Burma VJ

The co-operative presents A Film By ANDERS ØSTERGAARD

Armed with video-cameras a tenacious band of Burmese reporters face down death to expose the repressive regime controlling their country

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petitionto free the Burma VJ prisoners

Aung San Suu Kyi denied access to appeal

 

Aung San Suu Kyi will not be allowed to appear in court in person during the appeal against her 18-month house arrest extension. Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention was extended after she was convicted of breaching security laws by allowing an uninvited US man into her home.

Ms Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the last 20 years in detention. The latest sentence has drawn international condemnation, and means she cannot take part in elections next year.

Meanwhile, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report states that the number of political prisoners in Burma’s notorious jails has doubled in the two years, since the 2007 ‘Saffron Uprisings’ dramtically captured in the footage of Burma VJ.

According to HRW there are more than 2,200 people jailed for their beliefs in 43 jails, often held in solitary confinement in small, dark cells.

To find out more about the conditions faced by political prisoners in Burma, read our guest-blog post “Burmese hell holes”.

Read the full BBC news article here.

Burmese generals: $5bn profit from Total pipeline deal

A new report published by Earthrights International (ERI) claims that the Burmese military junta has pocketed almost $5bn from a controversial gas pipeline operated in Eastern Burma by the French oil giant Total in Eastern Burma, while continuing to deprive the country of much-needed social spending.

The Yadana pipeline deal, which has earned Total an estimated $483m since 2000, is so lucrative to the regime that ERI claim it is able to insulate the country’s rulers from the impact of  international sanctions put in place  in response to the country’s systematic human rights abuses. As a result, Total can be argued to play a major role in reinforcing the junta’s power, despite pressure for reform from the United States and Europe.

According to the report, the revenue from the Yadana pipeline project has not been invested in the country’s infrastructure, but deposited by the Burmese regime in two offshore banks in Singapore. Meanwhile, the people of Burma suffer some of the worst standards of living in Asia, with negligible state investment in healthcare or education.

The report’s main author, Matthew Smith, has said: “The military elite are hiding billions of dollars of the people’s revenue in Singapore while the country needlessly suffers under the lowest social spending in Asia…The revenue from this pipeline is the regime’s lifeline and a critical leverage point that the international community could use to support the people of Burma.”

Read the Earthrights International reports here

Read the full Independent article here.

UK community group shows solidarity with the DVB

For just over a year now, Nancy Monaghan has been running a weekly community drama group with young people from the local area of New Hey, near Rochdale, North West England. After seeing Burma VJ, Nancy has decided to pledge all the takings from her group to help fund the work of the Democratic Voice of Burma. Nancy describes her motivation:

“Burma VJ is not only a shocking exposé of the brutal repression prevalent in Burma, it’s a testimony of how, with courage and ingenuity, individuals can take a stand and make themselves heard. That’s exactly the kind of example I want the kids in our community to take note of, and that’s why I’m proud to support the DVB.

We may be a small group, but that doesn’t matter- every bit of support counts. I’d like to see more community groups across the UK and internationally to take note and come out and support the work of the DVB.”

Until the release of the award-winning Burma VJ in July this year, it’s fair to say that few people in the UK had heard of the non-profit media organisation Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB). Then came the film, telling the story of the DVB’s role in recording footage of the 2007 uprisings in Burma, risking torture, imprisonment and death to ensure that brutal scenes of repression were brought to the attention of a global audience.

All media within Burma is subject to strict censorship. Operating outside of the country, the DVB, which broadcasts daily, is a rare and highly-regarded outlet for uncensored news and information about Burma. The organisation is not-for-profit and charitable donations play a crucial role in keeping its operations running from day to day.

Please support uncensored news on Burma: click here to donate to the DVB.

The DVD of Burma VJ will be available in December - sign up to the Burma VJ mailing list to receive details.

Will ASEAN increase the pressure on Burma?

It has long been acknowledged that the 10-members group ASEAN (Alliance of Southeast Asian Nations) is a vital player in bringing about change in Burma. To date, despite consistent evidence of human rights abuses in Burma, the organisation has been reluctant to comment in the internal affairs of member states. However, there are early signs of change.

The DVB reports that members of the Southeast Asian regional bloc are meeting in Indonesia to debate whether to call on Burma to release imprisoned opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Burma has become the thorn in the side of the 10-member association, and its presence in the bloc has been increasingly controversial since the trial and detention of Suu Kyi. Although ASEAN generally follows a principle of non-interference in internal affairs of member states, has become increasingly uneasy over Burma’s membership. Soon after the start of the trial, Thailand, which currently holds the ASEAN chair, voiced concern that Burma was tarnishing the bloc’s image.

Senior ASEAN officials will discuss whether to send a letter to the ruling generals in Burma to pressure for the release of Suu Kyi.

The length of Suu Kyi’s sentence will mean she remains in detention beyond the 2010 elections, scheduled for March next year.

Aung San Suu Kyi verdict annouced


Imprisoned pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been found guilty of breaking the terms of her house arrest after an American man, John Yettaw, swam to her house and refused to leave. Aung San Suu Kyi was not given the maximum 5 year prison sentence, but instead will serve 18 months under house arrest.

According to the Burma Campaign UK, the regime will try to present this as leniency in order to avoid international sanctions. This period of detention keeps Aung San Suu Kyi in detention during rigged elections due in 2010. The elections bring in a new constitution which is designed to legalise military rule.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been in detention for more than 13 of the past 19 years. The United Nations has ruled that her detention is illegal under international law and Burmese law. According to the dictatorship, her current period of detention was due to expire on 27th May. She was put on trial on 18th May for breaking the conditions of her house arrest after an American man swam to her home and refused to leave.

The Burma VJ coalition is calling for the release of all political prisoners in Burma. Click here to sign the petition to Ban Ki-Moon.

Read the full Burma Campaign press release here.

Free the VJs

Aung San Suu Kyi Adress to Supporters

Aung San Suu Kyi Adress to Supporters

The premiere of Burma VJ has now come and gone and another thank you to all those who came out to support the film.

The signed poster has now been won after one lucky, and very generous person bid £500!!

However, the cause behind the film is as alive and as crucial as ever.

Burma VJ tells the story of the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and their role in the battle for a free and democratic Burma. The DVB and individual activists in this film took a great personal risk to get this story out to the world – as a result of this project, a number of them are currently incarcerated.

Htin Kyaw, Su Su Nway, Ohn Than, Sithu Maung, Ko Win Maw of the DVB are all currently serving prison sentences in Burma but you can help to support these brave men and women in a variety ways.

Visit the Free the VJs section of the site to find out how to write to the United Nations and other ways you can show your support.

You can show your support by making a donation to the DVB, Burma Campaign UK and FilmAid International here and find out other ways to get involved by visiting www.burmavjmovie.com/takeaction.

Bid For a Signed Poster

Richard Gere was kind enough to sign a mounted poster of Burma VJ that we are auctioning on behalf of the DVB (Democratic Voice of Burma).

The DVB is a non-profit media organization based in Oslo, Norway. Run by Burmese expatriates, it makes radio and television broadcasts aimed at providing uncensored news and information about Burma, the country’s military regime, and its political opposition. The DVB played a pivotal roll in the production of Burma VJ and all the money rasied from the sale of the signed poster will go directly to the DVB.

You can bid for a Burma VJ movie poster, signed by Richard Gere by emailing
poster@burmavjmovie.com
. Only the highest bid wins, entries close midday, Wednesday 22nd July.

We will contact the person with the highest bid to arrange for delivery and payment.

Images from the Premiere

Dame Vivienne Westwood introduces the film.

The Burmese Monks with L-R Barry Clavin, Clare Ebrey, and Paul Monaghan of The Co-operative.

The Burmese Monks with Anna Godas and Andy WHittaker of Dogwoof.

The Saffron Premiere

On 14th July at 8:30pm, the nationwide Saffron Premiere of Burma VJ took place.

Packed cinemas in 40 locations all across the country were satellite-linked LIVE to BAFTA in London. Things kicked off with an introduction from Paul Monaghan (Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative) ,who then, to the delight of the audience, handed over to Dame Vivienne Westwood.

Having welcomed everyone and having given an impassioned plea for harmony and understanding, Dame Vivienne gave way on the stage to five Burmese monks who pronounced a chant to bless the screening and it was time for the film.

After the film a special message was broadcast from Richard Gere, thanking everyone for attending, and thanking the filmmakers for the brave piece of cinema just witnessed.

You can bid for a Burma VJ movie poster, signed by Richard Gere by emailing

poster@burmavjmovie.com. Only the highest bid wins, entries close midday, Wednesday 22nd July.

The evening finished with a Q&A comprising of Paul Monaghan, Anders Ostergaard (Director of Burma VJ), Joshua (Burmese Video Journalist for Democratic Voice of Burma) and Mark Farmaner (Director of The Burma Campaign UK). As well as fielding questions from the audience at BAFTA, a selection of great questions were picked from close to a hundred texts that came in from around the country and put to the panel – check back here to see all these being posted online in the next few days.

The historic satellite premiere was made possible by the thousands of people around the country who turned out to support the film. Check back here for videos from the night and more pictures.

A message from Tipping Point film fund

As the Burma VJ Saffron Premiere draws closer, the new non-profit co-operative film fund Tipping Point leaves a message of support.

When people put their lives on the line to take up arms through video cameras to expose the brutality of a regime such as that in Burma, we who are not living under such conditions have a duty to show our support with those who are taking these immense risks - and we must speak up. We want to wish Burma VJ, the Saffron Premiere and all the ongoing campaign outreach every success in contributing to the downfall of an odious regime. The power of people and film is something we profoundly believe - and we should honour those whose pictures give us the ammunition with which to fight for change.

Tipping Point is an innovative new fund supporting the development, production and distribution of challenging, truth-telling films. To find out more and get involved visit www.tippingpointfilmfund.com.

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