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From the producers of FRONTLINE, a series of stories from

a new generation of video journalists.

World

Stories From a Small Planet

 

JOE RUBIN, Reporter: [voice-over] Sri Lanka is a country with an army of terrorists that won't go away.

[on camera] Well, it's day number two here in Colombo, and I'm told that there's just been a bomb blast, some kind of suicide bombing.

[voice-over] Arriving on the scene, I got the kind of unsettling feeling that one gets when you realize you're standing in a sea of body parts.

 

RICK YOUNG, Reporter: [voice-over] We're with a U.N. inspection team on the trail of a gunrunner.

JOHAN PELEMAN, U.N. Investigator: There had been an arms embargo on the rebels in Sierra Leone. Still, the war kept on going.

ALEX VINES, U.N. Investigator: We wanted to work out how they had been armed, what sorts of weapon systems did they have.

JOHAN PELEMAN: What you do is not just investigating as detectives. You don't infiltrate anything. You do not have rights to raid a house, to arrest anybody. You basically have to charm your way through it.

RICK YOUNG: They had stumbled upon a treasure trove of documents that opened a rare window into the secret underworld of an illegal gun runner.

ALEXIS BLOOM, Reporter: [voice-over] Bhutan was the last country in the world to get television.

RINZY DORJI, Co-Owner of SIGMA Cable: We are tuning the TV.

DAGO BIDA, Bhutanese Businesswoman: People who come here to Bhutan, they all fall in love with Bhutan. They've always told me, "Don't bring television into the country."

KINLEY DORJI, Editor of Bhutan's Only Newspaper: Why are these big men standing there hitting each other? I mean, what's the purpose of it?

 

Sierra Leone: Gunrunners

Reported by Rick Young and William Kistner

 

RICK YOUNG, Reporter: [voice-over] We came to West Africa looking for guns. Flying low over Sierra Leone with United Nations inspectors, it's hard to imagine the horrors that haunt this small nation. A decade of brutal warfare has left millions homeless, thousands mutilated and tens of thousands dead, most gunned down by weapons that came to the country illegally.

We're headed for the town of Koidu, where, as part of a peace settlement, combatants here have been turning in weapons.

INVESTIGATOR: We have a mix of all types of weapons. Basically, these are for the mortars, and these are for the small guns.

RICK YOUNG: These guns are but a tiny fraction of an estimated 550 million small arms in circulation today. But most of these guns aren't supposed to be here. The U.N. had embargoed arms sales to West African war zones.

HARJIT SANDHU, U.N. Investigator: We found all types of heavy machine guns, medium machine guns, light machine guns, Kalashnikovs and AK-47s.

ALEX VINES, U.N. Investigator: Most of the AK-47s, and the assault rifles and those sorts of things, it's very difficult to actually trace their origin. They're made all over the place. But it can help by tracking ammunition. They have serial numbers stamped on the cases. And sometimes, if you have paper boxes, they can actually tell you their origin of where they came from.

RICK YOUNG: This time, the investigators found few new leads to follow, but their trip to Koidu was just one stop along the trail of weapons in West Africa.

In the jargon of U.N. diplomacy, they're called an expert panel. There's a British authority on diamonds, a policeman from India, a specialist in African aviation from Senegal, a diplomat from Cameroon, and in Johan Peleman, a Belgian expert on arms traffickers.

HARJIT SANDHU: I have named him as a living encyclopedia. Oh, the way he remembers these arms traffickers! He remembers their names and who did what on what date.

JOHAN PELEMAN, U.N. Investigator: What you do is not just investigating as detectives. You don't infiltrate anything. You do not have rights to raid a house, to arrest anybody, to interrogate someone against his will, to do covert operations in a country. No, you don't have those tools. So you basically have to charm your way through it.

RICK YOUNG: But Peleman knew that it would take much more than charm to prove a case of illegal gunrunning in West Africa. They'd have to uncover arms shipments, identify suppliers and hunt down traffickers. There was a lot at stake.

JOHAN PELEMAN: There had been an arms embargo on Liberia and on the rebels in Sierra Leone since many, many years, Still, the war kept on going. So when we say theoretically, the war should stop when we impose an arms embargo, this didn't happen. So obviously, the embargo was leaking left, right and center.

RICK YOUNG: The capital of Sierra Leone is Freetown. It was here that the war's worst brutality took place. We went to see Corrine Dufka, a human rights researcher who documented what happened when rebels attacked Freetown in January, 1999.

CORRINE DUFKA, Human Rights Watch: The rebels controlled the civilian population through brutality and through terror. They would come into houses, they would gather people together, and they would either execute them before they burned the house, or they would simply lock them in the house and burn the houses.

RICK YOUNG: As many as 4,000 civilians were killed in the rebel attack. Dufka interviewed survivors.

CORRINE DUFKA: One of the most tragic testimonies that I took was of an engineer who fled with his family.

JAMES KAJUE: There were 10 of us. And we got into my station wagon, and I drove that station wagon for the last time.

CORRINE DUFKA: They got stuck in the traffic jam of all of the people trying to flee with their families in their cars.

JAMES KAJUE: We couldn't find out what was going on. By the time we did, it was too late. The rebels were already amongst us.

CORRINE DUFKA: And then the rebels came up and wanted money from them.

JAMES KAJUE: Somebody had lit a flare, and I saw all these guys, so I knew we were in serious trouble.

CORRINE DUFKA: Then two or three rebels walked from the street and said simply, "Why are you wasting your time with these people? Kill them."

JAMES KAJUE: Next second, he was shooting.

CORRINE DUFKA: Took the safety off of his AK-47 and emptied it.

JAMES KAJUE: Six of our children died, and our grandson- Esther, Patrick, James, Jr., Mary, David, Cecilia and, of course, our grandson. He was only 2-and-a-half years old. They all died.

RICK YOUNG: How did such carnage happen despite arms embargoes that were supposed to prevent it? That was the question Peleman and the team of investigators set out to answer. But turning up leads wasn't easy in West Africa. Then they got a break from an unlikely place.

JOHAN PELEMAN: An Italian journalist called me and said, "Do you know a character called Leonid Minin? Do you know who that is?" And I said, "Oh, yes, of course." So he said, "Well, they've arrested him here in Milan. They've confiscated a lot of documents, and they could use some inputs from an expert on analyzing those documents."

RICK YOUNG: Peleman knew of Minin's reputation as a shady businessman, but he was about to get hard evidence of Minin's involvement in the business of gunrunning. The evidence emerged from a drug bust on the outskirts of Milan.

GIOVANNI PEPE, Police Chief, Cinisello Balsamo: [through interpreter] On the 4th of August, the year 2000, we raided the Hotel Europa, surprising Minin, who was in bed, nude, with four prostitutes who were also nude. And they were in the process of passing a drug vial around.

After we searched the room, we found money and jewels, and we realized that the jewels were very expensive. I immediately understood the person we were dealing with was more than a drug dealer. And we also found lots of papers with illustrations of arms.

RICK YOUNG: The police had stumbled upon a treasure trove of business documents and a businessman who was anything but ordinary. Minin used nearly a dozen aliases and many passports. Italian police records describe him as a major figure in the Ukrainian mafia, part of a criminal group trafficking in drugs, laundering money, and trading in arms.

This video provides a rare glimpse of Minin. Here, according to Belgian police files, Minin is checking out small arms in Slovakia with other East European mafia members.

JOHAN PELEMAN: Minin is considered the very important element of organized crime groups in eastern Europe, of what they call "The Odessa Mafia," called after the port in Ukraine. So he's definitely part of a larger organization.

RICK YOUNG: The documents found in Minin's hotel room opened a rare window into the secret underworld of an illegal gunrunner. Among the documents were flight records of a plane Peleman had been curious about.

JOHAN PELEMAN: A plane can be identified by its registration number. In this case, the registration number was VP-CLM. VP-CLM- we had it on listings of non-scheduled aircraft landings in Liberia.

RICK YOUNG: The plane belonged to Minin, and the flight records helped Peleman crack the case of one illegal arms deal. It began with a shipment of weapons from Ukraine to the West African country of Burkina Faso and a legal end-user certificate.

JOHAN PELEMAN: Now, an end-user certificate is a very important document in any arms deal. It lists the weapons that are ordered or that can be shipped.

RICK YOUNG: It was a large shipment, 68 tons of weapons and ammunition- missiles, grenade launchers, and thousands of AK-47s.

JOHAN PELEMAN: And it is a guarantee for the supplying government that the weapons will go to a certain place.

RICK YOUNG: It all looked legal on paper, but Peleman knew how illegal gunrunners operate. Legal shipments are diverted without a trace.

JOHAN PELEMAN: The thing about aviation in Africa is that there is no surveillance at all. There are no radars. Communication between airports is sometimes done by phones, if at all the phone works.

RICK YOUNG: The investigators checked airport records for Minin's plane, but it wasn't listed in the official log books. Still, Peleman had a hunch. He checked for radio communications in the region.

JOHAN PELEMAN: Based on those records, we see the plane shuttling one day after another between Burkina Faso and Liberia, directly after those 68 tons of weapons had arrived in Burkina Faso.

RICK YOUNG: This was the lead Peleman was looking for. The flight patterns were suspicious, but still, he needed better evidence.

JOHAN PELEMAN: And I finally was able to find a crew member who'd been involved with that VP-CLM, that BAC 1-11. And he immediately said, "It's all true," before I asked anything more.

JORMA IJAS, Minin's Pilot: I was contacted by United Nations Security Council and asking the details from this flight. And I told them because I have nothing to be silent at. You know, I'm not proud of this time, you know?

JOHAN PELEMAN: I asked him, "I don't suppose you have documents." But then it turned out someone had made pictures. On the picture, you could actually see the tail number of the plane, The name of the airport could be read.

RICK YOUNG: And in this picture, a surprise.

JOHAN PELEMAN: The logo of the American basketball team was still on the tail of the plane.

RICK YOUNG: The logo of the Seattle Supersonics.

JORMA IJAS: Yes, we had this basketball team because we were in such a hurry to take airplane from America that we had no time to paint it.

RICK YOUNG: Minin had bought the former NBA team plane to do business in West Africa.

And in the other photos, more surprises.

JOHAN PELEMAN: You see the ammunition boxes. And you can see them strapped on those wide leather seats in the plane. You saw people carrying those boxes on the plane, so that you can't get any further in terms of evidence, especially on an illegal flight like this, where at airports, this plane doesn't appear in the log books.

RICK YOUNG: And in the evidence, we found another secret. This man, helping to load weapons onto the plane, is Joe Toah. He's the assistant director of Liberia's security services, a top aide to the president of Liberia, Charles Taylor.

We wanted to talk to President Taylor and, after lots of letters, we were invited to come to Liberia to meet him. We arrived in Monrovia, the capital, five years after the country's civil war had ended. But the city still had the look and feel of a war zone.

JOHAN PELEMAN: Nothing has been reconstructed. It's one of the few capitals in the world where there is no running water, no electricity, hardly any houses that are still intact. Development is almost zero.

RICK YOUNG: Liberia's ruin began in 1989, when Charles Taylor, then a warlord, first learned the currency of small arms. Getting guns - and lots of them - helped Taylor secure a landslide presidential victory in 1997. And by arming the rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone, the guns helped extend his control over the region's riches.

For the past decade, these pitted fields in Sierra Leone have yielded some of the world's best most elegant diamonds and fueled some of its nastiest fighting.

JOHAN PELEMAN: Warfare has changed after the cold war. It's no longer because you are pro-Soviet or pro-democracy, but it is just a war over economic means, over wealth.

RICK YOUNG: The U.N. restricted sales of West African conflict diamonds, or so-called "blood diamonds." But now another conflict commodity is being exploited.

JOHAN PELEMAN: There is a lot of money to be made in timber, especially in a country like Liberia, where if you develop a certain friendship or special relationship with a president, you can get an enormous concession. We noticed that the inner circle of Charles Taylor - those were mostly foreign businessmen - that we could identify as being arms traffickers were also involved in the timber business.

www.pbs.org: Read Peleman's interview

RICK YOUNG: Among Liberia's logging barons, the investigators found a familiar name.

JOHAN PELEMAN: Minin was interested in making all sorts of money. And I think the weapons deals in Liberia, you should see them probably as business cards. If you want a nice timber concession, you have a plane with weapons brought over just to please the president, and then you get a good deal.

RICK YOUNG: We wanted to ask President Taylor about those deals and about his role in the illegal gunrunning that has devastated an entire region. But in the end, he refused to see us. So we didn't get to ask him about his participation in a particular arms shipment we were interested in, this one just two days before Christmas in 1998, just two weeks before the rebel massacre in Freetown.

JORMA IJAS, Minin's Pilot: On that Christmastime, when we were watching the TVs, you know, and I got a telephone call from the flight engineer. And said that, "Have you watched CNN?"

NEWSCASTER: The country has been torn by heavy fighting, especially in Sierra Leone's capital, Freetown. Rebel forces attempting to overthrow the elected government-

RICK YOUNG: The pilot had no doubt where the guns he'd delivered to Charles Taylor had gone.

JORMA IJAS: We were just thinking that, "Oh, my God. That's what happened with that thing." And that's how we start talking between each others as a crew that there is something very rotten on this thing, you know?

RICK YOUNG: Four months before the rebels' attack on Freetown, the United States urged world leaders to help stop the flow of small arms into Africa.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State: All of us whose nations sell such arms, or through whose nations the traffic flows, bear some responsibility for turning a blind eye to the destruction they cause.

RICK YOUNG: It was tough talk. But behind the scenes, what was the U.S. government doing about the problem? At the State Department, we found an intelligence analyst who'd been digging into the African arms trade. He agreed to talk to us.

Tom Ofcansky began to track the arms deals and the arms dealers.

THOMAS OFCANSKY, State Department Intelligence Analyst: A lot of arms flowed out of the former Soviet Republics, and it was unregulated. And the West really didn't get interested in the issue until the late 1990s, and then it was only expressions of concern rather than- rather than actions.

RICK YOUNG: And that's just what happened in the spring of 1999 when the State Department got word about a large shipment of arms to West Africa.

JOSEPH MELROSE, U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone 1998-01: I was given access to a bill of lading, which listed various kinds of weaponry by quantity, that was a cargo shipped by a given company. And I sent it to Washington.

RICK YOUNG: The arms had been shipped from Ukraine to the West African country of Burkina Faso.

JOSEPH MELROSE There were separate indications that it continued on from Burkina Faso to Liberia. We thought that was significant.

RICK YOUNG: Those were the very same guns that Peleman and the team, a year later, would discover on Minin's plane, the ones here in the photos. The U.S. had known that tons of guns had slipped into an embargoed war zone. What did it do?

THOMAS OFCANSKY: Yes, there probably was concern. That concern was not sufficient enough, again because of low priority accorded Africa, to make it a major issue.

RICK YOUNG: Washington was more worried about Ukraine's nuclear weapons than its small arms sales to West Africa. And so the diplomatic response was limited to a minor complaint, known as a demarche.

THOMAS OFCANSKY: Demarches were sent to Ukraine. It's a diplomatic way that states register their displeasure with one another. There are no penalties attached if one ignores the demarche. And hence, nothing was done.

RICK YOUNG: The demarche had little effect. A year later, more Ukrainian arms shipped legally to West Africa were diverted illegally to Liberia. This deal involved five million cartridges of ammunition, forged end-user certificates, and a company tied to - yes - Leonid Minin.

We followed the arms trail to Ukraine. Once a vital part of the Soviet military machine, Ukraine's defense industry and economy collapsed after the fall of the Wall. Its small arms stockpiles suddenly became prime economic assets.

JOHAN PELEMAN: We are really talking huge, huge quantities of less- sophisticated weaponry. And what most of these countries do is just dispose of this weaponry and sell it to the highest bidder. In a way, you could say they dump them on the international market.

RICK YOUNG: We wanted to know what Ukraine had to say about its weapons deliveries to West Africa being illegally diverted, and so we asked its director of arms exports control, Volodymyr Bandura.

VOLODYMYR BANDURA, Director of Arms Exports Control, Ukraine: We never knew that it could happen that those arms could be diverted, so how we could bear any responsibility for this?

RICK YOUNG: [on camera] Did the government of Ukraine know who they were doing business with?

VOLODYMYR BANDURA: We got certificates. We got the- some background information about companies. What should- what should we do else?

RICK YOUNG: The Italian prosecutors have information suggesting that Mr. Minin is connected to Ukrainian organized crime.

VOLODYMYR BANDURA: [laughs] It is quite interesting for me. I don't think so. No. I don't think so.

RICK YOUNG: [voice-over] Mr. Bandura claimed he didn't know about Leonid Minin or his arms deals, so we went to see someone else we thought could help.

This man is Vadim Rabinovitch, one of Ukraine's wealthiest businessmen and one of its most well connected. Here he's with the president of Ukraine. And here as a guest at a 1995 Florida fundraiser, in a photo op with the president and vice president of the United States. Sources told us that Minin has fingered Rabinovitch for the illegal arms shipment to Liberia in 1999, and so we asked him.

VADIM RABINOVITCH, Ukrainian Businessman: [through interpreter] I have never traded in arms, legally or illegally. Even theoretically, I don't know where to get them. And I'm offering an experiment for American TV. Let's take a lie detector, and the TV viewers will be able to see by the graphs whether or not I'm lying. Sit Minin next to me and have him answer the same questions, and we'll see who's telling the truth and who's not.

RICK YOUNG: But Rabinovitch not only knew Minin, he had flown to Liberia on his plane. Flight records show that on February 7th, 1999, they flew from Kiev, through Spain, to Monrovia. According to Rabinovitch, it was all about a deal in iron ore.

VADIM RABINOVITCH: [through interpreter] He said he has a lot of friends in Liberia. I said I liked the deal, and he offered me to fly with him.

RICK YOUNG: The next day, on February 8th, they flew together from Monrovia back to Ukraine with a Liberian on board.

VADIM RABINOVITCH: [through interpreter] There were one or two black people with Mr. Minin, but initially, I thought that the man might have been his bodyguard. We never had any contact with them.

RICK YOUNG: The Liberian was this man, Joe Toah. You remember him, one of Charles Taylor's top security assistants, the guy that just five weeks later was loading Ukrainian arms onto Minin's plane.

VADIM RABINOVITCH: [through interpreter] You're saying that I was in Liberia, and five weeks later something happened there. I'm so sorry, but I cannot help here. Even if I would want to help you, I'm as useless in the talks about arms as you are.

RICK YOUNG: International police files tie Rabinovitch to organized crime, money laundering, and a company accused of trading in arms, allegations Rabinovitch denies.

VADIM RABINOVITCH: [through interpreter] In my dealings with Nordex, everything was so clear and obvious that no one accused me of trafficking arms. As far as I know, Nordex was able to wash the accusations off. The accusations are all lies.

RICK YOUNG: The U.N. investigators gathered all their evidence and returned to New York to report their findings.

INVESTIGATOR: Mr. Chairman, we are back here, the panel of experts on Liberia...

RICK YOUNG: They'd investigated a dozen illegal arms deals and uncovered a lot about the business of gunrunning. But they could do little more than point fingers, or, as they say, "name and shame."

JOHAN PELEMAN, U.N. Investigator: The U.N. is only as powerful as U.N. member states allow the U.N. to be. And the U.N., as such, cannot arrest people, has no subpoena rights or whatever. It's up to the individual member states to act.

INVESTIGATOR: We had to follow the leads we obtained-

RICK YOUNG: The most powerful member states are also the largest exporters of arms. There's been no talk of placing sanctions on arms suppliers. And recommendations to embargo Liberian timber exports have been blocked by China and France, two countries that import many of Liberia's logs. The U.N. has agreed to extend the arms embargo on Liberia.

JOHAN PELEMAN: These resolutions are always the result of compromise. It's not just a moral judgment on a war going on in West Africa, there's also the business interests or political interests of the member states.

RICK YOUNG: So for now, shutting down the illegal small arms trade has been left largely to Italy, where a chance cocaine bust has turned into an international test case. The prosecution of Leonid Minin is the first of its kind. He's been charged with violating a U.N. arms embargo, allegations he denies.

THOMAS OFCANSKY, State Department Intelligence Analyst: If you arrest Minin today and shut him down, the problem will still be there. It's more than just an individual, it's a systemic problem. The international climate, as it's so configured now, allows this activity to go on. That has to change.

www.pbs.org: More on the new arms dealers

JAMES KAJUE: No arms are manufactured in Sierra Leone, nor in Liberia, or Burkina Faso. These greedy people sell arms to enrich somebody who is living in a peaceful country that is manufacturing arms. Greed. That's just it, plain greed, so that people like us can suffer for the rest of our lives.

 

Sri Lanka: Living With Terror

Reported by Joe Rubin

 

NEWSCASTER: The terrorists launched a mortar attack on the air force camp at Purana and entered the camp. They destroyed three K-8 aircraft. The terrorists-

JOE RUBIN, Reporter: [voice-over] On a Sunday in Sri Lanka, in the capital city, Colombo, people gather at a park known as the Galle Face Green, where the favorite activities seem to be flying kites and staring out at the Indian Ocean. This island of 20 million people used to be called Ceylon when it was a British colony.

I was 9,000 miles from home, but the sight of Colombo's twin towers looming in the distance reminded me of why I'd come here. It turns out these towers share more than a name with their former counterparts in New York. Colombo's World Trade Center has been severely damaged twice by a local terrorist group, the Tamil Tigers. This bombing in 1996 killed nearly 100 people and injured 1,000.

In their war against the Sri Lankan government, the Tamil Tigers have carried out more suicide bombings than Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda combined.

To an outsider, Colombo can be a bewildering place. I was lucky to meet up with King, who offered to give me a tour of his neighborhood.

KING RATNAM, Sri Lankan Video Journalist: It's multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-lingual place.

JOE RUBIN: I was curious how King, who is Christian, got his name.

KING: I was named King because my father is a priest. He is a big believer in non-violence. He likes Gandhi a lot. He likes Martin Luther King a lot. So I'm named after Martin Luther King.

JOE RUBIN: As we wandered through Buddhist monasteries and sprawling Hindu temples, the tragedy of the conflict that has killed 64,000 Sri Lankans seemed all the more poignant because this troubled island is also such a beautiful and spiritual place, a kind of Jerusalem off the beaten path.

For Buddhists and Hindus, Sri Lanka is sacred ground, and some Christians believe this was once the Garden Of Eden. The majority of people here are Buddhists. Every year, millions visit the Temple of the Tooth, as in Buddha's tooth.

SRI LANKAN: It's like Jerusalem for you or Mecca for the Muslims. This is the holiest of the holy for the Buddhist world, the Temple Of The Tooth, Kandy

JOE RUBIN: For more than 1,000 years, Buddhists and Hindus lived here side by side, and for the most part peacefully. But when the British ruled here, they favored the mostly Hindu Tamils. And when the British left, there was a backlash against the Tamils by the majority ethnic group, the Sinhalese Buddhists.

King is a Tamil. And back in 1983, his family home was burnt to the ground in a kind of pogrom, or race riot, when Sinhalese mobs killed 2,000 Tamils and set off 20 years of war.

JORMA IJAS: The war really started just when I was just 4 years. And you know, ever since then, the only thing I've seen and heard is, like, war.

JOE RUBIN: [on camera] Well, it's day number two here in Colombo, and I'm told there has just been a bomb blast, some kind of suicide bombing - I don't know how serious it is - at a place called Chitra Lane. And I'm going to see what's happening.

[voice-over] Arriving on the scene, I somehow expected a minor incident, or even a hoax. I was thrown by the eerie calm. I was stunned to realize I was standing in a sea of body parts. It turned out a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber had attempted to kill the Sri Lankan prime minister. The assassination attempt failed, but innocent civilians were killed.

www.pbs.org: Read his reporter's diary

WITNESS: In panic, he had blasted himself. We have reports from the hospital saying that there are 4 killed and 16 injured, including one police officer and a schoolgirl.

JOE RUBIN: I wondered why there wasn't more visible outrage.

MANORANJAN: People have been so used to that. When there is an explosion, people just say, "How many?" The first question comes, "How many?" "It's 10." "Oh, it's 10." It should read at least 50 for them to get shocked. "Ah, is it 50?"

JOE RUBIN: Manoranjan is a newspaper editor and a Tamil. He's reported on how the Tamil Tigers recruit and train their suicide bombers.

MANORANJAN: They collect children from the refugee camps where they have lost their parents and take them to a hidden place in the jungle. That particular place is named as Puti de Pumi. That is the sacred land. There, that is the place where these human bombs are being produced.

JOE RUBIN: Manoranjan's newspaper is sharply critical of the Tamil Tigers, or LTTE, for their use of suicide bombers and child soldiers. That kind of journalism can get you killed in Sri Lanka, but Manoranjan does his best to protect his reporters.

MANORANJAN: If it is hard criticism on the LTTE, you don't put your name, just write it. If anybody asks, you say, "It is the decision of the editor." And I take the responsibility.

JOE RUBIN: The result is that Manoranjan's life has been threatened. The Tigers have killed an estimated 8,000 fellow Tamils they consider to be traitors. Every six months, Manoranjan and his family have to move to a new safe house. As he travels around the city, he puts his life in the hands of his trusted Buddhist Sinhalese drivers.

MANORANJAN: A trustworthy driver from the Sinhalese society is protecting my life the whole day, driving with me. They are the only outsiders who comes to my residence and see my living condition and my children. And they used to sometimes sympathize on me. "Sir, you are not going anywhere with your children. Don't you think it's very difficult for you to live like this?" So it's a kind of emotional connection between- [weeps]

JOE RUBIN: Later that week, I went to an election rally with King, who, like me, is a video journalist. He told me to get the shots I needed but not to linger. As the country geared up for national elections, more violence was certain.

KING: If a bomb goes here, maybe $5 million, 10 of them will die, and then that's it. The next day you forget about it and go on with your work.

JOE RUBIN: The rally certainly didn't seem like a dangerous place, but in Sri Lanka, appearances can be deceiving. In 1999, Sri Lanka's president, Chandrika Kumaratunga, who came to power on promises of ending the war, made a campaign stop at what seemed like a festive election rally.

A Tamil Tiger suicide bomber - the woman here on the left - posed as a supporter. As the president left the rally, the bomber approached her car. Dozens were killed in the attack. The president escaped death but lost her left eye.

The Tigers keep absolute control over their suicide bombers.

MANORANJAN: This human bomb, he has no way of getting out of the whole thing. He knows from the beginning, in this society there is internal intelligence which is following him. So here in Colombo, he has to go and die. He has to. Whether he is hitting the target or not, once he wears the jacket, he has to die.

www.pbs.org: The psychology of suicide terrorism

JOE RUBIN: Manoranjan told me if I wanted to understand more about the roots of terrorism, I would have to travel north, to the part of the country heavily populated by the Tamils.

There were government checkpoints everywhere. I was headed for Vavunia, the dividing line between government and Tamil forces and a mecca for some of the hundreds of thousands of war refugees. I wanted to see what conditions were like in the government-run refugee camps.

The army told me it would be impossible to film there. The official who ran this camp also said, "No cameras." But he did allow me to walk through the camp, and despite all the warnings, I left my camera running.

The government calls these sad places "welfare centers," but it was easy to see why many international aid workers simply dub them concentration camps. What infuriates the Tamils who live here is that they are virtually trapped. The government will not issue the necessary travel passes. Some refugees have been stuck here for more than 10 years.

It's a classic Catch-22. The government views these people as potential terrorists, but the awful conditions makes places like this a breeding ground for terrorists.

This was as far north as I could go. The rest of the country was off-limits. I would never meet a Tamil Tiger.

I took the train back to Colombo.

PASSENGER: This is the Colombo-bound train from Kandy, and this is one of the most beautiful parts of the country.

JOE RUBIN: The beauty of Sri Lanka is seductive. You can forget for a while, but your mind never strays far from the terror.

PASSENGER: As an American, now only you feel the real terror after the September 11 bomb attack. So but unfortunately, we are feeling that- we have the feel of terror since 1983, after this violence came into action.

JOE RUBIN: After I left Sri Lanka, a ceasefire was declared. The government and the Tamil Tigers are preparing for peace talks. Many people are hopeful that this might mean an end to 20 years of war. But I worry what will happen to people like Manoranjan, now that the Tigers, or LTTE, have managed to bomb their way to the negotiating table.

MANORANJAN: For me, what next? OK, negotiate with the LTTE. Hand over the particular area to the LTTE rule. How are we going to get ruled by them? What is the position of the four million Tamils under LTTE rule? Whether it is going to be a democratic system? Are we going to question their torturing chambers? Nobody's talking about that.

JOE RUBIN: But those questions will have to be answered if peace is ever going to come to Sri Lanka.

Just before I left, I came across some people painting a mural on the street. It was the same place where I'd witnessed the terrible aftermath of that suicide bombing. These young artists call themselves the "road painters." They take to the streets whenever a terrorist attack claims innocent lives. This woman came seeking comfort for the loss of her husband, one of the bystanders killed by the bombing.

PAINTER: He went to work as usual. And then about 2:00, he was supposed to pick up my second daughter from her dancing class. Just before dropping her, he spoke to me over the mobile and said that he would drop her and pick her up and come. And- but he never returned.

JOE RUBIN: Her life had been shattered by violence, but I found it remarkable that, even in the bleak landscape of Sri Lanka, there are people who have the courage to turn away from vengeance.

PAINTER: We should really work for peace for every sort, from the small children onwards, even from the schools onwards, that we should not have any kind of differences, whether they are ethnic, religious, because it's really useless. We live in this world for a very, very short time. So if we remember that, because we never know what time we have to go. So what we can do is keep an imprint of our lives and do something better for somebody else.

 

Bhutan: The Last Place

Reported by Alexis Bloom and Tshewang Dendup

 

ALEXIS BLOOM, Reporter: [voice-over] Bhutan is a Himalayan kingdom tucked between China and India, a seemingly magical place that has for centuries secluded itself from the rest of the world, a place with no traffic lights and no fast-food chains, a country with more monks than soldiers, where it's law to wear traditional dress in public places. This tiny country of less than a million people has guarded its culture from outside influence.

DAGO BIDA, Bhutanese Businesswoman: People who come here to Bhutan, they all fall in love with Bhutan. Why? Because we have a beautiful country. We have a rich tradition, rich culture, unspoiled. People who travel to Bhutan cannot believe that there is a country still left in the world which is almost untouched. And time and again, they've always told me, they said, "Don't bring television into the country."

ALEXIS BLOOM: But in June, 1999, Bhutan did bring television into the country. After years of cultural protectionism, TV was legalized by royal decree, the last place on earth to hook up to the box. We found the man who the Bhutanese call the "cable guy," Rinzy Dorji. Just a few years ago, he hardly knew how a television worked.

RINZY DORJI, Co-Owner of SIGMA Cable: I thought, "How is it possible that pictures were just coming out there, without any tape being played there?" Then, of course, I tried to find out how it was coming, and this, that. Then I said it is a wonderful technology that is broadcasting from somewhere else and that everybody could see on the television set.

We are tuning the TV.

ALEXIS BLOOM: We watched Rinzy wiring up homes every day- 45 channels for just $5 a month, everything from the BBC to Baywatch, all for the same price as a bag of dried red chilies. But not everyone welcomes the new entrepreneurs.

KINLEY DORJI, Editor of Bhutan's Only Newspaper: These are businesspeople. These are not even technicians, these are businesspeople who want to sell. And they will broadcast. They will show anything they want.

RINZY DORJI: There are good things, as well as bad things. But as a cable operator, I can't selectively give programs because the demand is such that some parents would like to have some programs which are not good for others.

ALEXIS BLOOM: Rinzy invited us to his family home. In the back yard, five satellite dishes receive signals from all over the world. Beneath the living room, racks of receivers and decks have taken the place of traditional livestock. The family home has become central control.

RINZY DORJI: With this setting that we have at the moment, it's good for 33 channels. Once we go on expanding, then we would require more space and more equipment and more racks.

ALEXIS BLOOM: But Rinzy's mother-in-law was skeptical.

DAMCHOE DEM, Rinzy's Mother-in-Law: [subtitles] At first I told them this venture was risky. "What if the people don't want TV? How will you get your money back?" But everybody wants to watch TV, and I feel their business will do very well.

LYONPO JIGMI THINLEY, Bhutan's Foreign Minister: I think people have suddenly realized that there are so many things that they desire which they were not even aware of before. And the truth is that most of these television channels are commercially driven. And so the Bhutanese people are, yes, driven towards consumerism. That's inevitable. And that's to some extent unfortunate, but inevitable.

NONO, Rinzy's Eldest Son: When I come home from school, I change my clothes and go straight to the TV room and watch television. I watch Cartoon Network and check if there is wrestling in Star Sports. When it's my exam time, I could not study because of thinking about the cartoon characters and the superstars of the wrestling.

TINTIN, Rinzy's Youngest Son: [subtitles] When we had no TV, I used to play with my dog a lot, but now I prefer to watch television. When my elder sister puts on MTV, I jump up and try to switch it to the Cartoon Network.

DAMCHOE DEM: [subtitles] As I watch the events unfold on TV, I get carried away and lost. I forget to count my prayer beads. The mind is such a thing. Why wouldn't the children find TV entertaining? Even we elders get engrossed and forget our religious duty.

KHENPO PHUTSHOTASHI, Buddhist Monk: Television introduced only last year. Everybody, one thing, is curious to see what is happening. They have never seen- especially monks. They have never seen television in their life, so they are curious, you know, very much curious to know, "What is that?"

I noticed that the last week, when I was with my brother and watching television, so sometimes I forget my prayers things, like, you know? So sometimes it's disturbing this TV, these kinds of TV. So I thought maybe better not to have myself.

KINLEY DORJI: Soon after television started, we started getting letters to the editor for the newspaper from children, children who seemed very hurt. The letters actually specifically asked about this World Wrestling Federation program. "Why are these big men standing there hitting each other? I mean, what's the purpose of it?" They didn't understand it. They were very hurt.

Now, a few months later- one morning, I mean, a personal example, one of my sons, 7 years old, jumped on me early in the morning on the bed and he says, "Hey, I am Triple H. You can be Rock, and we are fighting." Suddenly these were new heroes for our children.

www.pbs.org: More reactions from Bhutan

LYONPO JIGMI THINLEY, Bhutan's Foreign Minister: The government has requested the cable operators that they should, to the extent possible, exercise discretion on their part. But it's easier said than done. With all these satellite dishes that are available, it will be difficult to control.

ALEXIS BLOOM: And so the light of 45 channels flickers, and the Bhutanese tune in to the rest of the world.

LYONPO JIGMI THINLEY: I have myself heard comments from people saying that, "My God, we didn't know that we were living in such a peaceful country. There seems to be violence and crime everywhere around the world." So in a way, the positive thing is that Bhutanese people realize how good a life they are living in this country.

GUNRUNNERS

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A co-production with the Center for Investigative Reporting, Inc.

LIVING WITH TERROR

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Pew International Journalism Program

THE LAST PLACE

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TSHEWANG DENDUP

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ALEXIS BLOOM

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