After a hugely busy but successful day yesterday its going to be a full week in the office this week at AAPP to start editing more than 600 photos from yesterday plus researching and planning the rest of this trip. Possibly the most welcoming place in the world to work, it’s easy to forget the horrors we’re all dealing with and have been faced by those who work here, when you look around at all the welcoming faces and relaxed nature of everyone who works in the office… as well as those of the constant stream of colleagues, associates and other activists who constantly pass by. The AAPP was founded on 23 March 2000, the 11th anniversary of the arrest of 1988 student leader Min Ko Naing. It’s an independent, non-profit organization who’s joint secretaries Ko Bo Kyi and Ko Tate Naing along with their staff and all it’s members are all former political prisoners themselves. This gives them an extensive understanding on all aspects of political imprisonment in Burma like no other and like many other human rights organisations working both inside and outside Burma the risks of attack or some form of reprisal by agents of the Burmese military regime are always there. This is a place like no other. A secluded house in the shade of coconut trees in the back streets of Mae Sot, where life is work is life. It is an honour to be able to work here. As this project has developed and my involvement with all things political prisoners has grown, it’s even more of an honour to count these men and women as more than just colleagues. The ever welcoming smiles each day of Ko Bo Kyi, Tate Naing, Thaw Tun Oo, Ko Htay Aung, U Thet Oo, Aung Kyaw Oo, Aung Myo Thein and others, hide the shocking realities they all experienced in prison in Burma. But it’s exactly that point that I want to capture in this project, to stress in any writing in a book (if that happens). It’s this incredible strength of character of these people that I want to portray – despite everything that the military regime could throw at them; harrassment, surveillance; imprisonment; torture; persistent persecution on every level and at every turn; you name it they have suffered it, but it has not broken them. And it never will. You could be excused for being bitter and want revenge for suffering such injustices, but that’s not on anyones agenda – and that is what I mean when I talk about this strength of character. The end game is to release all political prisoners, to achieve freedom of speech and democracy in Burma. Whatever it takes and whatever must be suffered to achieve it is what will happen.
To have been given their trust to undertake this long journey is extremely special. I only hope that it will bring something at the end of it.