Burmese human rights activist James Hla Saw sat across from me at a teahouse in New York City. I’d met the 29-year-old Columbia University graduate a week before, on July 15, when he and fellow Burmese human rights activists gathered near the UN to protest Special Envoy Razali Ismail’s recent trip to the Asian nation.
The protesters included Australians from the All Burma Student Democratic Organization (ABSDO) in Sydney, a Japanese Buddhist monk, and activists from across the US. It was the first time that various organizations, including the Free Burma Coalition and All Burma Students League (ABSL), had converged with leaders from Australia, Belgium, Canada, San Francisco, New York, Japan, and India. One concrete result was the formation of the Democratic Federation of Burma, a new network of pro-democracy groups.