It all began when Zaw Min Htut learned he was on a list. Back then, however, he had a different name: Luk Man Hakim.

For three years he had been studying at Yangon University — not law or political science, like he dreamed of, but zoology, one of the subjects he was allowed to enrol in as a noncitizen.

Although he was born and raised in Myanmar and could trace his family history in the country back several generations, Zaw Min Htut was stateless. In an attempt to change this situation for himself and others in the same predicament, he had become one of the leaders of an underground pro-democracy movement. And in December 1996, the protest leaders took the bold step of launching street demonstrations against the country's military government.