and INEB are also launching a new initiative specifically to support monks and nuns in the Civil Disobedience Movement. While these religious figures have not been categorically targeted, this initiative is directed at assisting those who participated in protests, some of whom are in hiding to avoid arrest. Clearview is also working with partners to organize a “Burma Spring” virtual film festival benefit in June 2021 to raise additional funds to support Myanmar activists. As of late April, Clear View and INEB had raised about $24,000 for their collective efforts, and donors can designate their preference for use of funds.

Hozan Alan Senauke of the Clear View Project recommends that American allies can also make a difference by lobbying the United States “to apply pressure on Thailand [to advocate] for humanitarian treatment of displaced people, for opening its borders, and for not repatriating them – that’s a place that via the State Department we have some agency.”

Clear View’s sister program, the Buddhist Humanitarian Project, provides targeted support to Rohingya refugees. Over the past few years, it has raised over $50,000 to support Rohingya in refugee camps and local communities. It has continued these efforts since the coup, especially as fires ravaged several camps in Bangladesh this year. Such support is critical as Rohingya refugees remain in squalid camps and are at risk of COVID without sufficient personal protective equipment, as the world’s attention has turned to the coup and conditions inside Myanmar. One bright point, Hozan Senauke points out, is that after the coup “the whole nation of Myanmar is a tuning itself into the Rohingya issue [and broader concerns about] the government and military’s brutal discrimination toward various ethnic groups.”

Buddhist temples and secular community organizations affiliated with the Myanmar diaspora and its allies have also stepped up efforts to support the people of Myanmar. Mutual Aid Myanmar is a non-partisan volunteer organization consisting of activists and academics that is raising money to disperse humanitarian aid in Myanmar via trusted civil society groups. Like Clear View and INEB, their support covers funds for food, healthcare and shelter for now unemployed Myanmar government workers in the general strike against the junta. Mutual Aid Myanmar’s vetted local partners remain anonymous for their protection. Mutual Aid Myanmar has raised and distributed an impressive $275,000 for these purposes since the coup.

Other community-based efforts have focused on non-material supports, community education, and relationship building. The Baydar Collective is a network of youth activists from the Myanmar diaspora based in North America, named after the baydar (hyacinth) flower, which is associated with resilience and resistance. According to Ashley “Aye Aye” Dun, a graduate student at Brown University and a member of Baydar’s steering committee, Baydar’s goal is to “unite people in the Myanmar diaspora to talk about the ways that ongoing events in Myanmar affect our diasporic communities, because it directly affects us too through our families, relatives, and friends in the country struggling in the resistance.”

Baydar is hosting a virtual reading series focused on topics ranging from analyzing implications of the Myanmar opposition’s new constitution (the Federal Democracy Charter), discussing ethnic and religious divides in Myanmar and its diaspora, and examining parallels between anti-Chinese sentiment in Myanmar with the recent surge of anti-Asian violence in the United States. To celebrate Asian Pacific American heritage month in May, Baydar is launching a virtual art circle where members of the Myanmar diaspora will come together to discuss current events, socialize, and participate in drawing and art activities. Baydar has also supported activists in Myanmar though social media campaigns and public information dispersal, and plans to build coalitions with other Asian American activists and communities of color in the United States.

Aye Aye Dun reports that one critical way for Buddhists abroad and other supporters to support Myanmar’s resistance is to attend local anti-military protests, which Burmese Buddhist monks often attend. She believes “these events are a valuable opportunity for interfaith unity.” She also pointed to strategic boycott efforts – for example recent efforts to target Chevron, an American corporate investor in Myanmar which has actively lobbied against more aggressive sanctions on the country’s military.

More abstractly, and directed at the longer term, Aye Aye Dun suggests that allies can also focus on simply educating themselves more generally about the heterogeneity of resistance in Myanmar and its diaspora. In addition to providing direct support, allies can gain a more nuanced understanding of Myanmar’s ethnic and religious diversity and the country’s historical and sociopolitical context. They can also learn about how supporters of democracy within and outside Myanmar deploy their resistance in myriad ways, taking into account safety concerns within the country for themselves or relatives left behind. “A more sustained relationship to support Myanmar’s prodemocracy efforts requires us to always keep learning” about the situation and dynamics on the ground, says Aye Aye Dun, and “this is something we are trying to do at Baydar.”

While the situation in Myanmar is dire and likely to be protracted, these fundraising, support, and education efforts can foster a modicum of hope regarding the spirit of the people of Myanmar and its diaspora, and the diligent efforts of its diverse allies working to lift up and champion those on the frontlines of Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement.

More information about the efforts described above – which are not affiliated with Lion’s Roar – is listed below in alphabetical order.

Baydar Collective is a group of young people in North America from the Myanmar diaspora that conducts community education on the heterogeneity of anti-military resistance (and how it is shaped by intersecting differences in ethnicity, religion, class, gender, and sexuality), promotes the work of vetted United States nonprofits to support the people of Myanmar, highlights issues affecting the diaspora of Myanmar, and builds affinities and coalitions with other Asian American activists and activists of color.

Buddhist Humanitarian Project provides aid and support for Rohingya communities in Myanmar, Bangladesh and India. It is an initiative organized by the Clearview Project, in order to call upon the global Buddhist community to take a stand against violence inflicted upon the Rohingya and to support Rohingya refugees.

Clear View Project provides Buddhist-based resources for relief and social change, promotes dialogue on issues of socially engaged Buddhism, and supports communities in need, both internationally and within the United States. A successor of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s Burma Project, the Clear View Project has worked in Myanmar for many years including supporting activism leading up to the 2007 Saffron Revolution and throughout the country’s political and economic reforms since 2011, supporting political reforms and community development.

International Network of Engaged Buddhists is an autonomous organization under the Bangkok-based Sathirakoses-Nagapradeepa Foundation, and includes both organizational and individual members from more than 25 countries across Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. From this diversity, INEB promotes an understanding of socially engaged Buddhism which integrates the practice of Buddhism with social action for a healthy, just, and peaceful world.

Mutual Aid Myanmar provides humanitarian support via resources to unemployed general strike workers in Myanmar in the form of food, healthcare and shelter. Mutual Aid Myanmar and verified partner organizations provide this aid in kind and via small cash stipends. Partner organizations are vetted by their Board of Directors and are part of local civil society networks.

Credit: www.lionsroar.com

Sailor from Myanmar dies after fight on tanker near Taiwan

The New Princess in Keelung Saturday (CNA Photo)

A sailor from Myanmar died after a fight with fellow crew members on a foreign ship off the coast of Taiwan, reports said Saturday (Jan. 2).

The incident occurred on the New Progress, a tanker registered in the Cook Islands, while it was sailing in international waters off the coast of New Taipei City, CNA reported. As a result, Taiwan has no jurisdiction over the case, according to the Coast Guard Administration (CGA).

When the ship reached a point 31 nautical miles (57 kilometers) from New Taipei’s Shimen District Friday (Jan. 1) evening, a fight broke out and Wai Phy Aung, 27, was stabbed. As his condition deteriorated rapidly, the crew called in assistance, and a helicopter flew him to Taipei Songshan Airport.

However, the man was declared dead after his arrival at the hospital, CNA reported. The tanker dropped anchor in the port of Keelung on Saturday morning.

The CGA said though it did not have jurisdiction over the incident, it would assist with the investigation if the shipowner requested.

Credit: www.taiwannews.com.tw

Canada, Netherlands join Gambia’s genocide case against Myanmar

The two nations will pay special attention to prosecuting gender-based violence against Rohingya, including rape.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after a brutal military crackdown in 2017 [File: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/ Reuters]

Canada and the Netherlands will formally join The Gambia’s legal bid to hold Myanmar accountable over allegations of genocide against its mostly-Muslim Rohingya minority in a move described by observers as historic.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok said the two nations were intervening in the case before the International Court of Justice in order “to prevent the crime of genocide and hold those responsible to account”.

Calling the lawsuit “of concern to all of humanity,” Champagne and Blok said Canada and the Netherlands would “assist with the complex legal issues that are expected to arise and will pay special attention to crimes related to sexual and gender-based violence, including rape”.

More than 730,000 Rohingya fled their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017, crossing the border into neighbouring Bangladesh where they now live in crowded refugee camps after the military launched a brutal crackdown in the western state.

Myanmar says the military action was a response to attacks by Rohingya armed groups in Rakhine. United Nations investigators concluded that the campaign had been executed with “genocidal intent”.

Champagne and Blok said in filing the case at the UN court, The Gambia “took a laudable step towards ending impunity for those committing atrocities in Myanmar”.

‘Historic’

The New York-based Global Center for Justice welcomed the move by Canada and the Netherlands, calling it “nothing short of historic”.

Akila Radhakrishnan, the group’s president, said: “Just as important as their intention to intervene is their promise to focus on gendered crimes of genocide like sexual and gender-based violence, which was central to the atrocities against the Rohingya.”

She added: “Too often, gendered experiences do not translate to justice and accountability efforts and leave the primary targets of those crimes – women and girls – behind. This is an important step forward to address that gap and Canada and the Netherlands should be applauded for this move.”

Rohingya groups also welcomed the move, and urged others to follow their lead.

“Slowly, but surely, the net is closing in on Myanmar’s leaders – they will not get away with this genocide,” Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK said in a statement, describing Canada and the Netherlands as being on the right side of history.

“It is imperative that other states, including the United Kingdom, now stand on the right of justice for the Rohingya and other ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar,” the statement added. “Justice is a core demand of all Rohingya people and particularly important for those inside the camps of Cox’s Bazar who have been forced to flee their homeland and live as refugees in a foreign state.” 

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi attended the initial hearings at The Hague in December last year, calling on the 17-judge panel to dismiss the case. Rejecting the genocide claims, she warned the UN judges that allowing The Gambia’s case to go ahead risked reigniting the crisis and could “undermine reconciliation”.

The panel in January ordered Myanmar to take emergency measures to protect its Rohingya population, pending the fuller case.

Myanmar will now have to regularly report on its efforts to protect Rohingya from acts of genocide every six months until a final ruling is made, a process that could take years.

Although ICJ rulings are final and binding, countries have occasionally flouted them, and the court has no formal mechanism to enforce its decisions.

Credit: www.aljazeera.com

UN says Facebook has not shared ‘evidence’ of Myanmar crime

UN investigators say Facebook played a key role in spreading hate speech that fuelled the violence against Rohingya.

Some 750,000 Rohingya were forcibly displaced from their homes in Myanmar and crossed the border into Bangladesh [File: Rafiqur Rahman/Reuters]

The head of a UN investigative body on Myanmar said Facebook has not released evidence of “serious international crimes”, despite promising to work with investigators looking into abuses in the country including against the majority-Muslim Rohingya.

Nicholas Koumjian, head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism on Myanmar (IIMM), told the Reuters news agency the social media giant was holding material “highly relevant and probative of serious international crimes” but had not shared any during year-long talks.

He declined to give details of the material the IIMM had asked for.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Myanmar is facing charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over a 2017 military crackdown on the Rohingya that forced more than 730,000 people to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Myanmar denies genocide and says its armed forces were conducting legitimate operations against armed fighters who attacked police posts.

UN investigators said Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that drove the violence.

The company says it is working to stop hate speech and has deleted accounts linked to the military, including senior army officials, but preserved data.

The UN Human Rights Council set up the IIMM in 2018 to collect evidence of international crimes in Myanmar to be used in future prosecutions.

“Unfortunately, to date, the Mechanism has not received any material from Facebook but our discussions continue and I am hopeful that the Mechanism will eventually receive this important evidence,” Koumjian said on Monday.

His comments followed a move by Facebook last week to block a bid by the Gambia, which brought the genocide case against Myanmar at the ICJ in the Hague, to obtain posts and communications by members of Myanmar’s military and police.

The social media giant urged the US District Court for the District of Columbia to reject the demand, which it said would violate a US law that bars electronic communication services from disclosing users’ communications.

In a statement last week the company said it could not comply with the Gambia’s request but was working with the IIMM.

Credit: www.aljazeera.com

Facebook rejects request to release Myanmar officials’ data for genocide case

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo GLOBAL BUSINESS WEEK AHEAD

Facebook has objected to a request from Gambia, which has accused Myanmar at the World Court of genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority, to release posts and communications by members of Myanmar’s military and police.

The social media giant urged the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Tuesday to reject the demand, which it said would violate a U.S. law that bars electronic communication services from disclosing users’ communications.

Facebook (FB.O) said the request, made in June, for the release of “all documents and communications” by key military officials and police forces was “extraordinarily broad” and would constitute “special and unbounded access” to accounts.

Gambia Attorney General Dawda Jallow told Reuters he was being briefed on the issue but could not yet comment.

The case before the United Nations’ International Court of Justice in The Hague accuses Myanmar of violating the 1948 U.N. Convention on Genocide. Myanmar authorities say they were battling an insurgency and deny carrying out systematic atrocities.

More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that refugees said including mass killings and rape. Rights groups documented killings of civilians and burning of villages.

In 2018, U.N. human rights investigators said Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that had fuelled the violence. Facebook has said it is working to block hate speech.

On Thursday, a spokesperson said Facebook “stands against hate and violence, including in Myanmar”.

Credit: www.reuters.com

Flash floods kill two in Thailand, storm heads for Myanmar

Tropical storm Sinlaku dumped heavy rain on 18 Thai provinces over the weekend.

The storm uprooted trees, pulled down electricity poles and tore sheet roofs from some buildings [Thai army handout/AFP]

Flash floods killed at least two people and swept through hundreds of houses in northern Thailand, authorities said, after tropical storm Sinlaku dumped heavy rains on 18 provinces over the weekend.

Muddy, waist-high waters poured into homes in rural areas on Sunday. Soldiers used small boats to rescue villagers and handed out aid packs in Loei, the worst-hit province.

By Monday morning, residents in rubber boots were out clearing debris from the storm that uprooted trees, pulled down electricity poles and tore sheet roofs from some buildings.

“The flood came very fast, my family couldn’t grab anything,” said Rattiya Panich as she cleaned her house. Two people died, according to the interior ministry.

Sinlaku also hit Laos and Vietnam, where it killed another two people on Sunday in the provinces of Hoa Binh and Quang Ninh, Voice of Vietnam (VOV) reported.

Loei province suffered the most damage during flooding caused by tropical storm Sinlaku, according to the Thai Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department [Thai army handout/AFP]

Authorities there warned that heavy rains might cause landslides and flash flooding in Vietnam’s northern mountainous provinces.

Some parts will see up to 400mm of rainfall from Monday to Wednesday, the Vietnam Disaster Management Authority said.

The storm was moving towards Myanmar on Monday, the Thai Meteorological Department said.

credit: www.aljazeera.com

Myanmar’s Ceasefire Falls Apart in Shan State

Instability in northern Shan state is increasing the forced displacement of locals, along other rights abuses.

Soldiers walk over Gote Twin bridge damaged by explosion on Aug. 15, 2019, in Gote Twin, Naung Cho township, northern Shan State, Myanmar.
Credit: AP Photo/Pyae Sone Aung

The expansion of military operations by the Myanmar Army and increase in troops in northern Shan state has resulted in growing instability and an escalation of human rights abuses. The involvement of the Myanmar Army and ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) engaging in regular combat has contributed to the forced displacement of local people, as well as other human rights abuses including torture, indiscriminate shelling, death, and arbitrary arrest and detainment. These actions show a lack of commitment to the already faltering peace process and dialogue on meaningful reconciliation. All armed actors must uphold the right to life and resolve their differences through peaceful negotiation and nonconfrontational channels, as well as ensure a safe space for rights defenders appealing for justice to be upheld.

On May 10, 2020, the Myanmar Army announced a unilateral ceasefire agreement to focus on the response and containment of COVID-19. Since declaring the ceasefire, clashes in Shan state have steadily increased between the Myanmar Army and Shan armed groups including the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS-SSA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The fighting increased significantly in June 2020, with civilian safety and security at risk, as allegations of human rights violations are mounting against the armed groups. The Myanmar Army is accused of forcing a young man to guide them and then indiscriminately shooting at villagers’ homes, killing a 60-year old man and injuring a 55-year old woman on June 29. The day before, an elderly civilian from Kyaukme township was brutally beaten when the Myanmar Army arrived at his village and others fled. The RCSS-SSA is also accused of raping a young Ta’ang women and failing to cooperate with civil society organizations seeking justice. Against the backdrop of the conflict, there are over 500 villagers displaced in Kyaukme who need emergency food supplies and face restrictions on movement as a result of the pandemic.

Protests following the increase in violence in Shan state saw over 15 000 civilians calling for accountability for the injustices committed by the Myanmar Army. Shan parliamentarians reported the cases to the Myanmar National Human Rights Council, specifically to urge an investigation. In response, the Myanmar Army retaliated with reprisals against those who had led the protests by charging them under Section 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law and Section 18 of the Communicable Disease Prevention Law. Of additional concern is that the conflict in northern Shan state is not being taken seriously by the National League for Democracy (NLD) government. Their silence shows a continued lack of interest by the NLD to speak up against human rights abuses taking place against civilians.

While human rights defenders being challenged for their advocacy is nothing new, it is unacceptable that the right to peaceful protest continues to be criminalized in Myanmar. The Myanmar government must take seriously calls for much needed reforms that would strengthen protection of rights defenders, including enacted changes to the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. This law has long been used to target activists. It should be amended in line with international standards on freedom of expression, which includes being able to hold opinions without interference as stipulated in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

As seen not only in northern Shan state but also in Rakhine and Chin states, civilians are killed, tortured, and detained on the presumption of guilt or affiliation to rival groups. It is time for strengthened government protection mechanisms for victims of human rights violations and local leaders and organizations on the ground who regularly face harassment and intimidation in their calls for accountability. The Myanmar government must publicly recognize that mass human rights violations have been committed, apologize for those violations, and accept that victims deserve reparations.

credit: thediplomat.com

A cause for hope for the Rohingya in Myanmar

Rohingya villagers watch as international media visit Maung Hna Ma village, Buthidaung township, northern Rakhine state, Myanmar, July, 2017. (Reuters)

Something peculiar and unexpected happened in Myanmar in mid-July: A group of Rakhine Buddhist students visited a camp for Rohingya refugees.


This kind of thing is new. While the “clearing operations” against the Rohingya over the past two years have been orchestrated by the federal military forces of Myanmar, directed from Naypyidaw, the Rakhines had long been a primary engine of previous violent outbursts against their Rohingya neighbors in Rakhine/Arakan, such as in the 2012-13 flareups of ethnic conflict. Indeed, crackdowns on the Rohingya by federal authorities have frequently been invited and welcomed by Rakhines throughout the turbulent history of post-independence Myanmar.


What is unclear at the moment is whether the federal government in Naypyidaw is aware of these developments, or indeed whether they might even be supportive of them. What is known so far is that an apparent, concerted effort to build bridges between the communities is actively supported by younger Rakhines, particularly students. As such, it is plausible that they are working entirely outside the reach of the Myanmar federal authorities, and indeed, outside of the knowledge of local Rakhine authorities who had been so hostile to Rohingyas in the past.


But it is also the case that both Rakhine and federal authorities have been running a pretty tight ship on anti-Rohingya propaganda up to now, so the fact that this is happening at present seems odd. Given that Rohingyas are so routinely demonized as “Muslim terrorists,” and sympathy toward the “terrorists” has been suppressed in the past, the fact that this new movement from among the Rakhine youth in the state has made it through to an international audience may point to some shifts in the background as to how authorities are approaching the issue of the Rohingya. Especially since, one has to imagine, the students had to get past security at the camps.


Might this have been allowed to happen in order that the authorities in Myanmar could be able to point to “civil society efforts” as positive developments as it continues to face unrelenting criticism on the international stage, and perhaps even censure at the International Court of Justice? Might this even have been encouraged or instigated by some state or federal authorities as a PR exercise for the country?


One needs to watch these efforts closely, and actively support any real dialogue between the people of Rakhine/Arakan state. If these students are indeed leading an independent effort to change things for the better in their country, the global community should be very vocal and robust in defending them against any censure from the authorities for speaking out.

Indeed, even if this is some cynical ploy where the authorities are working in the background either to allow or actively encourage these initiatives for PR and propaganda purposes, the international community should still support the debate moving forward toward the acceptance of the Rohingya in the land of their birth, and use the opportunity to push for them receiving full rights as citizens which they are entitled to under international law.


In all cases, this is a positive development. Things will not now suddenly, or inevitably get better. The entire global community must continue to fight relentlessly for the Rohingya to be accepted as equal citizens in their own country. Nor can the global community allow the perpetrators of the genocide be left off the hook, now that the debate seems to be changing toward a more positive direction. Whatever the reason for these developments, the international community must continue to support them, but it must also make sure that it does not lose focus of all the other things that need to be done.

By: DR. AZEEM IBRAHIM
Credit: www.arabnews.com

Myanmar suspends visas until mid-June

YANGON, 4 June 2020: Myanmar has extended its suspension of all travel visas until 15 June according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ latest announcement posted on its website 1 June.

The announcement extends the suspension of all visas including visa exemptions that were introduced in mid-March under a ruling that was due to expire 31 May.

The entry ban covers e-visas, visa-on-arrival and includes all nationalities that eligible for visa-free travel to Myanmar.

Earlier this week some airlines posted details of the flights’ schedules that suggested they would resume flights to Myanmar’s capital this month.

Myanmar National Airlines filed timetable details for flights to Hong Kong and Singapore this month, but that plan has now been shelved.

Airlines are keen to renew services to facilitate essential travel, repatriation flights and cargo.

Credit: www.ttrweekly.com

Trash is treasure as Myanmar environmentalist turns food scraps into fertiliser

Inda Aung Soe and his wife Aye Aye Than collect food waste at the wet market to produce organic fertilizer in Yangon, Myanmar, Jun 3, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Zaw Naing)

YANGON: To most people in Myanmar, food waste is nothing but garbage, and that attitude leaves Inda Soe Aung baffled.

But the 35-year-old environmentalist isn’t complaining, because what he views as his compatriots’ lack of imagination has given him the business opportunity of a lifetime – turning what they throw away into fertiliser.

“People think that food waste is just trash, trash, trash,” he said. “It’s difficult for me to introduce to the public that food waste is a natural resource.” 

Each day, he collects about a tonne of food waste from wet markets near his home in Yangon’s North Dagon Township, pouring baskets of leftover vegetables into a cart before processing it into organic compost over the course of several months.

He started his business, Bokashi Myanmar, nearly two years ago and has so far created 500 tonnes of fertiliser, which he sells mainly for use in gardens and home farms.Advertisement

His aim is to triple production and help the environment by reducing greenhouse gases, while persuading other people to adopt the techniques for soil preservation and combating climate change he outlines on his company’s Facebook page.

Yangon authorities estimate that, across all categories, the fast-growing city generates 2,300-2,500 tonnes of waste each day, inundating landfill sites that are decreasing in number as demand for land grows.

Inda Soe Aung gets help from his wife, Aye Aye Than, who says she is proud of the business and its contribution to the environment.

“I thought that only poor and grassroots people worked with trash. But, I later realised that this job is providing a clean environment for my neighbours around me,” she said. 

Credit: www.channelnewsasia.com