Aaron Terrazas/The Hoya Ka Hsaw Wa said that multinational corporations contribute to human rights violations.
Human rights activist Ka Hsaw Wa detailed rampant human rights abuses in Burma and urged students to work to make a difference in a speech Wednesday afternoon in ICC Auditorium.
“We have a lot of power and we can change things,” he said.
In opening introductions, Dominic Nardi (SFS ’05) explained Hsaw Wa’s importance.
“Because of his persistent work, today the world knows the truth about Burma,” he said. “Thanks to the truth he brought to light, there is hope Burma will one day be a free nation.”
Hsaw Wa explained his personal story of abuse at the hands of the Burmese military government in graphic detail.
“Military intelligence visited my house and three of them took me to a police station,” he said. “They put me in a room and the smell was so weird. They turned off the lights and left. I was so scared.”
Hsaw Wa was subsequently tortured. He then vowed revenge on his tormentors but decided to settle scores by documenting human rights violations instead of using violence.
Throughout the speech, Hsaw Wa singled out multinational corporations, especially petroleum giant UNOCAL for exacerbating the human rights abuses in Burma through sponsorship of the Yadana pipeline.
“They want to build a pipeline but the local people don’t want it. The military and corporations do so they’re building it,” he said. “If you could go to the pipeline you’d see many men, women and children who are forced to work on the pipeline. Many women are raped. Many people are killed.”
Most students who saw Hsaw Wa’s presentation greatly enjoyed it.
“What’s really wonderful is he’s able to bring an individual perspective you can’t get elsewhere,” said Hanseul Kang (SFS ’04). “We’ve read the UNOCAL case study but reading the case study can’t give you the perspective hearing someone speak can.”
Hsaw Wa, the co-founder and co-director of EarthRights International, a human and environmental rights organization, was at Georgetown as part of a year-long series of presentations celebrating Pacem in Terris, a lecture series marking the 40th anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s encyclical on world peace.