Last night was an excellent end to the Take One Action Film Festival with a viewing of the film on Cyclone Nargis and a discussion with myself and Zoya Phan, exiled Burmese campaigner, about the prospect of a democratic Burma.
“Nargis: When Time Stopped Breathing” is an incredibly moving film by director Kyaw kyaw Oo about the impact of Cyclone Nargis on the people in the rural delta which devastated communities. Over 140,000 people died and two and a half million were left homeless. The film is low key but incredibly moving as it talks to survivors about their experiences and the loss of their families and whole villages who died in the cyclone and its aftermath.
Burma’s military dictatorship didn’t give people warning of the cyclone or attempt to evacuate them. Even though the UN warned of the humanitarian consequences the regime undermined international efforts to provide aid to the stricken communities.
Zoya Phan is an inspiration and now works for Burma Campaign UK. Her academic studies were supported by BEST, the Burma Educational Scholarship Trust, a charity I’ve supported for the past few years so it was a special privilege to share a platform with her.
There are still over 2,200 political prisoners held in appalling conditions in Burmese jails and the Burmese regime is desperate to overturn international sanctions. Last month Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander MP called for an International Inquiry into torture and imprisonment in Burma. Last Tuesday Aung San Suu Kyi spoke via a pre recorded video to Labour Conference in Liverpool. As ever her dignity and clarity of vision was moving as she asked us to use our freedom to secure freedom for people in Burma. As Aung San Suu Kyi has said in the past “The struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma is a struggle for life and dignity. It is a struggle that encompasses our political, social and economic aspirations.”