My name is Wong Aung. I was born and raised in Minbya, Rakhine State, in western Myanmar. I am a director of the Shwe Gas Movement (SGM), which was formed in 2004 out of concern for the social, political, and financial impacts of Myanmar’s extractive industries, particularly in the oil and gas sector. SGM envisioned that Myanmar should have a strong civil society, dynamic inter-ethnic solidarity, sustainable and equitable use of natural resources, and conscious efforts in environmental protection and adherence to tenets of good governance. The organization’s primary constituencies are those living in communities directly affected by large-scale extractive and energy developments.
Prior to SGM, I volunteered at Action Contre la Faim (ACF), a French NGO working on community development in Rakhine State. I helped conduct community assessment activities for ACF to estimate family incomes, medical accessibility, clean water access, student drop-out rates, literacy rates, etc. I enjoyed the environmental atmosphere of the countryside. What I witnessed brought home to me that the local villagers were poor—but the water holes lasted year-round, the rivers flowed, people went fishing, students walked to school through high grass, and kids went swimming in the creeks. However, I realized that the bright future of those villages were very much reliant upon development.
I attempted to fulfill the knowledge and literacy needs of adults trapped in remote ethnic regions with few educational resources and little knowledge about the outside world. This was my first experience in such communities.
About Wong Aung
- Age: 39
- Ethnicity: Rakhine
- Country: Myanmar
School & Program
- Chiang Mai University
- Master’s, Social Science
Goals & Dreams
- Become an academic activist
- Serve as community or social worker in Myanmar
- Loan Amount: $3,975
- Amount Left To Fund: $4
- Contract Duration: 11 years
- Status: Prefunded by Zomia
What Others Are Saying About Wong Aung
As the Global Coordinator/Director of SGM, I have been working in an advocacy, research and mobilizing capacity, specifically documenting and publicizing human rights abuses in connection with the proposed Shwe Gas Project. Due to my connections to the Arakan community, I have been particularly focused on exposing the oppressive reality under the military dictatorship there and the negative impacts of the oil and gas industry.
On a day-to-day basis, I work to coordinate research initiatives both inside and outside Burma, deploying fact-finding missions and developing initiatives to raise awareness amongst affected communities. Given that I assume a facilitation role, I have found it important to be able to convey information related to human rights, and violations of those rights guaranteed under international law. Therefore, having a better understanding of the technical information related to this subject will ensure that I am able to educate others more systematically and effectively. Significantly, this work necessitates a high level of diplomacy in order to work between and amongst various stakeholders and ensure an effective strategy to build a strong network capable of consciousness raising and reliable data collection.
Amartya Sen said, “The real wealth of a nation is its people. And the purpose of the development is to create and enable environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives. This simple but powerful truth is too often forgotten in the pursuit of material and financial wealth”. As I have been working for the economic and environment justice in this industrialized world, I believe that development should not be viewed as an approach which can only be measured in terms of cash and which can only benefit to a handful of the privileged elite. Instead, the term “Development” should simply represent the socio-economic development, which can benefit the local people in terms of improving the quality of life such as lifespan, education, employment and health, etc. With this in mind, I will continue to strive for the betterment of the humanity to the best of my ability.
Written by Wong Aung with editing assistance from Zomia’s volunteer editors.
“I will continue to strive for the betterment of humanity to the best of my ability.”