Scenes from a Human Rights Investigation in Myanmar

Students participating in the Human Rights Study Project

George Zaras '16, Sejal Jhaveri '15, Monica Kim '15, Tony Greene '16, Tanner Camp '16, Reedy Swanson '16, David Ledet '16, Tawnie Gulizia '15 spent 15 days in Myanmar studying human rights issues over winter break.

April 7, 2015

Students in the Human Rights Study Project at the University of Virginia School of Law recently traveled to Myanmar, a Southeast Asian country attempting to transition toward democracy, to research a range of human rights issues.

The project members, known as Cowan Fellows, will discuss their experiences April 14 from 2-3:30 p.m. in the Purcell Reading Room. Second-year law student David Ledet gives us a preview of the students' experiences through photos he took on their journey.

"Myanmar is a complicated place," Ledet said. "The country's startling beauty contrasts uneasily with its history of human rights violations and the myriad challenges before it. Despite the obstacles, the commitment and kindness of the residents and workers we met provide hope that positive changes will continue."

Ledet and Tanner Camp '16, Tony Greene '16, Tawnie Gulizia '15, Sejal Jhaveri '15, Monica Kim '15, Reedy Swanson '16, and George Zaras '16 spent 15 days in the country studying issues ranging from the impact of foreign investment to health care and Myanmar's constitution.

Until its 2010 election, Myanmar was ruled by a military junta and the country faced ethnic strife and civil wars.

"Those elections marked the beginning of a transition from authoritarian military rule to a democracy," Ledet said. Since the election, Europe and the United States have eased trade and other economic sanctions, opening the country to development as well.

In the past, Cowan Fellows have traveled to Cuba, Sierra Leone, Syria and Lebanon, China, India, Uganda, Cambodia, Egypt, Malawi, Sri Lanka, Madagascar and Ghana. Participants are selected by the prior year's student team based on applications submitted in the spring. UVA Law professor Mila Versteeg advised the students and joined them for a portion of the trip.

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