Meet KHIN MAY ZAW—Senior Editor of Multimedia for Radio Free Asia, based in Washington, D.C. She dedicates herself to bringing the people of Burma news and information that is independent and trustworthy.
Khin May Zaw experienced the severity and complexity of human rights abuse growing up in Burma. As a young woman she worked as a government tour guide. “The government told us what to say—and what we could not show the foreigners,” says Khin May Zaw. “I started to realize that there was a big gap between the government propaganda and the actual reality inside Burma.”
But it was the events of 1988 in Burma that really opened Khin May Zaw’s eyes. On August 8th of that year, the government cracked down on pro-democracy protests in an event that came to be known as “8888”. The government slaughtered thousands of civilians.
“I realized then that I couldn’t be silent anymore,” says Khin May Zaw. “If I had remained in Burma, I would have spoken out and things would have gotten dangerous.” Khin May Zaw left Burma to study in Germany. Eventually she ended up in the United States, and now works as an editor and journalist.
Khin May Zaw believes that her role is to be an information ‘channel’ between Burma and the outside world. She notes that up until recently, people within Burma had access to very limited information from the outside world. Her contacts used to hesitate to talk to her, and were scared of authorities. That is changing, and now people from within Burma reach out to her and other journalists.
Khin May Zaw hopes that the information she provides can help empower people in Burma to stand up for their rights. She also hopes it helps to reduce the very high levels of sexual violence in Burma. Khin May Zaw says that good information is key to changing the mindsets of people—and ultimately can help eradicate sexual violence in war.
Through the work of Khin May Zaw and other journalists like her, the people of Burma are better informed and can make decisions for themselves. Her work is an important ingredient for creating lasting change in Burma.