Los Angeles Chapter
Burma through the Eyes of KhinSandi Lwin: “GenZ — We will be the last generation to live under this oppression”
By Betsy Richman | December 19, 2021
The Los Angeles chapter was in for a treat when Maggie Sabbag organized the first chapter gathering since the onset of the pandemic at her house in Pasadena, California on September 15, 2021.
The evening’s star was AWIU Honorary Board member (2016-2019) KhinSandi Lwin, sister of member Onma Lwin, who spoke about Burma, its recent coup and on-going uprising, the challenges the Burmese people are facing, and what AWIU members can do to help.
Burma has garnered more than its share of attention for its tumultuous politics. Home to 134 ethnic groups, several of which, historically, have fought and created unrest for decades, Burma is also home to small minority populations of Chinese and Indian heritage.
In November 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a landslide election to become the first civilian-led government in 60 years. However, the military retained considerable control, reserving 25% of the parliamentary seats and significant ministries. After a second and greater landslide victory in November, 2020, the military rejected the election results and took control in a coup on February 1, 2021.
How the Burmese are living these days
This year’s revolution began peacefully, with demonstrations by the people against the military, then quickly turned violent as the military proceeded to randomly kill protesters and bystanders, conduct night raids, arrest demonstrators and opposition voices, and incarcerate and torture them – along with air strikes on villages and shutting down internet access and other controls to again isolate the people from the world.
In response to the past 60 years of military rule, Generation Z’s rallying call, “We will be the last generation to live under this oppression,” led to a wave of unity against the common enemy. The many contentious ethnic groups have banded together to fight the military regime using civil disobedience and resurgence of civil war. Doctors were the first to strike, followed by school teachers, railway workers and other civil servants who refuse to work under the military. “A third wave of COVID hit very hard this past August, with the military responding by severely limiting and controlling the nation’s store of oxygen,” explained KhinSandi. “Young people made it their mission to fill oxygen tanks for the COVID sufferers, risking their lives in the process.”
KhinSandi’s family became part of the diaspora of Burmese leaving their country because of the totalitarian regime, in her case, in 1967 when she was ten years old. What followed was a 35-year career with the United Nations working in over 10 countries with 3 assignments as Representative. In 2020, in a TEDxYangon Talk, KhinSandi urged men and women to shed the yoke of autocracy at home and at work, words that were particularly applicable to the rising tide of resistance in Burma.
AWIU L.A. Chapter Members and Guests in attendance: Maggie Sabbag, Betsy Richman, Ann Diederich, Alison Singh Gee, Carol Ann Warren, Christine Adams, Chun Lin, Earlie B. Douglas, Inez Parker Sharp, KhinSandi Lwin, Kristin Ceva, Laura Pollard, Mary Schammel, Nancy Annick, Rosalina Cardenas, Sarah R. Shelton, Sharon D. Kolby, Stelle Feuers, Lisa Link, Ferial Sadjadi, Wendy Gladney Dean
What can AWIU members do to help the Burmese people?
Support the International Women of Courage honorees in Burma. Best to contact them through your own channels and ask them what support they need.
Help KhinSandi and Onma Lwin raise money for Burmese relief. They are offering beautiful Burmese silk weavings for sale. Learn more about the crisis, KhinSandi and ways to support her work.