From the producers of FRONTLINE, a series
of stories from
a new generation of video journalists.
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
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
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
JAMES KAJUE: We couldn't find out what was going on.
By the time we did, it was too late. The rebels were already
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
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
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
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
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
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
RICK YOUNG: This was the lead Peleman was looking for.
The flight patterns were suspicious, but still, he needed better
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
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
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.
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
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
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, 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
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
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
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.
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
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
[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.
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
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
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-
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.
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
SORIOUS SAMURA/INSIGHT NEWS TV, LONDON
A co-production with the Center for Investigative Reporting,
LIVING WITH TERROR
Pew International Journalism Program
THE LAST PLACE
UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
ERIN MARTIN KANE
THE SUPREME BEINGS OF LEISURE
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