Labour & Burma’s Political Prisoners: Solidarity or Self Interest?

Britain’s Labour Party stood in unity today with Burma’s political prisoners as our trip back to the House of Commons saw almost 20 MPs (many from the Shadow Cabinet) take action for Amnesty’s campaign including the Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, Harriet Harman and Shadow Foreign Secretary, Yvette Cooper.

Harriet Harman MP

We shot the portraits in the Parliamentary Labour Party office inside the House of Commons – beautifully old and historic rooms, but about as dark as a cell in Insein. Five minutes running around the office trying to find a suitable spot before members of the Shadow Cabinet poured in through the doors and organised chaos ensued before we got the ‘media friendly group shots’ out of the way leaving me to take a few individual portraits that count for what I’m trying to show. It was hectic and we sped through the group shots despite me not knowing who was who (if only I cared about British politics as much as I do about Burma’s!). It went well but a sudden moment of dissent from within the ranks was an unexpected shock – it was rightfully and ruthlessly quashed by Harriet Harman who was not amused at all and I thank her for it. We live in a free world where we have the right of freedom of speech however to announce that you are not writing a name on your hand because “it’s a stupid idea” is insulting and disrespectful to the 2,200 political prisoners and all the former political prisoners I am working with and quite frankly Mr ‘un-named’ MP, I of all people am very happy for you not to be part of it. If the SPDC are trying to infiltrate the House of Commons like the DDOS attacks currently underway in Burma as we speak then they failed miserably. If I had been in Harriet’s shoes or if this had been Naypidaw then the offending General would have very quickly found himself in a dark cell in Myingyan. If Harriet was left decisively un-amused you can be sure I was left very much insulted and left wondering why this certain MP bothered turning up at all… solidarity or self-interest?

Yvette Cooper MP

After the whirlwind of politicians had been and gone, I managed to have a brief meeting with Yvette Cooper to discuss Burma, the elections and of course the issue for political prisoners including the current grave situation faced by many on the Thai-Burma border with potential forced repatriation on the cards. She showed a passionate and concerned interest in Burma and the current situation in the country both now and post election. With David Cameron heading to China next week, I wonder what discussions (if any) the British Government will have about the two detained Nobel Peace prize winners, one of whom is due to make headlines once again next week.

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EXCLUSIVE: British Deputy Prime Minister Stands With Burma’s Political Prisoners

An exclusive moment in this campaign as British Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg turns up the pressure on the junta and stands in solidarity alongside the former political prisoners to demand the unconditional release of all Burma’s political prisoners. As the election draws ever nearer, on Monday 4th October along with Foreign minister Jeremy Browne, Nick Clegg will be attending the ASEM meeting where discussions on Burma will take place and the issue of political prisoners will be at the forefront of both of their minds. We also met with Jeremy Browne on Thursday last week just before he left where he reassured that the issue would be raised in earnest.

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg stands with Burma’s Political Prisoners

With many of the leading British politicians having taken action already including David Milliband amongst others, we wait to hear from David Cameron on when he will have time in his diary to join his parliamentary colleagues and take the stand for Burma’s political prisoners.

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The Faces Behind The Names Behind The Scenes…Taking Action

Please join these two leading Burmese activists and take your portrait in solidarity with Burma’s Political Prisoners and submit it to Amnesty’s campaign

With the Amnesty International campaign now in full swing I can finally release these portraits of two of the people involved in this project, both joining in and taking action to stand along side Burma’s political prisoners (not my portrait of course – the most likely time you’ll get to see that will be if I ever get caught). With the public now submitting their own portraits by the hundreds as we speak, I am still continuing my work taking portraits of former political prisoners all over the world – that’s my role and my work, but what I ask of you is that you take your portrait like my two colleagues have done here.

As most of you will know if you’ve been reading any of the blog entries from around the world, there is one person who is fundamental to this project, traveling by my side, assisting in all aspects and without her help and involvement this campaign would not be where it is today.

Jacquelin San taking action for fellow Zoology student Mie Mie and Burma’s Political Prisoners
outside Number 10 Downing Street in London

Jacquelin San, affectionately named the Secretary General by our good friend Ko Than Win Htut at DVB, is pictured here joining in the public campaign and adding her voice to the hundreds who have already taken part in the past few days since the campaign was launched. She fled Burma in 2000 after the student demonstrations in Rangoon in the late 1990s where she was a second year Zoology student at RC1 and sat demonstrating with hundreds of her colleagues in the road at Hledan junction in December 1996. The portrait is taken outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, the home of the British Prime Minister. Taking this campaign message about Burma’s political prisoners to the front door of the man holding power in the UK is an extraordinary achievement. Mr Cameron you are next so please open the door.

Waihnin Pwint Thon takes action in the House of Commons with her
father’s name written on her hand

Another person who has played a hugely significant part in this campaign is Waihnin Pwint Thon, daughter of 88 Generation Student leader Ko Mya Aye who is currently jailed in Taunggyi prison in Shan State where he is suffering from extreme ill health. he is serving a 65 year sentence plus six months for his role in peaceful demonstrations in 2007. Waihnin has not only been involved in helping me with my work in many ways, but she is also a leading campaigner for Burma and political prisoners in the UK where she works for both Amnesty International and Burma Campaign UK. Above all else she is an inspiration to me. She speaks with courage and determination and her father whom she has not seen for over half of her life would be incredibly proud of her. By taking part in this campaign she is making a stand not just for her father but for all of her fathers colleagues and all of the people of Burma.

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Vital The Pressure On Junta Builds Now

Write up on David Miliband’s personal website where he continues his stance against Burma’s regime and demanding the release of all political prisoners. If only the Conservatives felt the same…

Full article here on David Miliband’s website

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UK Politicians Stand in Unity for Burma’s Political Prisoners

With the British parliament about to go into it’s summer recess we managed to grab one last opportunity to hold an event in the House of Commons to bring the UK’s politicians attention to Burma’s political prisoners. Foreign Minister Jeremy Browne MP and Anne Clywd MP both spoke but as usual it was Waihnin Pwint Thon who stole the show with another enigmatic, powerful and emotional speech reinforcing not only what needs to be done by the politicians around us in the room but also the horrendous suffering of more than 2,100 political prisoners currently detained.

A number of leading UK politicians from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords joined in the campaign:

Anne Clywd MP

Lord Hylton

Madeleine Moon MP

Baroness D’Souza

Cathy Jamieson MP

Lord Dubs

Baroness Miller

Emma Reynolds MP

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EXCLUSIVE: David Miliband MP Stands in Solidarity with Burma’s Political Prisoners

British Shadow Foreign Secretary David Miliband MP has taken up the challenge from the Government (see Jeremy Browne’s portrait – ed) and continued his stance demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Burma’s political prisoners.

Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Miliband MP

Not only is he Shadow Foreign Secretary but also he is very likely to be the next leader of the labour party (and next prime minister sooner rather than later!). This time I got slightly longer than the 30 seconds I had with Jeremy Browne and so the shoot was great and he was very interested in the whole campaign. Thankfully he agreed to stand in the corridor outside his office and we got a great shot I think you’ll agree.

The importance of these photographs of these top politicians in the UK can’t be underestimated. This is not just another verbal statement that disappears off record no sooner than it is made. These portraits are more than just the usual statements of concern that are so routinely issued in time of need. These portraits go one step further – an unprecedented step further, whereby they are physically joining a campaign, standing alongside the very people who themselves have suffered at the hands of this brutal military regime.

Standing together we can and we will bring about change. Now it’s your turn to stand with us – visit Amnesty UK for all the details.

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