The UBC Myanmar Initiative Program's past and present Fellows

UBC Myanmar Initiative

2021 Fellows

Htoi Lar

World Kachin Congress (WKC)

16. Htoi Lar

Htoi Lar earned his first BA's degree from Lashio University in philosophy and the second BA degree from Chiang Mai University, Thailand, majoring in social science (the international program). Currently, he is living with his family in a Kachin Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Kachin state on China – Myanmar border. At the same time, he is working as a Kachin project manager for Partners Relief & Development organization with responsibility to manage community support network projects that promote social equality, community resilience, and sustainable livelihood, he supervises 11 field staff. He has more than nine years work experience in IDP camps and a good-understanding the situation on the ground. He is also a full-time staff member of the World Kachin Congress (WKC). In the past, he was interested in farming and producing a lot of healthy food for the people. However, the political situation in Myanmar pushes him to become a person who more closely involved in politics.

Kyaw Lynn

Institute for Peace and Governance (IPG)

15. Kyaw Lynn

Kyaw Lynn is currently undertaking a master degree at the University of Yangon, he is also an article distributor at the Development Media Group (DMG), Transitional Institute (TNI), and COCONUT media. He completed the Qualitative Research Methodology Class and Development Theory Class at Yangon School of Political Science in 2018 and also My Constitution Academy sponsored by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) in June 2019. He was also one of the Myanmar Representatives to the digital rights camp COCONUT II in the Philippines) in December 2019 and ASEAN People Forum (AFP-2019) in Bangkok.

He has worked at the Myanmar Environmental Legal Services (MELS) as the personal secretary to the director and acted as the chairperson at the Political Science Association (University of Yangon) for about one year. He also worked at the Thazin Community Development Institute (TCDI) as the project facilitator for about one year. He is also the co-translator for Arakan (Rakhine State): A Land in Conflict on the Western Myanmar Frontier published by TNI. He won the first prize at the Essay Competition initiated by Mrauk-U Youth Association, UN Peace Building, and PDI-Kintha. He is currently serving as one of the members of IPG (Institute for Peace and Governance) while writing political articles and doing research papers.

Mon Yee Thant

Center for Diversity and National Harmony (CDNH)

13. Mon Yee Thant

Growing up among a few mixed Bamar / Chinese families within a majority of Kayin community in a small town of Kayin State, seeing and experiencing conflicts, tensions and discriminations were, therefore, unavoidable parts of Mon Yee Thant's childhood.

She graduated with an English Major from the University of Distant Education in Yangon. She has worked with the Research Team for Center for Diversity and National Harmony (CDNH) for four years. During these years, she participated in many research projects which emphasized learning about political and socio-economic situations as well as different sides of inter and intra conflicts concerning diverse ethnic and religious groups from conflict affected areas such as Rakhine, Kachin and Shan North. As a researcher, my goal is to be part of resolving the complex issues in Myanmar for all diverse communities to coexist peacefully from recognizing their rights and equality.

Sann Sann Nwe @ Du Wun

Lutheran World Federation & iPG

10. Du Wuno

In her career, Sann Sann Nwe @ Du Wun strives to reach the goal of peace and for the integration of human rights and acceptance of gender diversity in Myanmar. She is a B.Ed. (Bachelor of Education) degree holder, also achieved a Diploma in Arts and Social Science and an alumna of U.S Exchange Students with YSEALI Academic Fellowship Fall. In the same year, she was nominated as a National Youth Gender Activist by Generation Equality Campaign, UN Asia & Pacific. In 2020, she completed the Constitutional Federalism Program at Justice Base, Yangon Region. Currently, she is working as an assistant training officer for Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and also as co-founder at Institute for Peace and Governance (iPG).

Htet Paing Oo

Center for Diversity and National Harmony

8. Htet Paing Oo

Htet Paing Oo is a Senior Program Manager for the Research Department of the Center for Diversity and National Harmony (CDNH). For more than ten years, he has been working on several research projects focusing on conflict resilience, social cohesion, migration, and development across many of Myanmar’s states and regions. Before moving to CDNH, he worked as a Senior Program Officer for the Political Dialogue Program of the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) and as a Senior Researcher for the Inquiry Commission on Sectarian Violence in Rakhine State. He has earned a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Australian National University (ANU) and a Master of Arts from the Yangon University of Foreign Languages (YUFL). 

Saw Benjamin Thulayphaw

UBC Visiting Fellow

18. Saw Benjamin Thulayphaw

Ben is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts specialized in English Literature from the University of Dagon, in Yangon Division. He also holds a diploma in Teaching English to the Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). He experienced educational interruptions due to students’ uprising in1988, another students’ uprising in 1999 and Saffron uprising in 2007. However, when opportunity opened up starting from 2012, he eyed on further studies. He completed the Executive Master of Development Studies at the Yangon University of Economics in 2020 and he is now writing his thesis for his degree. He was an exchange student for UBC – YUE for 2019.

He recently has worked in minerals sector in which he was exposed to the preparation of social and environmental impact assessment for mineral projects. He intends to expand his research capacity in the fields of social science and resources management. 

"It is a great opportunity to participate in UBC Myanmar Initiative Training Program."

Thurein Lwin

Inya Economic Journal

19. Thurein Lwin

Thurein Lwin (Myanmar) is a development worker. He has over two years experience in public financial management and economic development. He is involved working not only with different levels of government but also with different government agencies in Myanmar. He is also Managing Editor at the Inya Economic Journal which is a student-led initiative for local Burmese students to publish scholarly research, it was founded in 2017. This organization has conducted extensive research and published several reports on Myanmar's economy. Thurein holds a master degree in Development Studies from the Yangon University of Economics. His master thesis analyzed the relationship between inflation and budget deficit in Myanmar. He also has a diploma in International Relations from the University of Yangon and a B.Sc. (Zoology) from Dagon University, Myanmar.

Min Aung Mann

Independent Researcher

2. Min Aung Mann

Min Aung Mann is a researcher whose work is focused on higher education, the non-profit sector, and human security. He has worked in think tanks of Myanmar in previous years. His research and writing are rooted within the policy and conflict issues of Myanmar. His most recent research is the human security issues of Rakhine IDPs during the armed conflict and global pandemic. He is currently investigating the future risk of Myanmar refugees and IDPs at the Thai-Myanmar border.

Writings include: "Human Security Concern: Necessity to access Facebook in northern-Rakhnie and southern-Chin State" (November 2020), Peace Research Institute Oslo / Min Aung Mann (Edited by Dr. Kyaw Moe Tun). "Non-Profit Private Higher Education Institution: A kind of civil society organization" (August 2020). Center for Education Policy Research (Parami) / Mark Brown, Min Aung Mann, Ngai Hung. "Higher Education Curriculum Autonomy". (January 2020). Center for Education Policy Research (Parami).

Than Tun Soe

 Inya Economic Journal

3. Tahn Tun Soe

Than Tun Soe graduated following Development Studies from Yangon University of Economics in 2018. Since 2017, he has been a core-team member and founder of Inya Economics, a local research organization which emphasizes economics, political and business issues of Myanmar and aims to assisting “economic development of Myanmar”.

Since 2018, Than Tun Soe has focussed on fiscal federalism for configuration in the country. In 2019, he worked as a research coordinator for a subnational economic research team, political research team and local administration research team in an organization, communicating with leaders of more than multiple stakeholders. With the political instability in 2021, economics education stopped, and he I organized “Economics Studies Program” for young economic learners. The program is still ongoing. Now, IEJ Editorial Team in which he participated as an editor, is training young researchers for new upcoming issue of the journal.

UBC Myanmar Initiative

UBC Myanmar Initiative Fellows

Nay Yan Oo

Cornell University's Southeast Asia Prog.

Nay Yan Oo

Nay Yan Oo previously worked as a technical advisor for the Governance Program at The Asia Foundation in Myanmar, a resident fellow at the Pacific Forum in Hawaii, and a Program Manager at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Yangon. Nay Yan ran for the Myanmar parliament in the 2020 election from the People’s Party and, before the election, exposed several scandals of the National League for Democracy government (2016-20). He has a Master of Public Policy from the University of Oxford and an MA in Political Science from Northern Illinois University. His research interests include the politics of Myanmar, civil-military relations, democratization, political violence, civil service reform, security sector reform, and political parties and elections. He is the founder and host of Trends in Myanmar – a political talk show.

Cassandra Preece

PhD Candidate, McMaster University

Cassandra Preece

Cassandra Preece is a PhD student in Political Science (Comparative Public Policy) at McMaster University. She is a doctoral research fellow for McMaster’s Ethnic Quota and Political Representation research project and is a 2020 Joseph Armand Bombardier CGS doctoral fellow. She has had work experience in government relations and digital advocacy campaigns in Ontario and completed her master’s thesis on foreign policy priorities in Canadian federal elections. She has published in the European Journal of Development Research and Representation Journal, along with The Conversation Canada. She has contributed to research projects related to women's political participation in Myanmar; ethnic political parties in Myanmar; democratic backsliding in Singapore; and ethnic minority representation and development in Asia. Her current research interests include elections, ethnic minority representation, ethnic conflict, and political parties in the Asia Pacific.

Alexandre Pelletier

Senior Researcher, University of Toronto

Alexandre Pelletier

Alexandre Pelletier, Ph.D. (2019) is Senior Researcher and Coordinator of the new Post-Conflict Reintegration Lab at the University of Toronto. From 2019 to 2021, he was a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University. His research focuses on ethnic and religious conflicts in Southeast Asia, with a focus on Indonesia and Myanmar, where he has conducted extensive fieldwork. He is the co-author of Winning by Process: The State and Neutralization of Ethnic Minorities in Myanmar forthcoming at Cornell University Press (with Jacques Bertrand and Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung). He is currently part of a SSHRC-funde project on civil wars and war to peace transitions in Southeast Asia. His research on Indonesia and Myanmar has been published in Asian Policy & Politics, Comparative Politics, Asian Security, Nationalism & Ethnic Politics, South East Asia Research and Development &Change. @APPelletier www.pelletieralexandre.com

Zaceu Lian

Zaceu Lian, Long-Time Peace and Democracy Advocate

Zaceu Lian

Zaceu Lian is a long-time advocate for democracy, federalism, human rights, and peace in the Union of Burma (Myanmar). After living in exile in both places of India and Canada for 14 years, he returns to his native country in 2012, working full-time for peace and national reconciliation programs currently undertaken by the government of Myanmar, ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), and political parties until the military coup inarch 2021. As one of an insiders as well as an analyst, Zaceu Lian writes and speaks about democratic transition, peace process, and federalism in Myanmar at various seminars and forums. He is now doing his Ph. D in political science at the University of Toronto.

Van Tran

University of Copenhagen

Van Tran

Van Tran completed her PhD at the Department of Government, Cornell University in 2020 with a dissertation examining variation in the resilience of public activism under repression, leveraging historical case studies from Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement during military rule. Her ongoing research projects continue to explore the interactions of authoritarian politics, social movements, and digital cultures in Myanmar and beyond. She has also worked with Burmese policy research institutes and tech organizations to deliver insights and policy recommendations on various topics concerning local governance, digital literacy, and online disinformation. Her recent analysis and commentaries appeared on The Washington Post, Brookings Institution, Al Jazeera, AP, and so forth.  

Siew Han Yeo

University of Toronto

Siew Han Yeo

Siew Han Yeo is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Toronto. Her research explores the two-way legal and discursive process of how Chinese diasporic communities and the colonial state in Burma constituted “Chinese” as an administrative category of racial, legal, and economic distinction through imperial law, colonial institutions and public discourse. She is also a Senior Editor and Operations Manager for Tea Circle (www.teacircleoxford.com), a blog for emerging perspectives on Burma/Myanmar.


Jangai Jap

University of Texas at Austin

Jangai Jap

Jangai Jap, PhD (2021) is a Provost’s Early Career Fellow in the Department of Government and a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Politics of Race and Ethnicity Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include ethnic politics, nationalism, civil war, street-level bureaucracy, state formation, and Burma/Myanmar politics. She recently completed her PhD dissertation, titled Winning Hearts and Minds: Street-level Bureaucracy and Ethnic Minorities’ Attachment to the State in Myanmar, at the George Washington University. Her on-going book project examines ethnic minorities’ experiences with the state in street-level bureaucracy in three different settings in Myanmar—areas under government’s control, areas under ethnic armed organizations’ control, and the post-coup setting—and the implications of these encounters for their political behavior and attitudes. Previously, she worked at an NGO in Yangon and taught English at the Kachin Theological College & Seminary in Myitkyina. Her research and analysis have been published in Electoral Studies and Tea Circle.

Elaina Nguyen

MA Student at UBC's Social Justice Institute

Elaina Nguyen

Elaina Nguyen (she/her) is an MA Student at UBC's Social Justice Institute. She completed her undergraduate degree in Arts & Science at McMaster University where she worked as research assistant on several IDRC-funded projects related to Myanmar. Her research interests center around decolonization, gender/ethnic minority representation, activism, education, and Southeast Asian diaspora.

Thu Ya Aung

Texas State University

Thu Ya Aung

Thu Ya Aung, a doctoral research assistant at Texas State University, is a doctoral candidate in School Improvement doctoral program. He earned an MSEd (Curriculum and Instruction) from Purdue University and an MA (English) and BA (Honours) (English) degrees from the University of Yangon, Myanmar. Before pursuing his doctoral study, he worked as an education officer for UNICEF Myanmar office and as a teacher and teacher educator. His research interest includes education for minorities, education policy, and Myanmar’s education. 


Isabel Chew

PhD candidate, UBC

Isabel Chew

Isabel Chew is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at UBC. Her research addresses two broad questions within the context of Southeast Asian identity politics: (1) How does ethnicity affect voting behaviour, and (2) how can outgroup prejudice be reduced? Isabel has been involved with the UBC Myanmar Initiative Program since 2018 and serves on the board of editors at Inya Economic Journal, where she mentors young Burmese researchers. Isabel previously worked as a policy consultant for governments in Southeast Asia and East Africa, and her writings have been published in the East Asia Forum and The Routledge Handbook on Race and Ethnicity in Asia.


Htet Thiha Zaw

University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

Htet Thiha Zaw

Htet Thiha Zaw is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. He studies the development of education policy in colonial Southeast Asia and its relationship with anti-colonial resistance, focusing on British Burma. His research also covers topics in contemporary comparative education policy, such as education efficiency and early-childhood education.


Constant Courtin

PhD candidate, UBC

Constant Courtin

Constant Courtin is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at UBC. Graduated from SciencePo Toulouse in 2013, Constant was the research manager of the Center for Diversity and National Harmony (CDNH), a research organisation based in Yangon, from 2014 to 2019. As a research manager, Constant conducted numerous research projects throughout the country on inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations as well as on State-, Nation- and Peace-Building. Most of the research he has been involved in are publicly available at www.cdnh.org. Currently, Constant focuses his research on “the State” in Myanmar. His most recent co-authored publication has been published by Contemporary Southeast Asia 42, no.2 (2020). (https://www.jstor.org/stable/26937798). 


Aye Lei Tun

PhD candidate, McMaster University

Aye Lei Tun UBC Fellow

Aye Lei Tun obtained a Master’s Degree in Gender, Human Rights and Conflict Studies from the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, and the Master Degree in Development Practices from the University of Queensland. She has a background in journalism, and media and she is currently working as a researcher on gender and media-related studies for Burma-based international NGOs. In 2021, she enrolled in the PhD program in Political Science at McMaster University, Canada. Aye Lei is a published author - under the pen names Myat Shu, Thawda Thit and Thawda Aye Lei.


Isabella Aung

PhD candidate, Queen's University

Isabella Aung UBC Fellow

Born in Myanmar and raised in the United States, Bella has been a resident of Canada since 2017. She earned an honors degree in International Relations with a minor in Mathematics from Linfield College, Oregon, and completed a semester abroad in Politics, French, and Arabic at the University of Nottingham, UK, with first-class honors standing. Having been awarded an MA degree in Political Science from Simon Fraser University, her recent research encompasses the electoral representation of visible minorities in North America, resettlement of newcomers to Canadian cities, and populism and nationalism in Burmese politics. She joined the Department of Political Studies at Queen's University as a doctoral student in September 2020. Her doctoral research focuses on women’s unprecedented political participation and leadership in the anti-military movement during the ongoing military coup in Myanmar.


Courtney Wittekind

PhD candidate, Harvard University

Courtney Wittekind UBC Fellow

Courtney Wittekind is a PhD Candidate in Social Anthropology at Harvard University. Her doctoral research pursues two lines of inquiry linked to urban development and economic insecurity in contemporary Myanmar (Burma). The primary component is an ethnographic study of the politics of planning amidst uncertainty in southwest Yangon, a region undergoing rapid transformation as a result of the ambitious New Yangon Development Project, which aims to extend the city’s limits by over 20,000 acres. A second avenue of inquiry probes Myanmar’s broader political transition, proposing that local responses to the delays and deferrals of a large-scale, state-led development project may reveal related stances toward nascent reforms, with the pursuit of a “new nation” and a “new city” experienced as intimately interlinked. This research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Fulbright-Hays program.


UBC Visiting Fellows

Two outstanding young researchers from the Yangon University of Economics joined UBC’s Masters of Public Policy and Global Affairs program for one term in 2018, 2019, and 2020. They completed a full course load that supported not only their own development as researchers, but also enriched discussions around key public policy and development issues in the classroom. The pandemic and the coup made the visiting program impossible in 2021, but we hope to continue it in the future.

UBC Visting Fellows

2020 Scholars from the Yangon University of Economics

Myat Thet Su

Myat Thet Su has a keen interest in responsible and sustainable environment policy and tries to implement such programmes as part of her business model. She was interested in the summer programme because she saw it as a great opportunity to learn about the different education systems in different countries. Additionally, she likes to attend workshops and lectures as a way to keep her motivated to pick up new skills. 

 Myat The Su hopes that as Myanmar continues to develop, proper procedures that can be put in place to ensure follow-through on implementation, as opposed to taking shortcuts. Although Canada is very far away from Myanmar, she thinks that Burmese people can learn from the work culture in Canada, where young professionals can be promoted on merit rather than being seniority-based. In this manner, people can learn from those with more experience but the company can also benefit from the energy of the young people. 

Saw Benjamin Thulayphaw

Currently he works part-time for them while pursuing his Masters of Development at YUE. In his job role, he was involved in advocacy efforts at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Conservation and worked with central and regional governments. In particular, Benjamin helped out with the environmental management plan for one of the biggest state-level projects for jade-mining as project manager and coordinator. He hopes to research more on the relationship between economic development and natural resources – in problematic mining areas in particular, how can some of the environmental impact from illegal mining be mitigated? 

 By participating in the UBC-YUE summer programme, Benjamin would like to be exposed to different styles of teaching. He hopes that he can help to promote sustainable economic development in Myanmar; currently, he thinks that Myanmar is facing a failure of coordination where the system cannot be sustained. By playing a small part, he hopes to be able to create a stronger economic system. His impression of Canada is that Canada is an exciting place, with a good reputation and a good system.

UBC Visting Fellows

2019 Scholars from the Yangon University of Economics

Khaing Aye Nyein

In her role, she is responsible for research on Myanmar so as to contribute to shaping Australia’s policies. Being trained in research design is highly relevant to her current job, as well as to her future aspirations. Although she has on the job training, she hopes to be able pursue a more scientific approach that is backed by theory. Through the YUE-UBC Summer program, she hopes to be able to develop a stronger thesis. In the longer term however, Khaing hopes that she would be able to join a national think-tank to contribute research projects.

 Khaing has had nothing but positive experiences with Canadians. She brings up the example of how a Canadian client whom she helped continues to stay in touch with her many years after their encounter. 

While Myanmar is a complex country with developmental gaps and a need for greater trust between the different ethnic groups, Khaing hopes that these issues can be resolved, with greater trust built up between the different communities so as to work together towards a better future. 

Shadan Seng Raw

For the YUE-UBC Summer program,  Shadan Seng Raw is interested in policy research and development. She is especially interested in the plight of internally displaced people in the Kachin and Shan states as she is originally from the Kutkai township in the Northern Shan state. As Myanmar continues to develop, she hopes that peace and harmony between the different ethnic groups can be achieved, with the provision of equal access to opportunities for ethnic minorities. 

UBC Visting Fellows

2018 Scholars from the Yangon University of Economics

Aung Ko Ko

Aung Ko Ko's interests are in the gender inequities in public health. He is a medical doctor by training and has been working in the public health sector since 2007. He is currently managing the clinic in the overpopulated area of Yangon, Hlaing Tharyar Township, the area that he had been working for his master research. Previously, he has worked with the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership, the World Health Organization, CARE Myanmar on the Nargis Cyclone Response Program, and as a Medical Officer at Aide Medical International in Northern Rakhine State. His research project addresses health disparities according to gender difference among the internal migrant population in Hlaing Thar Yar township near Yangon. Moreover, he contributed to the AIT and YUE research collaborative programs supported by IDRC for the research area related with Civic Engagement in youth. He contributed his time for the UBC YUE summer program for two years consecutively.

Khin Yu Yu Win

As part of her master degree, Khin Yu Yu Win was awarded as an exchange student for one semester at Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs Program (MPPGA) at University of British Columbia, Vancouver in 2018. She also obtained her master degree in Gender and Development Studies at Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand in 2012. Her thesis papers are “Empowerment of Rural Myanmar through Income Generating Activities, 2012” and “Resettlement Effects on Women: A case study of Myaingtharyar Resettlement Site, Thilawa Special Economic Zone, 2019.”

Her areas of interest are women’s empowerment, socio-economic/gender research and rural enterprise development through village level food processing. She is also a co-founder of Gender Academy Myanmar which provides gender related consultancy and gender training that nurtures future gender champions in Myanmar. She has been working as a development practitioner since 2004. Throughout her working experiences, a wide variety of socio-economic/gender related assessments/ research could be successfully conducted with an effective team management and good coordination with counterparts/organizations and delivered  insightful reports with loads of useful information to Donors/Clients. 

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