I am Lway Mownt Noon, a human rights and gender activist from Myanmar, focusing on Identity rights (ethnics and women), civil and political rights
I am an ethnic Ta’ang woman, a member of a small minority within the minorities in the diverse ethnic context of Myanmar. I was born to kind-hearted and knowledgeable Ta’ang parents. My family name given by my parents is Lway Mownt Noon in Ta’ang language but it is not in my ID card. There is a name which is on my ID card and in my passport, a Burmese name that was forcibly given by the Burmese immigration officers and Burmese Soldiers when I was 15. In the early years of my life, I was a victim of extreme violations of human rights and dignity under the Burmese authoritarian and Burmese military regimes that have been prevailing in Myanmar since the post-colonial era. The most horrible experience happened when I was just nine years old when my parents were killed by Burmese soldiers. In the same attack, I was arrested and brutally tortured by the Burmese soldiers. They left behind a traumatized and disabled child, and they would never face consequences for their actions. Later, in 2011 and 2014, my two younger brothers were tortured and killed by the Burmese military. Our peaceful family life was smashed under the lawlessness and extreme brutality of the Burmese military.
Fortunately, my childhood was saved by a single mother of Karen ethnicity, also one of the minorities in Myanmar, who found me one day as I was recovering from the assault. My adopted mother had also lost her husband at the hands of Burmese soldiers. Through her and other ordinary people who extended their love and guidance to me, I came to believe in human empathy again. However, my early experiences instilled in me the will to spend my life working for girl's and women's rights, and minority rights. I was committed to educating myself first so that I could learn tools to help me contribute. I became an International Relations student at Yangon University where I became active in the 1996 democracy movement, leading student protests on the campus. I was arrested by the Burmese military, first sent to the interrogation camps and then to the prison in early-1996. I spent over six years as a political prisoner, released in early 2002.
After my release and over two years, I finally had the chance to complete my bachelor’s degree in 2004, and I also went on to study for a Master’s in Development Studies at the Yangon Institute of Economics in 2013. I have attempted to use my life experience to contribute to the work of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), INGOs and donor offices for more than 15 years, focusing on minority and human rights, civil and political rights, peacebuilding, federalism and landmines in Myanmar. I was deeply involved in the Myanmar Peace Process (2011 – 2021) providing a rare Ta’ang ethnic voice to these discussions prior to the 2021 military coup.
The majority of the people in Myanmar are now collectively demanding and fighting for building a federal democratic country, which in fact has been desired by minority ethnic groups since the post-colonial period. As a Ta’ang woman who belongs to a minority within the minorities, I have always endeavoured to play a role in nonviolent efforts through dialogue, discussion, social movement and advocacy to the leaders and the international community.