top of page

Dr. Maung Zarni nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

Dr. Maung Zarni

Northern Irish Nobel Laureate Nominates Burmese Activist for 2024 Peace Prize


April 16, 2016

The renowned Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Corrigan Maguire (herself recipient of the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize) has nominated the UK-exiled Burmese human rights activist and genocide scholar Dr Maung Zarni for the Nobel Peace Prize.

On the eve of the Burmese traditional New Year this week, the Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia (FORSEA) and the Free Rohingya Coalition (FRC) jointly announced Maguire’s nomination, based on Zarni’s “impactful and tireless activism for peace and harmony among human communities over three decades”.

Maguire’s nomination letter to the Nobel committee highlighted Zarni’s activism both for democracy in Myanmar and for “non-violence campaigners for peace and freedom from Tibet, East Timor (now Timor Leste), Nigeria, India, Thailand, Palestine and the Jewish diaspora”.

While Zarni says that the Nobel prize “has been deeply tarnished” by some awards, “of which the late Henry Kissinger was only the most infamous”, he adds, that “as a radical anti-imperialist, I am most proud to be Maguire’s choice”.

Marilyn Langlois, fellow member of Johan Galtung’s TRANSCEND network wrote:

“Zarni became part of our family when he came to the US in 1988, and drew my daughter and me into his pioneering activism with the Free Burma Coalition, opposing military dictatorship in his home country, a few years later. Ever since then, he has been a teacher and role model for me in advocacy for positive peace–not just the absence of war but affirming the dignity and self-determination of all people suffering the ravages of oppression and structural violence.”

Dr Helen Jarvis (Cambodia), Vice-President of the Permanent People’s Tribunal, and recipient of the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Genocide Scholars says:

“Forthright and unabashed straightforwardness mixed with compassion were the characteristics that first struck me, when in 2013 in Bremen, Germany, I worked with Zarni as a fellow judge on the Second People’s Tribunal on Sri Lanka. Over the past decade I have been proud to work alongside him in many different campaigns, witnessing his continued principled commitment to stand the oppressed of this earth in the fight for freedom and justice.”

For more information contact or

Biographical background

Maung Zarni (or Zarni, as the Burmese have only one given names) (60) is co-founder and coordinator of several international activist networks and platforms, including the Free Burma Coalition (1995-2004), the FORSEA (2018 – present) and the Free Rohingya Coalition (2018-present). Zarni now serves as an adviser to Burma’s oldest ethnic resistance organization, the Karen National Union (founded in 1947). Zarni is a member of the Board of Advisors of Genocide Watch, The Alliance Against Genocide, the world's first international anti-genocide coalition.

Zarni was born and raised in Mandalay (Burma) in an extended military family to an educator mother and socially conscious businessman father under General Ne Win’s “socialist” military dictatorship. As a young teenager, he learned community organizing from his parents who led self-help communal initiatives for their residential neighbourhood. In July 1988, on the eve of the nationwide uprisings known as 8.8.88 (after the uprising date 8 August 1988), Zarni left his native Myanmar for California, USA where he enrolled as a foreign student on a Non-resident Tuition Scholarship offered by the Graduate Division of the University of California at Davis.

During his 17-years as an asylee in the US, Zarni held a tenure-track assistant professorship in educational foundations at National-Louis University in Chicago, a position he gave up to be a full-time activist based in Berkeley, California. He was married to Annie Leonard, a renowned American environmentalist and the acclaimed author of “The Story of Stuff”. Together they have a daughter Dewi (24), an activist legal researcher who specializes in prisoners’ rights in California.

In 2005, Zarni relocated to the United Kingdom as a visiting research fellow in the Department of International Development at Oxford University, in hopes of resuming his academic career. He subsequently worked as an associate professor of Asian Studies at the Universiti Brunei Darussalem, but resigned over censorship of his public engagement on the Burmese genocide of Rohingya. Post-resignation, he also declined an offer of a Scholars-at-risk fellowship at the London School of Economics in 2014 to do anti-genocide activism full-time.

He married a fellow British scholar Dr Natalie Brinham, a senior research associate with the Migration Mobilities Bristol, a specialist research institute at the University of Bristol. Together, they co-authored a groundbreaking 3-year study “The Slow-Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya” published by the University of Washington School of Law in 2014. The couple live in Kent, with their daughter Nilah (14), where both pursue their scholarship and activism on genocides, including Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza and the continuing genocidal conditions of Rohingya in Myanmar.

Recent Posts

See All


Follow Genocide Watch for more updates:

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Twitter Icon
  • Grey YouTube Icon
bottom of page