Over the Easter Vacation, six current and recently graduated Oxford students, chosen in a University-wide application process during Hilary Term, visited Myanmar for two weeks on the invitation of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The delegation was led by the President of OUSU and included a former Union President amongst its members.
Over the course of the trip the delegation travelled throughout Myanmar, visiting several major cities and sites of cultural and historical significance, and they were accompanied by young Burmese university students throughout.
David J. Townsend, President of OUSU, commented: “It was a profoundly inspiring experience for all the Oxford delegates.
“Myanmar is such a beautiful country, and its people so eager to re-enter the community of nations; it was a pleasure to take part in these early stages of re-establishing links between young, community-minded people in Oxford and Myanmar.”
Myanmar has been a global pariah for a number of years due to a catalogue of human rights abuses including child soldiers, sex trafficking, and forced labour.
In 2010, however, after decades of civil war, the government held the first democratic elections in 50 years and started to relax censorship, exemplified in unbanning websites such as YouTube, Democratic Voice of Burma and Voice of America.
The optimism which is evident in Myanmar was articulated by Maria Rioumine, former president of the Oxford Union, who said that ‘Being part of the delegation to Myanmar was an amazing opportunity. It is a highly diverse country, and it was eye-opening to meet with so many different civil society groups working to help Myanmar at this crucial stage of transition to democracy.”
“It was inspiring to see the commitment students have to give back to their communities and work together to promote civic education.’
During their trip the Oxford, delegates attempted to form partnerships with a wide range of young Burmese journalists, political campaigners, debaters, women’s empowerment workers and HIV activists in order to further the economic and democratic future of the country.