This August 4, 2021, panel discussion provides insight into the political context of the recent military coup in Myanmar/Burma, the violent crackdown on protests opposing the coup, and discuss the work of human rights defenders responding to these developments.


Phil Robertson:

Chris Merrill: Christopher Merrill has published six collections of poetry, including Watch Fire, for which he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; many edited volumes and translations; and six books of nonfiction, among them, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars, Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy Mountain, The Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War, and Self-Portrait with Dogwood. His writings have been translated into nearly forty languages; his journalism appears widely; his honors include a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres from the French government, numerous translation awards, and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial and Ingram Merrill Foundations. As director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa since 2000, Merrill has conducted cultural diplomacy missions to more than fifty countries. He served on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO from 2011-2018, and in April 2012 President Barack Obama appointed him to the National Council on the Humanities.

Elaisa Vahnie:  Executive Director of the Burmese American Community Institute (BACI) based in Indianapolis, Elaisa Vahnie has nearly twenty years of experience addressing human rigths challenges in Myanmar (also known as Burma), and has formed various successful collaborative and strategic partnerships nationally and internationally. As a recipient of the U.S. Department of State Scholarship, Mr. Vahnie earned his bachelor degree and holds a Master’s of Public Affairs (MPA) degree from Indiana University Bloomington, where he dual specialized in Comparative International Affairs and Policy Analysis.

Ronald McMullen:



International Writing Program resources:

Human Rights Watch