Greetings – It’s already been a busy fall at Asia Catalyst.
We were thrilled to bring Khine Su Win, our Myanmar Program Officer, to the United States in September. She traveled to New York and Washington, D.C., gave presentations to supporters and allies, and enjoyed some of the sites from Broadway to Chinatown! Khine started her career as a medical doctor in Yangon providing HIV-related care for sex workers and men who have sex with men. Motivated by her desire to understand the barriers to care clients faced, Khine went back to get a Master’s degree in public health. At Asia Catalyst she gets to address structural injustices that exclude people from healthcare by working with communities who are systematically discriminated against and denied access to public services.
It’s been two years since we launched our Myanmar Country Program. The hunger for our year-long intensive training program has been positively overwhelming. Over the past year, Khine has led our human rights documentation and advocacy program with rural women, LGBT communities, people who use drugs, women living with HIV, and opium farmers in Shan and Kachin states – and the demand is only increasing.
Khine’s work with the Mandalay-based LGBT rights group, TRY, is one example of how our partnerships foster positive change. Trans people and gay men were regularly being harassed and extorted for bribes or arrested by the police. In our program, TRY learned how to document cases of unfair arrests and present their evidence to local officials. When arrests escalated during a community festival, TRY honed in on the precinct where most of the arrests were taking place. They had a productive meeting with the police chief and set up an emergency legal response team. A year later, the arrests have gone down. And now, when people are detained, instead of being held for days or weeks, they are usually released by the next morning. Advocacy by TRY to address police behavior and spread awareness of LGBT people’s legal rights continues.
When asked how things have changed in the last year, the manager of TRY said:
Police are afraid to do violations to LGBT people such as physical abuse, verbal abuse or asking for bribes. They feel like they have been watched and know we will not be silenced.
Kyle Knight, who works in Human Rights Watch’s LGBT right program said:
To be able to get that kind of engagement from the police is amazing. It speaks volumes to how effective this advocacy has been.
All the best,