News / Asia

Documentary Highlights Burma's Jailed Political Activists

Director Jeanne Hallacy said former political prisoner and activist Ko Bo Kyi inspired her to make “Into the Current.”

Documentary Highlights Burma's Jailed Political Activists
Documentary Highlights Burma's Jailed Political Activists
Sarah Williams

A documentary film about Burma’s political prisoners and the underground movement to help them premiered this week in Asia, drawing attention to the plight of the country’s activists as the government releases hundreds of prisoners in an amnesty program.

Director Jeanne Hallacy said former political prisoner and activist Ko Bo Kyi inspired her to make “Into the Current,” which made its regional debut in Bangkok Thursday to a sold-out audience at the Foreign Correspondents' Club.

“His mandate was, as a former political prisoner, he was going to work every which way he could on the global stage, to ensure that all these prisoners could be released,” she said.

Ko Bo Kyi spent seven years in prison in Burma before escaping to Thailand, where he co-founded the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in 1999.

Burmese authorities announced this month that they would be releasing 651 of the estimated 2,000 political activists behind bars in an effort to promote national reconciliation.

Ko Bo Kyi said those who remain in prison should not be forgotten.

“Political prisoners do not receive timely medical treatment, so there is not enough medication, and there are not enough doctors for the prisoners, therefore the prisoners suffer a lot,” he said, adding that even after their release, life is not easy.

He pointed to the case of Thet New, who died shortly after being freed under the government amnesty this month. The activist is believed to have died from the effects of torture suffered in prison.

Free, but not

Ko Bo Kyi said those who survive are still punished professionally and personally.

“The Burmese government doesn’t recognize the existence of political prisoners. Therefore, even after they were released, they are blacklisted. They do not receive passports. They do not get back their license,” he said.

Another focus of the film, co-produced by the Democratic Voice of Burma, is Ko Bo Kyi’s lifelong friend, the writer and poet Min Ko Naing.  He is considered Burma’s most prominent opposition leader after Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and was released earlier this month.

Associated Press
Min Ko Naing forms a human chain with the '88 Generation Student Group. Rangoon, May 27, 2007.

“It was because of his unyielding stance, and the enormous risks that he took, over and over again, that put him in that position of being a leader of what was called the ‘88 Generation Group,” said Hallacy.

Min Ko Naing spent 16 years in solitary confinement, and emerged from prison in 2007, only to lead another protest that returned him to jail later that year.

The human toll

The human toll exerted on the government’s opponents is explored in “Into the Current.” Min Ko Naing speaks ruefully of his former girlfriend, who he says, “now belongs to someone else,” following his many years in prison. Ko Bo Kyi bid farewell to his parents when he fled Burma more than a decade ago. And Aung San Suu Kyi had to give up her family life with her late husband Michael Aris and her sons.

“Despite all of that, what is their response? It’s informed by their Buddhist belief, Metta, loving kindness,” said Hallacy.

In the film, Aung San Suu Kyi is asked if the National League for Democracy will show mercy to members of the former military government. “We all need mercy,” she said.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent 15 years under house arrest over the past two decades. She was released in 2010, just days after controversial elections that gave Burma its first nominally civilian government since 1962.

She will be among the candidates vying for a seat in parliamentary by-elections in April. It will be the first time that she has been allowed to seek political office.

You May Like

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Tour Will Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

US secretary of state to visit 5 countries in the Middle East, South Asia in bid to strengthen economic and security ties, ease concerns over deal with Tehran More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs