tom sanders

Ninety Cal Poly students and San Luis Obispo community members took part in an important and moving presentation about the country of Burma on Sunday afternoon.

The presentation, “Freedom From Fear: Stories of Resistance, Refugees & Resettlement in Burma,” was part of a Cal Poly senior project by Phyusin Myint, a communication studies senior.

“For my senior project I wanted to do something that goes beyond just writing a paper on some of the communications theory I learned,” Myint said. “I put together my passion for human rights in Burma and knowledge of communication theories and skills in the form of this campaign.”

The presentation was held Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Cal Poly University Union. There were two guest speakers and a series of poems by Myint that addressed the current issues facing the country of Burma.

“For me, poetry has been the venue for speaking about my country,” Myint said. “Poetry is not as intrusive.”

Burma, which is located in Southeast Asia and has a population of 52 million people, is under a military dictatorship and is plagued by human rights abuses and economic hardships.

Louisa Craig from the U.S. Campaign for Burma and Harold Kerbo, the Cal Poly department chair and professor for social sciences, were the two speakers at the event.

“All the nonprofits for Burma are poorly funded,” Myint said. “That made it hard for this project.”

Craig, who flew to San Luis Obispo for the presentation, was born in Rangoon, Burma and also attended the University of Rangoon. She helped establish the Burma Forum, a human-rights advocacy organization that supports democracy in Burma.

“My goal was that I wanted at least 50 people to know about Burma,” Myint said. “People don’t even know where it is.”

Kerbo has been a professor at Cal Poly since 1977 and is involved with study abroad programs to Southeast Asia and has taught and researched in Asia and Europe since the early 1980s.

“(The Burmese) people don’t have a voice or an education,” Myint said. “I feel that I was given an incredible opportunity by getting an education and I feel that it is my responsibility to speak for my people.”

Myint was born in Burma, but left the country when she was six years old. She was home-schooled in Thailand until 1997 when she moved to the United States. She has been planning this presentation throughout the past year, collecting donations from business owners and community members. She is also involved with the Burmese American Women Association (BAWA) in San Jose.

“It’s so good to see the finished product,” Myint said. “I exceeded my goal.”

After the presentation, members of the audience could purchase goods made by Burmese refugees in the border regions of Burma and Thailand that were supplied by the BAWA. All the revenue from the goods is given back to the Burmese people.

“(The presentation) put a picture in my mind of what Burma is and the issues there,” said Michelle DeWindt, a nutrition senior.

The event raised nearly $600 in donations to the BAWA and the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

“I think it points out that there are human rights issues going on other than our own personal interests,” said Phillip Kent, a biology senior. “There’s trouble in other nations and we need to do something about it.”

For additional information about the country of Burma and how to help, visit www.uscampaignforburma.org.

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