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Sao Thusandi Leadership Award History

“The decades-long civil conflict, along with attendant human rights abuses committed by the tatmadaw (Burmese military) against civilian communities, has spawned a tragedy in Shan State. Hundreds of thousands have had to flee their homes, forced to work often under abusive, exploitative conditions. Perhaps one of the most enduring tragedies has been the undermining of human capacity of these communities.

Yet Shan State communities, in the face of ongoing deprivations, have not stayed silent, and individuals have for years taken the initiative to speak out against and fight against significant odds to realize their basic rights and improve their communities. This is particularly true for the youth, who are able to equip themselves with the modern tools and skills to successfully and tirelessly do so.

In recognition of the work of these committed and brave individuals, the Sao Thusandi Leadership Award was established in 2008 to honor “young people from Shan State who are committed to taking a leadership role in establishing a democratic, peaceful and thriving Shan State” and encourage others in Shan State who are also fighting to preserve local customs and culture.

In recognizing such individuals, the award recognizes the efforts of these largely unsung heroes and expresses solidarity with their walk towards a Shan State at peace with itself, a Shan State envisioned by the former Saophalong and Mahadevi (Ruling Prince and Princess) of Hsipaw, Sao Kya Seng and Sao Thusandi”

-Vit Suwanvanichkj

Previous Award Winners

The Sao Thusandi Award was created to encourage and support the awardees in their work to uphold local customs and culture and to inspire others in Shan State to follow their example in pursuit of a democratic society in their homeland, which presents opportunities for all. US $3,000 has been given to each of the following awardees, and nominations for 2016 are open now.

2008   Sai Phu Murng Gerng Chai – Human Rights Development Foundation
​For advocating for the rights of migrant workers injured and killed in Thailand to compensation and legal protections

2009   Sai Shang Pun – Shan Relief and Development Committee
For providing emergency aid to displaced Shan communities and documenting systematic injustice

2010   Nang Moan Kaein – Shan Women’s Action Network 
For organizing education programs for displaced children on the Thai-Burma border

2011   Sai Bay Da – Shan Health Committee
For providing essential health services to IDPs on the Thai-Burma border

2012   Ven. Sao Siri Dhamma – Fah Wiang Inn Temple
For promoting Shan literature, culture, and local histories

2013   Sai Sam Phoon Hseng – Shan Nationalities League for Democracy
For his youth outreach and training activities

2014   Nang Gong Tip Nang La – Nai Hai Long Village (eastern Shan State)
For her resistance to gold mining operations that have devastated the environment, livelihoods and health of her community

​2​015   Nang Noon Hom 
For her work with the Shan State Farmers’ Network in opposing land confiscation (watch a video of the 2015 award ceremony)

​2016 Nominations are open