Zaw Min Htut has been working for Rohingyas’ rights through the Burmese Rohingya Association of Japan since he fled Burma in 1998. Prior to that he was a student activist in Burma, and was detained for his participation in protests in 1996. In Japan, Zaw Min Htut has organized protests at the Burmese embassy and has written books on the history of Rohingya.
Nine people were nominated for the award, including one other Burmese who is a former political prisoner. The award is given to people who show “Exceptional valor and leadership in advocating the protection of human rights and democracy in the face of government repression.” The people of Burma have faced government repression for decades, and it is notable that two out of the nine nominees are from Burma.
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority who live in Western Burma, and are one of the most repressed groups in the country. Several groups (pdf), including PHR, have documented human rights abuses against Rohingya in Burma and in Bangladesh, where many have fled. Rohingya have long suffered the brutality of Burmese regime, including forced labor, extortion and forced migration.