Further background information:
On 4th January 2008 Burma will mark sixty years of independence. Celebrations will no doubt be subdued. For more than three quarters of that period successive military juntas have misruled Burma. Only the elderly have experienced any form of democracy and that ended in 1962. The generals now enjoy near absolute domination and appear set on crushing the pro-democracy opposition, eradicating ethnic opposition, while cementing their grip on power ad infinitum.
The hopes and dreams that powered the 1988 pro-democracy uprising have ceased to be visible amid the darkness that has followed. Overwhelming victory for the National League for Democracy (NLD) in the 1990 general election resulted in incarceration, exile and death: MPs were never permitted to take up office and serve the people who elected them, as the military refused to relinquish power. Aung San Suu Kyi, NLD leader and Nobel Peace Laureate, remains the world’s most famous political prisoner – detained for almost 12 years with absolutely no sign that she will experience freedom anytime soon.
Burma, for generations admired as the ‘Golden Land ,’ barely survives on the fringes of humanity and is more accurately recognised as a bastion of inhumanity. A plethora of human rights reports bear witness to the endless discrimination, abuse and suffering that the people endure. Burma’s international notoriety is a product of the generals’ steadfast belligerence: the world’s longest running civil war; over 1200 political prisoners; possibly 70,000 child soldiers; leading producer of narcotics; among the lowest per capita spending on health and education (40 cents annually per citizen on health); Asia’s axis for the dissemination of HIV/AIDS; the most annual deaths from malaria of any Asian nation (primarily in areas where the Burma Army has attacked and displaced thousands of minority ethnic villagers); its infamy is endless.
Since its inception in 1990, my documentation of Burma has sought to put a human face to the complex, evolving issues that challenge its people. It is by personalizing instances of, for example, ethnic armed resistance, food insecurity, forced labour, forced relocation, child workers, child combatants, sex workers, the use of rape as a weapon of war, health insecurity, the explosion of the HIV infection, people trafficking, narcotics trafficking, political detention, etc, that I aim to inform and provoke; providing a comprehensive and coherent study that will be employed as a tool advocacy in the pursuit of meaningful peaceful change for Burma.