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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs