Myanmar Activist Zarni Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize Questions Award’s Legacy


Zuhal Demirci | Anadolu Ajansı - TRANSCEND Media Service

‘I was very happy but of course that is not to say that I see a Nobel Peace Prize as something that is perfect.’

20 Apr 2024 – A human rights activist and genocide scholar, newly nominated for the 2024 Nobel Peace Prize by Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the 1976 winner of the prize, expressed gratitude for the nomination but said he does not see the Nobel as “something perfect.”

Speaking to Anadolu, Maung Zarni, who comes from the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, said: “I was very happy but of course that is not to say that I see a Nobel Peace Prize as something that is perfect.”

“Because the Nobel Committee had chosen in the past some of the most horrendous, essentially individuals, you know, people like the late Henry Kissinger, and then others, that many activists around the world consider war criminals,” he said.

On the ongoing armed conflict in Myanmar, which is under a coup regime, he said despite the grim situation, traditional New Year celebrations were taking place. He expressed hope that amid the turmoil, he could share some positive news with the people of Myanmar and global activists, prompting him to announce his Nobel nomination to the press.

Maung Zarni

UN Security Council ‘lost its moral purpose’

Criticizing the appointment of Julie Bishop as a UN special envoy to Myanmar, he expressed his lack of faith in the UN’s ability to bring about a political solution in his country.

Bishop, a former Australian foreign minister, this month was appointed UN special envoy to Myanmar by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to support political dialogue and a peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, which has been under military rule since a 2021 coup.

Zarni said, however, that her appointment will not yield any positive results and that the UN Security Council, which plays a crucial role in authorizing peacekeeping missions and enforcing international resolutions, has lost its moral authority and effectiveness.

“Essentially, not just the … Security Council itself has lost its moral purpose. It’s lost its cohesion because of the anti-democratic way of organizing (the) veto system,” he said, referring to the way any of the council’s five permanent members can veto any measure, even if the rest of the council votes yes.

The UN has previously appointed numerous envoys to Myanmar without any significant progress, he said, questioning their qualifications and effectiveness.

Also, labeling the actions of Israel in Gaza a “genocide,” Zarni who has conducted extensive research on genocide in countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Germany, and Austria, drew parallels between Israel’s actions against the Palestinians and those of the Nazis.

“I just returned from Austria … I visited one of the largest Nazi concentration camps called Mauthausen, and you know, about 160 kilometers (99 miles) outside of Vienna, the capital. What Israel is doing to the Palestinians is actually far worse than what the Nazis were doing,” he said.

Additionally, Zarni accused Israel of committing genocide with the assistance of major Western powers.

“I think Israel is doing the genocide with the help of Western countries, USA, UK, Germany, France. And so I think that this genocide is a collective joined genocide,” he said.

Unlike the Nazis, who acted independently, Israel depends on the support of various Western countries, many of which are NATO members or leaders, he said.

Peace Activist Maguire nominates Zarni for Nobel

Renowned Northern Ireland peace activist Maguire, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976, wrote a nomination letter to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee expressing her desire to nominate Zarni for “his impactful and tireless activism for peace and harmony among human communities over three decades.”

“Beyond his native Burma (Myanmar), he has advised, worked in solidarity with and otherwise assisted non-violence campaigners for peace and freedom from Tibet, East Timor (now Timor Leste), Nigeria, India, Thailand, Palestine and the Jewish diaspora,” the letter said.

“As a natural educator, he has inspired countless other activists and young people around the world with his principled activism which embodies the universal fellowship of all humans uniting in peace,” it added.

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