Good books and films about mass atrocities in Burma

A group of monks sit in protest after being halted by riot officers and military officials in Myanmar (September 2007)

A group of monks sit in protest after being halted by riot officers and military officials in Myanmar (September 2007)

April was Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. In honor of this, we compiled a Resource List of books and films themed around each of the past genocides that have commemorative dates in April, plus the regions where we focus our awareness and advocacy efforts on an ongoing basis.

We hope you will make use of this list as a way to both remember these genocides, and learn more about them.  In April we featured books and films associated with the genocides that have commemorative dates in April.  In May, the regions of our present day efforts are the focus.  This is the seventh post in this series, the mass atrocities in Burma.

Recommended Books:

Burmese Days, by George Orwell
In 1930, Kyauktada, Upper Burma, is one of the least auspicious postings in the ailing British Empire–and then the order comes that the European Club, previously for whites only, must elect one token native member.  This edict brings out the worst in this woefully enclosed society, not to mention among the natives who would become the One.

Everything is Broken, by Emma Larkin
The book is an account of the events in Burma before and after Cyclone Nygris.  She reveals details about the complex military dictatorship that rules Burma, and the bizarre, horrifying ways the regime responded to the cyclone and its effects on their country and its people.

Finding George Orwell in Burma, by Emma Larkin
Larkin (a pseudonym), a journalist believes that it was George Orwell’s stint as an imperial policeman in British-ruled Burma during the 1920s that turned him into a writer of conscience.  To prove her theory and assess what imprint if any he left on the culture, she bravely journeyed throughout the now brutally totalitarian state to visit the places Orwell lived and worked.

For Us to Surrender is Out of the Question: A Story from Burma’s Never Ending War, by Mac McClelland
In 2006, Mac McClelland arrived as a volunteer in Thailand and found herself living with associates of an organization battling Burma’s dictatorship.  Her story explores the world’s longest-running war through her housemates, refugees who risk their lives documenting their government’s secret ethnic-cleansing campaign.

Freedom from Fear, by Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for courageous leadership of the Burmese people in their battle against authoritarian rule.  The forthright condemnation of the regime that resulted in the activist’s house arrest is clearly expressed in the essays in this volume.

From the Land of Green Ghost, by Pascal Khoo Thwe
Khoo Thwe, born in 1967, debuts with a remarkable portrait of his childhood in Phekhon, “the only Catholic town in Burma,” among the Padaung people.  The Catholic and animist fables     that the author and his 10 siblings live by would be the emblems of a fairy tale life were it not for the violence and economic crises of the dictatorship of General U Ne Win.

Letters from Burma, by Aung San Suu Kyi
Human-rights activist and leader of Burma’s National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi     was sentenced to six years’ house arrest in Rangoon in 1989 by the ruling military.  She paints     a vivid, poignant yet optimistic picture of her native land in this collection of writings from     her imprisonment.

Nowhere to Be Home: Narratives From Survivors of Burma’s Military Regime, by Maggie Lemere and Zoe West (Editors) *favorite
Nowhere to Be Home is an eye-opening collection of oral histories exposing the realities of         life under military rule.  In their own words, men and women from Burma describe their lives     in the country that Human Rights Watch has called “the textbook example of a police state.”

The Glass Castle, by Amitav Ghosh
Set primarily in Burma, Malaya, and India, this work spans from 1885, when the British sent the King of Burma into exile, to the present.  While it does offer brief glimpses into the history of the region, it is more the tale of a family and how historical events influenced real lives.

The River of Lost Footsteps, by Thant Myint-U
With an eye to what the past might say about Burma’s present status as a country in crisis, Thant Myint-U examines the legacy of imperialism, war and invasion.

The Voice of Hope, by Aung San Suu Kyi
In The Voice of Hope, Aung San Suu Kyi emerges as a human being–a mother of two sons as well as an inspirational human rights advocate and all-around moral compass.

Undaunted, by Zoya Phan and Damien Lewis
This is the story of Zoya, a young member of the Karen tribe in Burma.  She grew up in the jungle and was violently displaced by the military junta that has controlled the country for almost 50 years.  This cadre also hunted Zoya and her family across borders and continents.  Undaunted  tells of her adventures, from her childhood, to her years on the run, and to her emergence as an activist.

Recommended Films:

Burma – No Childhood At All
This documentary is about children who have become victims or participants in Burma’s armed conflicts, used as porters, human shields, or human minesweepers.  It shows the life of children who have been killed, forcibly conscripted, unwillingly separated from their families, kidnapped and tortured, and it includes interviews with child soldiers.

Burma Soldier
Burma Soldier tells the powerful story of a Burmese soldier who swapped sides to join Aung San Suu Kyi’s struggle for a democratic Burma.

Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country
Risking torture and life in jail, courageous young citizens of Burma live the essence of journalism as they insist on keeping up the flow of news from their closed country.  Armed with small handycams the Burma VJs stop at nothing to make their reportages from the streets of Rangoon.

Burmese Dreaming
A girl has a nightmare about the killing of her father by soldiers in a mountain village in Burma.  She wakes up.  She is in a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border.  She has been here for six years but still this is not where her mind lives. Instead it drifts between the realities of refugee life and dreams and day-dreams about Burma and a life she used to live.  Burmese Dreaming is a creative non-fiction based upon stories from the life of a refugee.

Crossing Midnight
One million on the run in the jungles of Eastern Burma. One visionary community fighting to save their own.  The award winning documentary, Crossing Midnight, is set on the border of Thailand and Eastern Burma. Crossing Midnight tells the story of a remarkable community of refugees from Burma working against … incredible odds to help their own.

Inside Burma – Land Of Fear
Isolated for the past 40 years, since a brutal military dictatorship seized power in Rangoon, this rich country has been relegated to one of the world’s poorest, the assault on its people all but forgotten by the rest of the world.  Award-winning filmmakers John Pilger and David Munro go undercover to expose how the former British colony is ruled by a harsh, bloody and uncompromising military regime.

Into The Current
Into The Current tells the story of Burma’s unsung heroes – its prisoners of conscience – and the price they pay for speaking truth to power in a military dictatorship.

Living on the Line
Living on the Line is a short documentary about the brutal genocide that has been going on in Burma for over 20 years.

Moving to Mars
Moving to Mars follows two refugee families from Burma over the course of a year that will change their lives completely.  Forced from their homeland by the repressive military junta, they have lived in a Thai refugee camp for many years.  A resettlement scheme offers them the chance of a new life, but their new home, in the British city of Sheffield, will be different to everything they have ever known.

The Lady
The film charts Aung San Suu Kyi’s remarkable journey from housewife bringing up her children in Oxford to taking on the power of Burma’s generals by becoming opposition leader.  It is set between 1988 – when Aung San Suu Kyi left Oxford to visit her sick mother and ended up staying – and 1999, the year Aris died after being diagnosed with cancer.  Aris had been forbidden from entering Burma, a decision that left Aung San Suu Kyi with the almost impossible decision of whether to stay or go.

The Road
In the summer of 2006, four friends from San Diego, California set out on a mission to expose the atrocities being done to the people of Burma, more specifically, the Karen people – one of the country’s largest ethnic groups.  With backpacks filled with borrowed film equipment they set out without a clue of how they would break inside a countryside filled with landmines, Burmese soldiers, and wet season torrential weather.  They didn’t know what they would find, or if anyone would listen to their story when they returned.

Trading Women
Trading Women investigates the trade in minority girls and women from the hill tribes of Burma, Laos and China, into the Thai sex industry.  Filmed in Southeast Asia, this is the first film to follow the trade in women in all its complexity and to consider the impact of this ‘far away’ problem on the gobal community.  Narrated by Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie, the documentary enters the worlds of brothel owners, trafficked girls, voluntary sex workers, corrupt police and anxious politicians, and examines the international response to the issue.

Background on mass atrocities in Burma: Over the past decades, the Burmese government has been the primary driver of violence against civilians in Burma due to its continued counter-insurgency campaign against ethnic minority rebels, particularly its ‘four-cuts strategy,’ an attempt to cut off food, funds, intelligence and recruits from the rebels.

The government’s goal appears to be to hold power at all costs. One feature of this campaign to suppress ethnic rebel groups is primarily active in eastern Burma, along the Thai-Burma border, where the government uses forced labor to build bases from which they attack and burn surrounding villages as well as mining the razed areas to discourage returns. Areas outside of government’s control are designated as ‘black zones,’ where soldiers are able to shoot any person on sight. Government troops are also known to use rape against ethnic minority women as part of a campaign of “Burmanization” through forced pregnancy.

The government’s attempts to suppress all dissent within its territory have also resulted in attacks in Shan State along the Chinese border and among the Rohingya region bordering Bangladesh. Since 1988, the ruling Burmese junta has also taken a hard line against pro-democracy protestors, imprisoning more than 2,200 activists, including Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

– From GI-Net / Save Darfur Coalition (link)

Compiled by Paulina Robles and Barbara English of Orange County for Darfur and Martina Knee of the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition.

One Response to Good books and films about mass atrocities in Burma

  1. Pingback: Today, remembering the crisis in Burma « Orange County for Darfur Blog

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