Sa Thu Hlaing Win, a Western Pwo Karen literacy advocate from the Irrawaddy delta region is the winner of the 2016 Padoh Mahn Sha Young Leader Award. Sa Thu Hlaing Win (also known as Sa Khant Thu Hlaing), was presented with the award at the 9th memorial service of Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan that was held at Taw Gyaung village, Patanaw Township in the Irrawaddy region on February 14, 2017.
A media statement released by the Phan Foundation said Sa Thu Hlaing Win was chosen for his work in preserving and promoting Western Pwo Karen literature. Sa Thu Hlaing Win is a founding member of the Western Pwo Karen Culture and Literature Group and is active in the Karen community in South Korea, where he now lives.
Sa Thu Hlaing Win spoke to Karen News after receiving the award.
“I began to work on Western Pwo literacy online after I arrived to South Korea in 2014. I don’t think I deserved this award because the name of Padoh Mahn Sha is a huge honor to me as it represents not only the Karen, but all ethnic nationalities and the whole democratic movement. However, I am pleased for the recognition of my work for my people. I would like to encourage our youth that you can work for your people not only when you are educated, but you can do your best where the need is great.”
The Padoh Mahn Sha Young Leader Award is given annually to outstanding young Karen leaders and comes with a grant of US$2,000 to help support their work.
The Phan Foundation said in its media statement that “Sa Thu Hlaing Win returns to his home whenever he can and in 2015, he played a leading role in establishing the Western Pwo Karen Culture and Literature Group. He began research to identify villages that didn’t have Karen literature teaching and then initiated a Karen literature study program by organising summer schools including curriculum of Pwo Karen teaching, text books and other school materials and financial support for teachers. By the end of 2016, he and his group had successfully provided Karen literature and culture training to 3,000 students from 60 schools across 13 townships in Irrawaddy Delta region.”
Slone Phan, Director of Phan Foundation and the youngest son of Padoh Mahn Sha quoted in the media statement said.
“We are very proud to have a remarkable young Karen leader like Sa Thu Hlaing Win, who refuses to let the ethnic identity of Karen people die, especially in the Irrawaddy Delta. Despite many years of oppression from the central government, the culture and literature of Western Pwo Karen is still alive because of hard working people like Sa Thu Hlaing Win and the Karen community there. This is exactly what my father Padoh Mahn Sha would want to see.”
Mahn Kenneth Moe, a Board member of Western Pwo Karen Culture and Literature Group, who nominated Sa Thu Hlaing Win was quoted in Phan Foundation media statement said.
“In the Irrawaddy Delta, the place where our Karen martyr, Padoh Mahn Sha was born is also a place where the culture, tradition, language and literature of the Karen people is in danger of being lost. I believe that through the work of Sa Thu Hlaing Win, this can be prevented. Although Padoh Mahn Sha is gone, there are remarkable and intelligent young people like Sa Thu Hlaing Win, who are working hard to inspire the next generation.”
The Phan Foundation was founded by the children of Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan in memory of their father and mother, Nant Kyin Shwe, with the aim to support the Karen people through poverty alleviation, education and human rights and culture preservation.
Previous winners of the award were Naw Paw K’Bla Htoo from Kler Lwee Htu District in 2008, Saw Nyunt Win from Mutraw District in Karen State in 2009, Naw December Paw from Tenasserim Division in 2010, Saw Htoo Htoo Eh, from the Free Burma Rangers in 2011, Nant Thandar Aung from Karen Women Empowerment Group in 2012, Naw K’Nyaw Paw from the Karen Women’s Organisation in 2013, Naw Hsa Moo from the Karen Student Network Groups who is now working for the Karen Environment and Social Action Network in 2014 and Sa Shine, a community worker in Hpa-an in 2015.