The Activist & The Uninvited Guests

On March 23rd one of the foremost human rights campaigners for Burma, Benedict Rogers, was deported from the country. Stopped late the previous night in his hotel by military intelligence officers, he was questioned, searched and early the following morning deported. The official reason was because of the books and many articles he has written “give misinformation about Myanmar”. The news of his deportation has been widely reported in exiled media as well as most recently the New York Times but here he talks to DVB TV about the experience:

Interview with Ben Rogers on DVB TV. Copyright DVB and reproduced here with permission.

It was mixed emotions when I received his call just hours after his deportation from Burma – shocked but at the same time not surprised. Thankfully he was treated well and left the country safely. If he had been Burmese, we would now be reporting on his torture and subsequent sentencing to many years inside Burma’s notorious prison system. I have known Ben for many years and without doubt he is one of the most important ‘Western’ voices to speak and act for the Burmese people of all ethnicities. His advocacy work and campaigning is second to none, he has travelled to virtually every Burmese border, has written numerous articles and books including the biography of the despotic ruler of Burma, Than Shwe, that got him deported and whilst he was deported on this most recent trip inside Burma, it has not been the first time he has been inside the country to document Burma’s deplorable human rights situation. The authorities expelled him from Burma because of ‘misinformation’ he was telling the world. ‘Misinformation’ that is repeated again and again by both dissidents inside Burma who risk their lives to speak out and echoed on theirs and the people of Burma’s behalf by campaigners, experts and academics worldwide to not only counter state propaganda that so-called ‘disciplined democracy’ is ready to flourish but also to cast no doubt on the fact that this regime is guilty of human rights attrocities that must be stopped and must be accounted for. The regime continue to intimidate and arrest anyone who speaks out or acts in defiance of their rule. There is nothing disciplined or democratic with this totalitarian approach and by rewarding these acts with the removal of sanctions, like so many would now seem is appropriate to do, is incomprehensible at best and in reality is a likely death sentence for true democracy to have the chance to finally flourish in Burma. Freedom of speech is a cornerstone of democracy and cannot be allowed to be traded for a business venture to further line the pockets of a regime that has already raped it’s country bare.

The most important thing that this sorry episode highlights is that nothing has changed in Burma. New government or not and although ridiculed by many, the intelligence services still seek out those who they fear and you can underestimate them at your peril (not that Ben ever did – moreover his immediate and ongoing concern was for anybody with whom he had come into contact during any of his trips inside). The ruling authorities may have new clothes at best, but MI are still there and still watching. Nothing has changed in Burma. Nothing.

Copyright © ENIGMA IMAGES and not to be reproduced without permission.
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