Port of Call
Global University Exchange Event with NGOs in Yangon, Myanmar, Sep 11, 2017
The students with the programme navigators and members of Generation Wave.
The 95th Global Voyage is Peace Boat's first visit to Myanmar, and students from the Global University Special Programme spent two days on an exposure programme in Yangon, Myanmar entitled "Social Cohesion and Reconciliation to Counter Conflicts." One of the goals of the Special Programme is to expose participating students to issues related to poverty, discrimination, the environment, migration, and conflict, all of which Myanmar is struggling to cope with as conflicts among ethnic groups persist. After spending some time enjoying the culture and friendly atmosphere of Yangon, the students had exchange events with local NGOs where they learned about what young people are doing to fight for peace and human rights in the country.

Moe Thway explaining his organization to the students.
On the first day, the students visited the office of Generation Wave, a pro-democracy Burmese youth movement founded in October, 2007, one month after the Saffron Revolution. Also present were members of the Center for Youth and Social Harmony, and the National Youth Congress. The students arranged an icebreaking game with introductions, dancing, and singing, which inspired the NGO members to show the students some Burmese dancing and to sing an anthem used by the student army as they fought for democracy. The president of Generation Wave, Moe Thway, gave an explanation of his organization's activities to mobilize the public in the peace process, as well as the training it conducts on nonviolent direct action and human rights education. Everyone then divided into small groups to talk more intimately about how their experiences in their home countries relate to the issues in Myanmar.

The gilded roof of the Schwedagon Paya.
The students also had the opportunity to see some sights and try the local cuisine on the first day. They walked barefoot through the most sacred Buddhist site to the Burmese people, a 98-metre gilded stupa known as Shwedagon Paya, which has a history of more than 2000 years. In the evening, they had dinner at House of Memories, a notable historical residence now converted into a recreation centre and restaurant. The owner of the house, chairman of the Indian Independence Army for Burma, allowed the Burmese Independence Army to use it as their headquarters during the fight for independence. Before the food was served, students took a walk around national hero Major General Aung San's (who served as the fifth Premier of the British Crown Colony of Burma from 1946 to 1947) first office, located on the second floor, where they looked at pictures from that time and saw his old desk, chair, and typewriter.

Programme coordinator Kawasaki Akira presents a Peace Boat plaque to the AAPP.
On the second day, students were welcomed by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) Burma. The organization is based in Mae Sot, Thailand, and works for the release of all political prisoners and for the improvement of prison conditions in Burma. Its activities include providing basic necessities to political prisoners, documenting and reporting on human rights abuses in the country, and securing support from international governments and organizations to assist in the campaign to free all political prisoners.

SEDF explains its mission and activities to the Special Programme students. Picture by Darwin Wally Wee
In the afternoon of the second day, the students visited the Smile Education and Development Foundation (SEDF). The organization was founded in 2007 with the goal of eliminating poverty and unjust living conditions and developing responsible and productive citizens in Myanmar. Members of SEDF, including its founder, introduced the organization and its goals and led some activities for the students. Finally, there was an exchange and discussion time in which students could share their own experiences and opinions. The exchange marked the end of the Global University Special Programme for the 95th Voyage, and students said their goodbyes as they went their own ways.