Myanmar lawyer Kyaw Hla Aung will receive a grant of USD 1.1 million, of which a million will be donated to human rights organizations
The most prominent award in the field of humanitarian law, the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, was won this year by Kyaw Hla Aung, a lawyer from Myanmar. Kyaw Hla Aung has been fighting for a long time for the rights of the Rohingya Muslims who are being persecuted in Myanmar.
This is the third year that the humanitarian Aurora prize has been awarded. The ceremony took place in Armenia. Its founders are businessmen and patrons of Armenian origin: Vartan Gregorian, Nubar Afeyan and Ruben Vardanyan. Last year, Dr. Tom Catena, who saved thousands of lives in Africa, became the laureate of the award. More about the Aurora award in the JAMnews story ‘Love Has Triumphed Over Hate‘.
This year 750 people from 115 countries applied for the prize. As stated by the selection committee, Kyaw Hla Aun won the prize ‘for his dedication to the cause of the struggle for the rights of the Rohingya in Myanmar, including their right to education’.
The laureate spent a total of 12 years in prison in the course of his human rights activities, but did not give up the fight against the oppression of Muslims in Myanmar. At the award ceremony, he again spoke about the situation on the Rohingya and urged the world to pay attention to their plight:
“My people are severely restrained. My people lost their courage and self-confidence, they lost access to education and, as a consequence, became very poor. My heart breaks when I see how my people are subjected to such discrimination. Support from the Aurora Award allows Muslims affected by human rights violations to gain recognition, and this is very important. Gradually, more and more people around the world will learn about the suffering of Rohingya.”
Out of the USD 1.1 million received, a hundred thousand may be spent on a laureate’s projects. The remaining amount, according to the rules of the competition, must be donated to other organizations. Kyaw Hla Aun has already decided on a list of these organizations. These are Doctors Without Borders (Great Britain), the Malaysian Society for the Provision of Medical Assistance and the International Catholic Commission for Migration (USA, Switzerland).
Amnesty International describes the situation with the Muslim Rohingya as the gravest humanitarian disaster at the moment. The conflict in Myanmar has lasted more than a century. Rohingya consider themselves indigenous to the Rakhine State in Myanmar, but the authorities and the Buddhist population of the country do not see it this way. The government denies them citizenship and calls the Rohingya illegal migrants.
The refugees claim that when the last escalation occurred in 2016, Myanmar soldiers, with the support of Buddhist volunteers, killed and raped ethnic Rohingya. As a result, more than 700 000 people fled to Bangladesh. By that time, about 300 thousand Rohingya already lived in the neighboring country, having fled previous clashes.
In February 2018, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the expulsion of the Muslim population from Myanmar an ethnic cleansing:
“Deprived of citizenship, they were subjected to extreme ill-treatment by the armed forces and other people. They were expelled from their homes and country, which is a clear example of ethnic cleansing”.