Person

Ka Hsaw Wa

Occupation:

Political Activist

President and Co-Founder, EarthRights International

Spouse:

Katie Redford

Ka Hsaw Wa co-founded the environmentalist advocacy group Earth Rights International with his wife, environmentalist lawyer Katie Redford. [1] Ka Hsaw Wa, a member of the Karen ethnic minority group who was born in Rangoon, Burma (Myanmar), fled the country in 1988 to escape political persecution. [2]

Burmese Activism

Ka Hsaw Wa had formed a national protest movement against military rule by the junta that ruled Myanmar from 1988 until 2010. Ka Hsaw Wa was arrested and jailed. When released, he said that he was “full of hatred” for the military junta leading to his exile from the country of Burma (now known as Myanmar). [3] according to Ka Hsaw Wa’s wife Katie Redford, he was tortured in prison while in Burma.

Post-Emigration Political Activity

Ka Hsaw Wa created Earth Rights International. The new organization highlighted concerns with the Yadana Natural Gas pipeline to transport oil from the Yadana gas field in southern Burma. He described the pipelines as “the most notorious project in Burma.” [4]

In 2008, Mr. Hsaw Wa testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary about “corporate complicity in human rights abuses and resources revenues leading to corruption, poor governance, and human rights abuses.” [5]

In 2010, Ka Hsaw Wa signed a letter directed to the executive board of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization agency in protest of Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the leader of Equatorial Guinea, who has been characterized as “one of Africa’s most brutal dictators.” [6] In the letter, Ka Hsaw Wa contended that any prize from UNESCO in the name of President Mbasogo “offends the very standards and goals UNESCO promotes.” The letter also asked that any money donated by President Mbasogo to UNESCO be used for educational, health, and other needs by the people of Equatorial New Guinea. [7]

Doe v. Unocal

In 2000, Ka Hsaw Wa’s organization, Earth Rights International, representing 15 Burmese peasants, filed a lawsuit against the gas company Unocal for activities related to the Yadana pipeline in Burma. [8]

In the lawsuit, Ka Hsaw Wa, and his wife, used an obscure 1789 American law to sue Unocal for alleged human rights violations while operating in Burma. [9]  The creation of Earth Rights International was in large part due to the lawsuit called Doe v. Unocal. [10]

References

  1. Aung, Wei Yan. “On This Day: The Day Dictator Ne Win Won Asia’s Nobel Prize.” The Irrawaddy, August 4, 2019. https://www.irrawaddy.com/specials/on-this-day/day-dictator-ne-win-won-asias-nobel-prize.html. ^
  2. Erman, Michael. “Watchdog Group Says Chevron Complicit in Myanmar.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, April 29, 2008. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-chevron-myanmar/watchdog-group-says-chevron-complicit-in-myanmar-idUSN2850022820080429?sp=true. ^
  3. Beyond Rangoon, April 5, 2000. https://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2000/04/05/rangoon.html. ^
  4. EARTH DAY with KA HSAW WA: “Everybody Belongs”. ENS-Newswire, April 7, 2000. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2000/2000-04-07-01.html. ^
  5. Wa, Ka Hsaw. “WRITTEN TESTIMONY OF KAHSAWWA* CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR EARTHRIGHTS INTERNATIONAL (ERI) .” SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE LA W . United States Senate, September 24, 2008. https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/08-09-24KaHsawWaTestimony.pdf. ^
  6. “Equatorial Guinea Country Profile.” BBC News, May 8, 2018. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13317174. ^
  7. “Letter to UNESCO: Cancel UNESCO-Obiang Prize.” Human Rights Watch, April 17, 2015. https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/08/12/letter-unesco-cancel-unesco-obiang-prize. ^
  8. EARTH DAY with KA HSAW WA: “Everybody Belongs”. ENS-Newswire, April 7, 2000. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2000/2000-04-07-01.html. ^
  9. Moyers, Bill. “NOW with Bill Moyers. This Week.” PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, January 9, 2004. http://www.pbs.org/now/thisweek/index_010904.html. ^
  10. “The Story of ERI.” Bertha Foundation, October 26, 2016. https://berthafoundation.org/the-story-of-earthrights-international-where-it-all-began/.[/note]  The plaintiffs alleged that Unocal forced Burmese people to work on a pipeline at gunpoint. The lawsuit against Unocal was settled out of court. [note]Human Rights Activists Target Corporations, Governments – Planet Newsletter March 1999 – Sierra Club. Accessed March 17, 2020. http://vault.sierraclub.org/planet/199903/hre.asp. ^

Connected Organizations

  1. EarthRights International (ERI) (Non-profit)
    President and Co-Founder
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