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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs