My name is Smith. I am Pa ‘O, and I was born in a small village which is a three-hour drive from Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State. I finished my primary and secondary education in my village. It was very difficult for me at that time since my parents could not support me to continue my education.
Thus, as soon as I completed secondary school, I moved to stay in a Buddhist’s orphanage at Myo Oo Monastery in Taunggyi in order to finish grade 10. Following my high school education, I again struggled to fund my education because of my family’s financial situation.
At that time, I was very lucky because one of the Pa ‘O armed organizations was recruiting new members. They called for young people who had completed their high school educations to apply for assistance to continue on to university education.
With financial support from this organization, I graduated from Taunggyi University with a specialization in Physics. It was the first milestone of my political evolution. After I’d spent five years with this organization, I changed my career from arms holder to social worker and joined the Metta Development Foundation (MDF).
A few years after working for MDF, some of my friends advised me to establish an organization for Pa ‘O people. Eventually, we decided to start the Kaung Rwai Social Action Network, which was the first Pa ‘O civil society organization in Southern Shan State. However, I wasn’t satisfied with myself after being a social worker for a few years and decided to get involved in politics in order to serve my community more effectively.
In 2013, twenty people including myself re-registered a Pa ‘O political party with the Union Election Commission. Although I worked for this party for many years, my obligation and commitment to serve my community did not end there. I took another step to move to Yangon and learn English in order to pursue a master’s degree.
- Age: 38
- Ethnicity: Pa O
- Country: Myanmar
School & Program
- Chiang Mai University
- Master’s, Public Policy
Goals & Dreams
- Become a politician
- Work for the Pa ‘O people more effectively
- Travel to Switzerland
- Loan Amount: $1,600
- Amount Left To Fund: $1,175
- Contract Duration: 10 years
- Status: In Repayment
Smith, in his own words
It was very difficult for me to continue my higher education since I grew up in a rural area and didn’t have access to proper education. Yet I felt I had no alternative but to choose this path since I had devoted my life to serving my community and felt I needed a better education to reach my goals. Eventually, despite various obstacles, I was able to join Chiang Mai University School of Public Policy.
I remain enthusiastic about working for my Pa ‘O people, a group long affected by civil war. I want to promote the education, health, and social sectors. I would also like to help them protect their rights and achieve justice and equality. In the future, I hope to become the Chief Minister in Shan State, which will operate under the Federal Constitution.
Written by Smith with editing assistance from Zomia’s volunteer editors.
“It was very difficult for me to continue my higher education since I grew up in a rural area and didn’t have access to proper education. Yet I felt I had no alternative but to choose this path since I had devoted my life to serving my community and felt I needed a better education to reach my goals.”