Monday, November 12, 2007

An opposition strategist responds to Aung San Suu Kyi statement

Yesterday I spoke with a man who Burma -- indeed the world -- may well hear more of in the months and years to come.

I interviewed 54 year-old Zaw Nyein Latt, who chairs the Burma Political Prisoner's Union (BPPU). Latt has spent many years behind bars in Burma as a political prisoner, first in the late 1970s and again in the 1990s. He tells me while in prison he was tortured -- severely.

In a cafe near the Thai-Burma border, for several hours, Latt talked about his life, and particularly, about where the opposition needs to go from here. Future strategy. After being granted political asylum last year and travelling to the United States, Latt returned to Thailand where he felt he would be better situated to serve political refugees within Burma and in the refugee camps. Upon his return to Thailand, he was elected to head the BPPU.

In a broader sense, through his network of contacts throughout Burma, he helps plan, coordinate, and articulate the the opposition's next moves. He's thinking long-term.

The person who referred me to Latt described him as a creative and insightful thinker,"a man with ideas." In talking with Latt, I found this to be the case. He comes across as an exceptionally bright and warm person; a natural communicator, charismatic even. I felt myself in the presence of good man who has a strong and clear vision for his country.

In the following video clip, Zaw Nyein Latt pulls out a printout of the statement by Aung San Suu Kyi and discusses
the significance of her message. He explains what it means for the democratic movement -- and what it doesn't say.

He tells me the opposition needs to make certain things clear to the Burmese regime; he's adamant about the need to set negotiations within a framework. In the interview, he explained to me some of the ways the opposition is preparing to back up its negotiating position.

The mission of is to "spot local trends and bold ideas" and "spark creativity and global citizenship." It was an awesome experience to be in the presence of a such a figure as Zaw Nyein Latt, in whose life these ideals profoundly converge.

Here is Part I of my interview with Zaw Nyein Latt:

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