It's nighttime and FRONTLINE/World reporter Evan Williams is on a tense drive along the Thai/Burma border with members of the Karen National Union guerrilla army. The guerilla group has offered to take Williams into Burma, where they are working with a humanitarian group called the Free Burma Rangers to dispense aid. Several hundred thousand displaced people from Burma are hiding out in the jungle, driven from their villages by the country's brutal military regime.
On foot, Williams travels under darkness to camps that have recently been attacked by government troops. The Karen foot soldiers know the territory well. Burma's military campaign against the Karen people has been going on for the past 50 years.
The terrain is dangerous and heavily mined. The reporter is guided to the village of He Daw Kaw, where he meets Nah Pi. She used to be the village schoolteacher and tells Williams what happened to her home.
"Burmese soldiers destroyed it while we were hiding in the jungle. I ran and left everything behind. I thought saving my children and my life would be enough for now."
These scenes of destruction, Williams says, have been going on for years. Thousands of Karen villagers have been killed in raids by government forces, and, in all, more than a million people from Burma have been driven from their homes.
Other villagers from He Daw Kaw come forward to tell their stories. "We saw the smoke from our burning houses and ran to search for our children. I looked down into the ashes and saw a small hand. My little son left me only his palm," says one man, burying his head in anguish.
The government soldiers who levelled the village are still close. Karen spies have taken video of them holed up in a nearby town. Everyone is worried that they will return.
As Williams moves deeper into the jungle with the Karen soldiers, refugees seeking safety join their patrol. Hardly a word is spoken as the group moves slowly and fearfully through the jungle's canopy, hoping not to be spotted.
After days of trekking, they reach safety outside the government-held area. Williams says goodbye to the families he has been traveling with. They will now start a new life in a refugee camp in Thailand, joining some 150,000 others. In all, over the last 20 years, more than 700,000 people have fled the world's worst military dictatorship, and many more have been internally displaced.
The military junta has ruled Burma from the capital, Rangoon, since 1962. Recently, the country's supreme leader, Gen. Than Shwe, moved the capital to Pyinmana, a remote town a few hundred miles from Rangoon. The general's astrologer advised him to move the capital on November 6, 2005, saying it would ensure everlasting military power.
The real reason, says Williams, is fear of his own people and one person in particular: Aung San Suu Kyi. She led the National League for Democracy to a landslide election victory in 1990, the year before she won the Nobel Peace Prize. But Gen. Than Shwe refused to accept her victory and has held her under house arrest in Rangoon for most of the past 16 years.
Williams travels to Rangoon to try to meet with pro-democracy members, who are under constant watch and are frequently arrested, beaten or worse. He arrives in the old capital, posing as a tourist. Ten years ago, while covering the democracy movement, Williams was blacklisted by the government, but he persuaded Burmese officials in London to let him into the country.
Knowing that Suu Kyi's compound is close to his hotel, Williams approaches four taxi drivers before he finds one willing to take him there.
"They made it like a jail," says the driver nervously of Suu Kyi's house, insisting the reporter's camera stay out of view. "If you take photos, it makes me big problems." Soldiers stand outside the gates, and Williams films fleetingly from the window as they drive by. It's hard to see and even more difficult to imagine what conditions are like for Suu Kyi, living in isolation behind the compound walls.
Next, Williams is dropped outside a restaurant in the middle of Rangoon. It was here, last year, that one of Suu Kyi's party members was dragged from his table by intelligence officers. Six days later, he was dead. Williams wants to speak to his widow, but it is too dangerous for her to come into the open. Through connections, she passes a videotaped message to him, in which she talks about her husband's death. "They said I had no right to see my husband's body. He had no disease and had never been sick. But in their hands, he could survive only six days."
Williams tells us that her husband is one of 128 activists to die in custody from torture or ill treatment since the current junta took over. More than 1,000 others are locked away.
Glowing reports on state-controlled television claim that state education is providing well for Burma's children, but Williams sees a different reality on the streets. Children approach him begging for money or food. People lie listlessly on the side of the street. Despite the nation's abundance of natural resources, UNICEF says a third of its children are malnourished. And the World Health Organization ranks Burma 190th out of 191 countries.
To see what conditions are like in other Burmese cities, Williams travels to Mandalay, Burma's second-largest city. On a billboard in town, a government slogan is unequivocal about those who oppose it: "Crush all internal and external destructive elements as the common enemy," it reads.
Williams has traveled here to meet two journalists -- neither of whom wants his face photographed or his name revealed. Both have just been released after seven years in prison for writing about democracy. "They crush an ant with a hammer," one of them says about the stark oppression here.
The city has several big hotels catering to tourists. The journalists tell Williams that some of the tourist attractions, such as the spectacular moat surrounding the Mandalay Palace, have been built by prison labor. "I don't want tourists to come to our country," he says, "because most of the money will flow into the pockets of the military officers ... they will get richer and richer through tourism." Among other attractions is a large collection of Buddha images. Williams reveals that the army stole the collection from a monk who had spent years collecting them. The museum housing the Buddhas was also built by forced labor, so the people call it the "museum of sorrow."
In footage shot secretly in 2005, hundreds of men, women and children are shown carrying army supplies. If they don't comply, they can be shot, raped or forced to walk ahead of soldiers in areas notorious for landmines. In different footage gathered by the human rights group Witness, an elderly woman is seen resting on her haunches covering a road with stones. "Grandma, are you paid for working here?" she's asked.
"No," the woman responds reluctantly, averting her eyes.
According to others who have filmed undercover in Burma, forced labor has also been used to clear land for a pipeline built by the French oil giant Total and the American company Unocal. Burma's natural gas fields, says Williams, are keeping the regime in power. The companies deny any collusion with or support of the junta; so, for now, the gas keeps flowing.
Back on the streets of Rangoon, one of the founders of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party has agreed to meet with Williams, even though it could mean his arrest.
U Sein Win has already spent 13 years in prison for opposing army rule, but he wants to speak out.
"If the people have no way out, if there is no decent means to express their sufferings, ... to express their desire to change the government, they will resort to violence." When asked if the army wouldn't just shoot to kill, Win responds, "But we have 50 million people; they cannot kill all the 50 million people."
Win is a frail man, breathing with the help of an oxygen tube attached to his nose. He speaks quietly but with certitude about his possible fate for speaking to the reporter. "It is very dangerous for me, and I know that, this time, when they come and pick me up, I will not come out alive."
Aware that Williams is meeting with dissidents, the Burmese military has come looking for the reporting team.
They head to the airport to fly to Thailand. This is where hundreds of Burmese political exiles have fled in recent years. It's also where Williams will meet Ibar, a man who went to prison for seven years after talking to Williams 10 years ago about the torture of political prisoners. Ibar was a close associate of Suu Kyi, and this will be the first time the two men have met since his release.
After they smile and greet each other, Williams poses the inevitable question: "During the seven years that you spent in prison did you ever regret giving me that interview?"
It could have been a difficult moment, but Ibar is unwavering in his response. "Not at all," he says. "Instead of hating you, I am happy to thank you. ... Because of the interview, I was able to let the world know that there was brutality and mistreatment and also torture in Burmese prisons."
Ibar shows Williams some of the last recorded images of Suu Kyi before she was put back under house arrest. They were taken at his wedding. He points to other guests as the video flickers on his television screen. One of them is Thet Naing Oo, a member of Suu Kyi's NLD party who had also spent years in prison. In March this year, he was beaten to death by government-sponsored thugs as he walked down a road in Rangoon.
Williams is shown more footage, this time of the man's funeral procession, his body carried openly in the streets as hundreds who knew or remembered him walked alongside. The injuries to his head are severe; the stitches that piece together his scalp are crude and large, like those a child would sew. Williams talks to a friend of the dead man who witnessed his death.
"Firstly they had some catapults [slingshots], and they used some steel balls and throw in his face. They were well prepared and waiting for his coming. He was also beaten by the long bamboo sticks, and he fell down on his face to the ground. At the time, they throw one big stone. And they crush his head."
For the last 10 years, pro-democracy activists have been to many funerals as the government continues to crack down on opponents, and most feel the country has reached a breaking point.
"If it happens again," says one activist, "I see another bloodshed, another mass detention, and it may lead to another ... civil war."
After more than 40 years in power, Burma's junta has amassed one of the largest armies in Southeast Asia. But, notes Williams, "It has no enemies other than its own people."
Thank you for the great documentary piece. I pray and hope this will help bring justice to the peaceful Burmese citizens. I strongly urge to the citizens of the world to show solidarity to this movement and help release Aung Sou Kyi and all the political prisoners.
One of the first steps in solving a problem is acknowledging there is a problem. Thank you to Evan Williams and PBS for bringing this to light. My hopes are that the rest of the world will react to programs like this and will take a stand against the oppressive military regime.
This is a very helpful background report in understanding what is happening now in Burma with all the Buddhist monks and ordinary citizens protesting against the military regime. Thank you. I hope the world will not abandon them this time, as we have in the past.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
I just saw the video on PBS and have to say that this is one of the best documentary videos I have ever seen. Thank you so very much, Williams, for letting the whole world know about the reality in Burma. Once again, good job. Well done.
Luis M Bueno
Great report! Congratulations once again to FRONTLINE. I sincerely hope this harrowing account will make a change and bring awareness on this infamous regime
Thank you so much for this story. I admire the bravery of the reporter to risk so much to get into Burma and bring us the stories of these people. What else can we do to help them? Please keep this story in the headlines and don't let us forget about the plight of these people.
I want to send my thanks to Mr. Williams for helping the world recognize the oppression of the Myanmar Junta. I have read about the issue in Burma and If Amnesty International were to make an Axis of Evil, then Burma would surely be part of it. Your work on this program has really made a difference to me. Thank you very much!
I agree with a number of the folks who deplore the oppression of the Burmese people and the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi. I also agree that we all need to take some positive action. One thing that I intend to do is to join with the efforts of the United States Campaign for Burma (USCB). To celebrate the birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi on June 19, 2007. USCB is requesting that as many of us as possible put ourselves under "house arrest" on June 16-17 and invite your friends, relations, colleagues to your homes to view the PBS film.
The birthday party will be an opportunity to raise funds as well as educating more folks to the plight of the Burmese people and to support Aung San Suu Kyi.
USCB will supply sample invitations, Burmese recipes for refreshment, and a copy of the PBS film.
For more information see the USCB website: www.uscampaignforburma.org
Anyone from the Phoenix, Az area is welcome to join me at my "house arrest" party for Aung San Suu Ky.
Turner Valley, Alberta
I am looking forward for this to come available online. I hope someone will be able to do a documentary on the Shan people of Burma. They are the largest minority group in Burma and need some attention as well. There are other minority groups in Burma that are not even recognized by the Burma government and cannot get help anywhere because they have no citizenship. I hope more awareness will come to this. These others are correct. The UN is not doing anything about it and thousands of people are dying to make the majority rich. Keep up the good work.
7800 Detroit Ave, Cleveland, Ohio 44011
How would I be able to get a copy of this video? I work for a refugee office who works with Burmese and Karen and would like to have a copy for the office.
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
FRONTLINE/World TV programs are available for purchase online at http://shop.pbs.org/ or by calling 1-(800) 828-4PBS. This episode of FRONTLINE/World was #601.
San Francisco, CA
Mr. Evan Williams, PBS and crew members: Thank you all for making such a great program. To tell the truth, the situation in Burma is worse than the situation this program can reveal. Unfortunately, nobody can prove that by taking a picture or video like Mr. Williams did. Whatever in this program Mr. Williams recorded is very common in Burma. I was born and grew up in Burma. I saw those things have been happening since I was a child. This is true that Burmese could not do and/or will not do because they have been brain washed and/or feared. Worst of all, the rulers know that nobody will fight back because the spirit of Buddhism, never revenge to someone, has been in Burmese peoples' minds. I hope the world, the UN for example, should do something for the sake of Burmese people. Again, thank you Mr. Williams, PBS and crews members.
I was born in Burma; yet, I am ashamed to say that I have not been following what has been happening in my birth country. It is heartbreaking to see the numerous atrocities committed by those individuals in power. Burma has received no media coverage. As such, I applaud Frontline in shedding some light as to what's happing in Burma.
High Prairie, Alberta, Canada
"We have never had the right to vote for our destiny. This is important because 30-40 million have never had the chance to vote." (from Iraq: The Fight Over Kirkuk's Oil)
The same is true for Burma!
When is the rest of the world going to say "enough"? All the tribes including the Shan and the Karen are suffering. I alone have only heard of it, but I suspect that even as we HEAR about these tortured people they are still being hurt, raped, and all of their civil liberties just as human beings are gone. When will it be enough for the rest of the world to be outraged? When there is NOTHING left of these beautiful people? I recently read Amy Tam's new book on Saving Fish from Drowning. It sounded so much like what I have heard about the tribes that are constantly attacked and/or running from this brutal army. Please help free the oppressed in Burma.
Fort Collins, CO
This page says that online video "will be available after November 20." But it's November 22 and the video isn't available yet. Frontline/World used to offer many episodes online, and the original Frontline still does. The fact that this was put off for almost three weeks is upsetting enough, but now it's not available at all. I don't want to watch Rough Cut (the name explains why), but it's the program that gets posted. (Sigh.)
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Thank you for your patience while we work out a technical issue in getting the Burma video online. We hope to have the issue resolved and the video avaialable in the very near future.
This story is similar to our own situation in Sierra Leone in our past 12 years war. I am
very grateful to Mr. Williams for teaching me to film in a clandestine way.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canda
I can't thank Evan Williams and PBS via Frontline/World for venturing into Burma, at the risk of his life to let the world know of the human rights atrocities. I have been privileged to get to know a number of Chin people (immigrants from Burma) who have totally corroborated your stories of persecution and violence done to average honest citizens. I pray that the West will put pressure on the illegal Junta and give its people their God-given freedoms! Keep up the awesome work!
The only way to change the world is by informing people, the common citizen, about what's going on and all the lack of justice around the world. Asia is often being forgotten and the problems Asia faces are tragic. So let's support the information about Burma and pray God to keep Suu Kyi in good health until our voices can help the Burmese people to achieve freedom.
Great job Evan Williams. Thanks PBS.
The world needs to sit up, pay attention and take action, before this situation becomes another Killing Field or Rwandan Genocide. This cannot continue to happen, ANYWHERE in the world!
If a superpower country really wants to liberate a country, this should be the country!
Thank you PBS. This may be the first time PBS shows the Burma's terrible government, but it is the best show it really is. All these Burmese people are living like hell under the oppressive guns of Burmese Generals and you guys have just simply helped to my dying Burmese people so much to let the world know. We here in Burma are living like no future. A lot of deaths for starving, disease, oppressive forced labour and cruel killings of the government. Child soldiers, raping of village women and girls by the army, robbing the food and shelter from farmers are at the top risk in the country. There are so many of these bad things in here and I just thank PBS for this show and hoping to make some more show about us to the world.
Leaving my country when I was very young, basically not having to grow up there to acknowledge the inside-out details of Burma, had distanced me on what is really going on with the government and its economy. I'm now 19 years old and after seeing that documentary on PBS last night, I must say that my heart was rooting for Mr. Evan Williams as he revealed one fact after another on the outrageous brutality and unfair treatment that continue to exist. I see this as "cannibalization", just as Keith Lorenz from Hawaii had posted on his comment. A part of me feels undeniably helpless but then I've come to notice that even foreigners have the decency and willingness to realize/support the inhumanity of our regime. Thank you for that and I'd like to one day meet Mr. Evan Williams in person. Any foreigner who would even go to that far length of making it known to the world about the despicable mindset of the despicable Burmese government is surely the equivalent of a hero to me personally. I spit on the regime and all the people involved who are helping them to seize more power and control (this includes all the business-related people who only look for the well-being of themselves and not their fellow citizens), just despicable. I believe that no matter how much one tries to hide the truth, one way or the other, it will always be revealed. Looking forward to the day "KARMA" plays its role on those cruel bastards. If not in this life, they will suffer in the next. Lets keep the hope up shall we?
New York, NY
I am thankful to Frontline for this program. The conditions in Burma are severe and it is getting worse. Mr. Evan Williams is as good as Andy Cooper. We need more journalists like Mr. Williams in Burma. U.N Security Council members aren't doing enough. In fact, China and Russia are benefiting from this junta. We need to urge all the politicians in Washington to do something substantial. This junta must fall down and Ms. Suu Kyi should be freed. Otherwise, Burma will turn into North Korea in few years.
Evan Williams is so lame, his foolish way of presenting the story of the oppressed Burmese people. Endangering the people he interviewed & had contact with. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to not expect retaliation for the exposure of these people. Use more discretion; it doesn't seem the Burmese government intelligence police are dumb not to be able to figure out or how to find these people to inflict more torture & killing because of Evans story. Shame & Stupid.
I am very very happy and sad to watch on TV about my country. After I watched I was crying because the military government and their soldiers are not a human and they are very worse than evil.
For years I had read in newspapers about oppression in Burma, but I did not really understand how life under oppression is until I watched your program. Thanks. What bewilders me is this: the countries which pass resolutions against Burmese oppression are the same nations which trade with this regime and reap profits out of people's misery (Total - France; Chevron - USA; Siemens - Germany; ONGC Videsh - India, to name a few). It is a shame!
Los Angeles, CA
Joe Thurman's question is a difficult one to answer briefly, but it's a fair question. Part of the answer is cultural. Primarily it is a nation of devout Buddhists. One of the highest points of pride is found in Burmese hospitality - "be our guest, put our manners to the test" could be the national credo. The fact that the three words most associated with Aung San Suu Kyi are "Freedom from Fear" should tell you something. It is like asking why citizens of USSR didn't rise up sooner and wipe out the KGB. There is an extensive military intelligence structure. The regime has poured everything into the military. This is reflected in the fact that prior to Ne Win, Burma was considered "the rice bowl of Asia." Today, it has status as one of the world's ten least developed nations. In going about their daily lives, the Burmese must navigate through bribes and corruption that has become endemic. There is no money left among the people to raise a counter-army.
Next, anyone who displays even the slightest sign of opposition is imprisoned and tortured. Many of the companies that left Burma said they couldn't even function there. US companies have found it difficult to do so, as Macy's said, without potential to violate the US Foreign Corrupt Practices act. Unocal's complicity with the regime and the resultant acts of rape, torture and murder are well documented and were foreseeable. The company and its partner Total have independently made legal settlements rather than have these issues dragged out to their final conclusions in courts. Now Daewoo is putting itself in the same position through another gas deal. These deals pump money directly into the regime. There is no "trickle down" as the specialty work is carried out by foreign engineering firms.
San Francisco, CA
I have not seen the video yet but read the synopsis. I can't wait for the streaming on Nov 20th. I have seen some of the footage mentioned from various other sites though. As a Burmese, I'm really glad and grateful that Williams has been working so hard to bring our issues into light for the international community. Thank you. It breaks my heart to know our people are fighting each other. Our country is so beautiful and our culture is so rich.
For the one anonymous commenter who asked why aren't the Burmese defending themselves, I recommend you read "Living Silence: Burma under military rule" by Christina Fink. It does a real good job of explaining why it's been hard to attain democracy away from military regime in Burma. There is a whole history to this country and the way the regime is holding power, aided by ignorance and greed of some countries in the international community, that make it really difficult for the Burmese people to gain their freedom. It is often easy when you are free to ask why can't we do it. But when you are entrenched in a world of oppression and violence and fear, it's hard to even ask why or how because it's around us every day.
I don't live in Burma and was lucky to grow up outside of Burma, but it still affects me in my day to day life, because it passes down intergenerationally...this trauma of oppression, as my parents and their parents had to live through it and so it affected the values and lessons about life they taught us, and we carry the burden on from a far.
Thank you for the film and exposure you give to the lives of millions whose story would go unnoticed otherwise.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
It is a shame I missed this I would like to watch it sooner.
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
The complete story will be available for viewing online November 7, 2006. Check local PBS listings as it will re-broadcast as well.
San Mateo, CA
Thank you for taking the time and effort to show the world what is going on in Burma.
If they knew the whereabouts of a place that welcomes poor, tired and tempest-tossed people, 50 million people would show up.
I work with refugees from Burma who have settled in southern Wisconsin. They are wonderful hard working people. Many of them had to flee Burma in 1988 after demonstrations against the terrible government. One respondent wants to know why the Burmese people have not done more to defend themselves. Well, they certainly have tried and thousands have been killed or imprisoned because of trying. Tens of thousands of others are refugees, knowing they would be killed or imprisoned if they return to Burma.
Federal Heights, CO
I feel fortunate to have access to the free press so that I may voice my thoughts, ideas and beliefs freely unlike the Burmese who are living in a state of Military Dictatorship. These programs that PBS airs give voice to those who have none and are vital to the process of creating world peace and global understanding of the genocide and atrocity that is happening around the world, especially in the under-reported nation of Myanmar (Burma). The accuracy and vivid imagery that the reporter risked his life for are heart wrenching and I hope inspiring so that people will become actively involved in stopping the deaths, imprisonment and torture.
Great thanks to Frontline/World reporter Evan Williams who travels undercover to Burma to expose the unprecedented violence and repression being carried out by the Burmese Military Junta/SPDC against its own people. This is to watch first ever PBS Documentary on Eastern Burma.
End ethnic cleansing in Burma NOW!
End Slave Labor in Burma NOW!
End Forced Labor in Burma NOW!
Military Dictatorship...Destroy it!
Free Burma NOW!
Free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi NOW!
Free Min Ko Naing NOW!
Student Generations Since 1988 (U.S. Branch)
I feel terrible about what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Burma. Having said this, it means nothing if no action follows. So what is to be done? Asking the people to rise up on their own and overtake a strong, ruthless and ubiquitous army of apparent thugs is unrealistic. Those who do this are silenced immediately. Without the direct support of the free world, nothing will change and our good intentions result in nothing more than feeling like we did something when we did not. It will take the world's only caring nations - the U.S., the Brits, Australia, and some Eastern Europe countries to make a difference. We each must come up and join in with a coherent plan and policy for the U.S. to deal with this quickly and clearly. I don't know enough yet about the economic coercion that Burma might be susceptible to, but this would be a start. Can we covertly support an opposition movement strong enough to gain the required momentum (and accept the inevitable losses), which would result in a takeover? If someone else has a better idea, please let us know.
George H Pritchard
Thank you. It is easy to think that Burma is forgotten until a person sees this great work. At this particular time Burma needs the attention of all persons of good will. The so-called government of "Myanmar" is without a doubt one of the most oppressive regimes of this age.
Thanks to Evan Williams and proud for what he is doing for Burma. We all need human rights and democracy.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL
I feel for my people and I do suffer a great loss for them. My heart is bleeding as I watched the footage from the program. I have left the county right after 1988 chaps. Sein Win is my teacher, a brave man, I respect his courage. Thank you so much to let the world know the truth about Burma. Please help the people to end the suffering, they do not deserve any kinds of abuse, please help those children. Thank you PBS and Mr. Williams.
My heart cries out to these people. I live in a rural environment in a free country and cannot understand how some military bullies can beat down and degrade their own countrymen. What do they fear? The whole world should be outraged by these atrocities. World leaders should know the real truth and the companies mentioned Unocal and Total should be boycotted.
This video footage is very informational and I hope the news spreads to the whole world, and sees what's really going inside Burma. People are suffering from economic hardship, and the brutality of the regime. As my leader Daw Aung San Su Kyi says, "Use your liberty to promote others." Please help Burma in anyway you can. Thank you to PBS (Rocky Mountain) and Frontline. And a special thank to the reporter Evan, you are such a heroic reporter. (Long Live Daw Aung San Su Kyi, and Free Burma, Free Daw Aung San Su Kyi, Free 88 Next Generation Students leader, and the political prisoners)
New York, NY
Thank you Mr. Williams and PBS for shedding lights on atrocities taken placed inside Burma by its ruling military regime. Keep up the good work. I hope to see a follow-up on Burma's pressing issues soon.
I have followed Burma affairs since 1962, when I first flew to Rangoon from Bangkok for a permitted 72 hours. In the last four decades I have crossed the border many times into the zones defended by the Karens, Mons, Karenni, Shans, etc. Things have only gone from bad to worse. The world community was very slow to wake up to the atrocious situation inside Burma and only did so after 1988. Already it was too late. The current generals are selling off the country to the highest bidders for oil, natural gas, timber, dams for electrical power etc. This is the real definition of "globalization." Another word might be "cannibalization": the regime will devour its parts, in concert with foreign interests, until there is nothing left for anybody. This seems to be the world trend, anyway. Burma is the perfect symbol. Good work, Evan Williams, for providing a glimpse of this suicidal course.
I am in tears now as I write this comment, as I was last night while watching the program. The Burmese are such precious people who deserve normal, healthy lives and a chance for freedom. My son was in Myanmar last summer to try and reach a type of village people (other than the Karen) so that he could offer help, and I have friends who want to live there so that they can help the Burmese's living conditions and offer them hope. The government will not allow any help nor hope into the country. Thank you for sharing the story so that more know what is going on - but this is not enough. Somehow - we need to come to the rescue of these people.
Great story! I was encouraged to find this on PBS. I spent two weeks along the Thailand-Burma border in 2005 with the KNLA (Karen National Liberation Army) running missions into Burma and helping the Internally Displaced People. The conditions there are deplorable and hopeless it seems. It seems that the $15 million US dollars being sent there annually to help alleviate suffering is only empowering the corrupt to become more corrupt - giving them opportunity to live lavishly on US support dollars. What is the answer? Economic sanctions are only strengthening the trade with China - solidifying their relationship and empowering Burma's military might. The international pressure is either too light or ineffective to date. Myanmar-nization is absolutely unaffected by the international community and the pressures applied. If the answer were an easy one - it would be a given but it is not. The international community must wholeheartedly address this issue and persevere until change is implemented. Millions of ethnic minorities are suffering perpetually while the international community drags its feet in passivity. When you see their suffering and look into those eyes of hopelessness it changes you forever. I applaud PBS for airing this show and I hope and pray that it opens awareness to the atrocities being committed within this iron regime.
It is an impressive documentary, but this is telling us only half of Burma's situation. What about the Shans who are also suffering horrendous savage brutality, rape, torture, unlawful arrests, killing, forced labor and forced displacement? The persecution of Shans has been going on under the military regime for decades. Have they been forgotten or ignored?
As a frequent traveler to Burma, I always struggle to reconcile what I experience with what I see and hear in the media. Because of the overwhelmingly negative coverage, and the label of "pariah state", the outside world has almost no concept of the beauty and magic that is Burma. In spite of the harsh realities, you will find an incredible, spiritual country with some of the kindest, most beautiful people on earth. Go and see, tread lightly, and decide for yourself how you can "help". You cannot help anyone by staying away and allowing the media to think for you.
This is the first time PBS has shown such a report on Burma, though you did do a wonderful job 25 years ago on Khun Sa and the drug trade in the jungles of Burma. As one who lives along the border, I haven't seen the video yet, but thank you!! This is endless sorrow for most of the people of Burma, especially the non-Burmese. We have generations who know nothing but killing, fleeing, and negotiating for their lives and livelihood. Ethnocide is not an unjust label. How can there ever be peace, love, hope, and social harmony again? And yet the resilient people of Burma find love, find hope, and find a kind of ordinary life that brings comfort and some stability, even if only in the routine of hardship.
I will continue my fight for human rights in this part of the world, and encourage others to stand up for those who have no freedoms and live in those conditions...I will never forget the little babies sleeping on the street, and promise now that I am nearly finished with law school and my other projects seem to have winded down, I will take on this one. One person CAN make a difference. Last night's program educated me on what has been happening over there. I have always known through my communications with AI that there have been severe human rights issues in Burma. Now that I have 'seen' it, thanks to your brave reporters, it has inspired me to action. Just as Frontline inspired me to act back in 1989 with your program on the Balkans...Here I am these many years later preparing to move back to the Balkans to work in Human Rights, but Burma is now close to my heart. Your program is inspiring, and I will continue my donations to PBS as well.
Thank you so much for the education you bring to the world about things never otherwise even mentioned in the media.
I read the synopsis and found it sad and disturbing. Sad as it may be, I wonder about the contrary story. Who supports this government and why have they been in power for so long? You allude to the oil companies and big business oppressing the native people and propping up a brutal regime. Too simplistic. Something is missing. This is a region in the world where there are huge weapons caches. Where are the people? Where are the patriots? Why haven't the guerillas enjoyed more popular support? And is this the only group fighting against the government? Ultimately, the Burmese people will have to decide how they want to live. You may call me naive but I have a hard time defending people who will not defend themselves. Let's have the whole story.
My heart has been broken since I left Burma decades ago. Hearing my fellow countrymen and women's voices of suffering and courage moved me beyond tears. While I hold onto a glimmer of hope that one day we will be free again, I can't help but wonder if I will see that day during my lifetime or my children's lifetimes. I fear that even if the current general is gone, the next will take over and start the vicious cycle of oppression all over again. I am grateful for the courage of reporters like Mr. Evan Williams and PBS for bringing Burma into the spotlight.
I enjoyed the very informative program on Burma. Frontline is a great program! Evan Williams does a great job reporting the "real news" from around the world on PBS - a giant, refreshing step in news reporting compared to the usual news that we get!
Laguna Beach, CA
The world leaders need to hold the military junta accountable for murders and oppression in Burma. Daily reporting is mandatory in this effort. Keep it alive. Thank you for your making this a priority.
Evan Williams is the hero for those people whose base human rights was repeatedly violated. For those whose homes were burned down and uprooted from thier homeland. Ethnic women, who were raped and intimidated by Burmese Army.
new jersey, nj
FREE BURMA ! FREE DAW AUNG SAN SUU KYI and OTHERES.
Ko Myoe(former 8.8.1988 student)
I AM VERY GRATEFUL & THANKFUL TO THE PBS NETWORK & EVAN WILLIAMS FOR COVERING BURMA ON FRONTLINE. THANK YOU!! I TRULY BELIEVE THAT THIS SHORT PERIOD OF ATTENTION BURMA AND ITS PEOPLE RECEIVED FROM THE WORLD IS A STEP TOWARDS ITS POTENTIAL LIBERATION FROM THEIR INHUMANE SUFFERING UNDER THE JUNTA, NO MATTER HOW SMALL THIS ADVANCEMENT MAYBE. PLEASE DO NOT FORGET THEM. special admiration goes towards Mr.Williams. The world will be better served with more journalists like him.
Compiled by Sonia Narang. Edited by Jackie Bennion
Back to top