An open letter to Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi

Posted on: April 19, 2020 | By: Tom Arcaro | Filed under: General posts on the humanitarian aid industry

An open letter to Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi


19 April 2020

Dear President Win Myint and Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi,

I respectfully request that you read my words.

I write to you because you are in positions of power in Myanmar. I urge you to take immediate actions to halt all warfare in your nation.

Who am I to ask you to take these peace-oriented actions?

I am nobody. I am everybody.  I am the voice of humanitarians everywhere.  I am a sociologist who has devoted his life to understanding the human condition and working for a world where all humans are able to live with dignity and peace.

Your military has a long history of waging war against a wide range of ethnic minorities, and your nation is currently  charged with the crime of genocide in the International Court of Justice. Just now as I write this letter I am getting updates from Kyauktaw and elsewhere in Myanmar showing pictures, videos, and written descriptions of the horror being experienced by many innocents due to actions taken by the Tatmadaw.

I know that in January of 1948 when Burma (now Myanmar) became independent you were one of many newly formed nations around the world. The fall of colonial empires, especially the British, gave rise to the birth of many
newly formed nations in the ’40’s, 50’s, and 60’s in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Central American, South American, the Middle East, and elsewhere.  Most of these new nations had their borders drawn hastily and with little concern for tribal or ethnic homelands. In some cases major ethnic groups were rent apart, finding themselves stateless, living in separate nations.  The Kurdish people are a perfect example, with some in Iraq, others in Iran, and still others in Syria and Turkey.

The vast majority of these new nations -Burma among them- had ethnically mixed populations. The leaders of each had to decide how to deal with a variety of cultural and ethnic groups now living under one government. Two types of leadership strategies emerged. One path was to be inclusive of all cultural and ethnic groups, with Zambia, Ghana, and, most recently in 1989, Namibia being examples. The second path, the one chosen by Burma, was exclusionary, marginalizing minority ethnic groups, this path inexorably destined to generate continuous waves of conflict.

This second path is morally deficient, in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human rights and against all basic humanitarian principles. We are all one human family, regardless of race, ethnicity, or culture. Under the exclusionary path you have chosen for Myanmar only death wins. Nations deserve to have their sovereignty respected only if the rights of all within its borders are honored.  This is not the case in Myanmar.

I beg that you renounce your current adversarial and inhumane path and instead commit to following in the footsteps of those leaders who have chosen the humanitarian option, honoring the right to freedom and dignity of all ethnic groups within Myanmar’s borders. I also beg that you invite back, with full rights as citizens, all those who have fled Myanmar to find temporary shelter in Malaysia, Bangladesh, Thailand, and elsewhere.

Sadly, I could write a similar letter to heads of state all over the world and even to my own President, Donald Trump. I am writing to you specifically, though, because I am bearing witness to the news stories and updates sent daily from Myanmar, stories I cannot ignore.  In this current environment where COVID-19 makes clear we all all one global community -certainly in the eyes of the coronavirus- we must reflect deeply on the fact that humanity is the only true nation.

I hold no grand illusion that my short note will suddenly change your minds or your national policies; my words will not stop the killing and rape. Though I have full knowledge, as I noted above, that ‘I am nobody’, I am certain that my words do represent the sentiment of all true humanitarians. Indeed most spiritual and intellectual thought leaders across the globe reject racism in all its forms.  I ask you to consider joining this group and walk forward with us together into a new future where wars are a relic of the past.

My best wishes to you as you consider my words, neigh, the words of all who hold human dignity as a sacred right.





Dr. Thomas Arcaro
Elon University
Elon,  NC 27244 USA


Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro

Tom Arcaro is a professor of sociology at Elon University. He has been researching and studying the humanitarian aid and development ecosystem for nearly two decades and in 2016 published 'Aid Worker Voices'. He is currently working on a second book tentatively titled "Hearing Voices: Dispatches from the margins of the humanitarian sector".

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