About Kyaw Hsan Hlaing

Born and raised under authoritarian rule in a small rural village in Myanmar, Kyaw Hsan Hlaing had little access to education growing up. Despite his parents never having attended school themselves, they valued education and sent Kyaw Hsan to a charity-run school after he finished primary school. Studying by candlelight in a village that still, to this day, lacks electricity and experiences armed violence, Kyaw Hsan was able to become the first person in his entire family to graduate from high school in 2013. 

Life threw unexpected curves at Kyaw Hsan when, at 18, he had to drop out of a college—just after two years of studies—due to family poverty, leading to a year as an undocumented migrant laborer in China’s Yunnan province. Returning home, he found himself amidst the humanitarian crisis and armed conflicts, witnessing the harsh realities of displacement and genocidal acts by the Myanmar military, now the junta regime, while the opportunity to resume his education remained unknown. 

The summer of 2020 marked a turning point when Kyaw Hsan ventured into journalism, covering a dual crisis of COVID-19 and armed rebellion in western Myanmar. His reporting, despite the government shutting down the internet in what was then called the world's longest internet shutdown, gained international recognition. His stories, initially rejected by many, were eventually published by Foreign Policy, TIME, Al Jazeera, The Los Angeles Times, along with 20 other international outlets

In February of 2021, the military coup in Myanmar shattered Kyaw Hsan’s dream of returning to school. Undeterred, he continued reporting on human rights violations and democratic movements, even facing death threats that forced him into hiding. Eventually, like many journalists, he was forced to flee to Thailand, after which he was granted political asylum and resettled in the United States in early 2022. Kyaw Hsan has been invited to share his experiences at universities like Yale University, and he is the recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Awards.  

Now, Kyaw Hsan is set to embark on a new chapter, aspiring to fulfill his childhood dream by delving into political science to focus on political regimes, violence, and transitions, particularly in fragile states. Currently enrolled at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Kyaw Hsan is a regular contributing writer for The Diplomat Magazine and he is set to graduate in the summer of 2024.  

Education

  • BA in Asian Studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • MA in Political Science, Cornell University
  • PhD in Political Science, Cornell University

Professional Fields

Milestones and Recognition

  • merit awards of Human Rights Press Awards in Commentary Section
  • Sigma Delta Chi Awards for the Foreign Correspondence from the Society of Professional Journalist (SPJ)
  • Finalist Society of Publisher in Asia (SOPA) for Excellence in Opinion Writing

Kyaw's Links

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