6. Naing Ko Ko

Sponsor Club: Rotary Club of Downtown Auckland District 9920

Host Club: Capalaba, District 9630

Naing Ko Ko was only 16 years old when he joined the pro-democracy protests in Burma in 1988. As a student, he was arrested for leading protests against the brutal military regime. At barely 20 years old, Naing Ko was a political prisoner with a 7-year sentence, including 6 years of solitary confinement, in Burma’s prisons.

Despite the appalling treatment and degradations endured during this time, Naing Ko managed to teach himself English with the aid of just a few old copies of Time magazine and a dictionary. He did his English homework with only plastic and sticks during his imprisonment. Naing Ko has worked on the Thai-Burma border in the areas of democracy, human rights, national reconciliation and economic development.

For more than 10 years, he collaborated with UN agencies, state and non-state-activists and intellectuals. His advocacy work with exiled Burmese political coalitions took him all around the world to meet with key global decision-makers. He was an intern of the European Parliament and has been promoting democracy and national reconciliation for Burma on the global stage. In 2007, New Zealand accepted Naing Ko as a UN-sponsored refugee, and in 2010, he was presented with the Human Rights Defender Award by Amnesty International New Zealand.

Naing Ko's field experience was undertaken in the Australian Parliament with Federal Member Janelle Saffin gaining experience in policy formulation, decision making, = and other peaceful foreign and trade policy initiatives at the national level.