Campaigning at Lovebox Festival in London

Last weekend Burma’s Political Prisoners made their first major appearance on the UK festival scene at both Lovebox and Latitude Festival courtesy of the Amnesty UK teams who were out in force. The campaign is launched in full in two weeks time so further details to follow very soon.

Amnesty will be taking the campaign to many more festivals over the summer in the UK culminating in the Edinburgh Festival where there will be a special evening dedicated to Zarganar and Burma’s Political Prisoners at the annual ‘Stand Up For Freedom‘ comedy event. This campaign will be exhibited once again and we will be in attendance with some of the team including Waihnin (daughter of 88 Generation Student leader Mya Aye) and artist and former political prisoner Htein Lin.

Lovebox Festival, London UK

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Radio Free Asia Interview at The Amnesty Exhibition

Just before the exhibition launched on Monday evening Radio Free Asia (RFA) did an interview with me about political prisoners and Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, also joined us. Thanks to Ma Aye Hnin Nyo for the interview – it was broadcast back into Burma on 24th June.

You can listen to it below by clicking on the icon:

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The Exhibition – Burma’s Political Prisoners at Amnesty International UK

The exhibition being held at Amnesty International UK headquarters in London is up and running and Monday evening was the Private View. It was actually really well attended by many close friends and colleagues and thanks must go to Amnesty International UK for hosting the event and their involvement now in the political prisoner campaign and special thanks must go to Daw Nita Yin Yin May and Khun Saing who both spoke about the issue of political prisoners and shared some of their experiences. Below is a short video news piece that DVB are broadcasting on their TV channel – you can also watch it here on Livestation.

I’d like to take this opportunity to also thank AAPP and DVB for their ongoing support and involvement in this project from the start right up to where we are now, also the many contacts and colleagues around the world and in particular in Mae sot and in Umpiem and Nupo refugee camps, also my right hand man woman, the Secretary General Miss J San herself who has carried cameras, interviewed, translated and filmed the action and stood in as a model on over 150 shoots as well as been the support system to this entire project.

Last, but of course not least, I wish to thank the former political prisoners themselves. Your courage and dignity knows no bounds and it is the greatest privilege to know you all and more importantly to be able to work with you all to bring about the release of your colleagues currently detained in the darkest hell on earth. We will not rest until they are free.

In total there are 21 images being exhibited… and as you would expect in keeping with Burmese tradition numerology plays a significant role in the selection of this amount of images. On 20th July 1989, Aung San Suu Kyi was detained under house arrest for the first time – almost exactly 21 years ago to the day from this exhibition. So, therefore, we have 21 portraits on display, marking one for each year since Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was first placed under house arrest.

This is just the start… I hope the Generals are up for the fight.

Video reproduced here with kind permission of Democratic Voice of Burma – © Copyright and not to be reproduced without permission

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‘Burma Today’ Exhibition Interview

Interview with Ko Myint Hlaing, Editor-in-Chief of Burma Today following on from the exhibition at Amnesty International UK in London.

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U Win Tin’s Personal Message

Along with the letter that I received and that was published front page in The Independent newspaper, U Win Tin has issued a brief personal video message about this campaign as he comes face to face with himself on the front cover of Amnesty International magazine (May/June issue).

The video message is personal and so remains private, but for now here is a brief clip plus a still taken from the video:

You can also view a message U Win Tin issued for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on her birthday here on the Foreign Office Facebook page.

U Win Tin – ‘Face to Face with my Hero’

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A Letter from Aung San Suu Kyi’s Right Hand Man

Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi (…and U Win Tin and Me!) make the front page today as a letter from U Win Tin has been published in the Independent newspaper in the UK in a three page article including the front page where the letter is printed. You can read the article online here at The Independent website.

It’s also my first ever front page of a national newspaper – not just picture, but the whole front page and to have it for this reason is overwhelming as it comes from my absolute hero Saya U Win Tin. Naturally I can’t divulge any information about the receipt of this letter other than it was secretly smuggled out of Burma to me under great risk, but it is an extraordinary impassioned plea by U Win Tin on behalf of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and  the people of Burma that puts all “statements of concern” ever made by world leaders and the UN to shame.

Now is the time for them to truely stand up and be counted. Tomorrow Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be 65 and enough is enough. Ban Ki Moon’s personal mission and the same statements issued by leaders across the globe must now become set in stone by the UNSC as an action that HAS to be fulfilled by the regime in Burma – The immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners – a fundamental aspect for any form of democratic change in Burma.

Above is the part of the letter printed in today’s Independent newspaper. The rest of the letter will remain private.

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Caught on Camera: Burma’s Political Prisoners

Continuing the ongoing partnership with The Independent newspaper, a brief article and full gallery of images is posted on The Independent website ahead of the private view of the exhibition being held on Monday 21st June 2010 at Amnesty International UK headquarters in London. In total there are 21 portraits of former political prisoners that make up the exhibition at Amnesty International  – one for every year since Aung San Suu Kyi was first placed under house arrest.

You can read the article and view the exhibition images here: The Independent

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Making Contact At Last – The Interview

The second article published today was by Emily Graham at ‘Contact Editions‘. Contact has been established as a dynamic online space where lovers and collectors of photography can find and support the work they love, providing a funding platform for both established and emerging photographers. It’s run by Emily Graham and Anna Stevens and I was lucky enough to be asked to do a full interview with them about the project – in fact we had first spoken about doing this some months ago and it’s perfect timing that it’s published today. You can read the interview on the Contact Editions website.

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EXCLUSIVE: Zarganar – A New Poem from Inside Hell

Below is an EXCLUSIVE new poem from Zarganar who is currently detained in Myitkyina prison in Kachin state. The poem was received by his good friend Htein Lin (and former political prisoner) who drew the accompanying illustration and asked me to publish them for you all to enjoy… so here they are:

‘Untitled’
by Zarganar, Myitkyina Jail, 2010

It’s lucky my forehead is flat

Since my arm must often rest there.

Beneath it shines a light I must invite

From a moon I cannot see

In Myitkyina.

Zarganar @ Thura was first jailed in 1988 and spent 1 year in Insein prison for his role in the mass demonstrations. He was jailed once more in 1990 and this time was sentenced to 4 years in prison. But it was in 2008 that the SPDC dealt the most severe of sentences on him due to his humanitarian efforts in helping those whose lives where devastated in Cyclone Nargis whilst all the Generals could do was stand and watch. On 21st November 2008 Zarganar is sentenced by the Court to 45 years imprisonment for violations of the Electronics Act. On 29th November 2008 he receives an additional 14 years under four sections of the criminal code—17/2, 32 (b), 295 (a) and 505 (b), bringing the total sentence to 59 years. However, on 16th February 2009 following appeals, Yangon Divisional Court reduces the prison sentence by “up to 24 years”, bringing the sentence down to 35 years. He is currently detained in Myitkyina prison in Kachin State.

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BBC World Service ‘Outlook’ with Aunty

Early in May the BBC World Service contacted me about appearing on their radio programme “Outlook” to be interviewed by Matthew Banister about the project and campaign. It was a great opportunity to raise awareness for political prisoners and rather than have me tell the stories and issues I suggested that Daw Nita Yin Yin May accompany me as hearing from a former political prisoner first hand would be far more compelling. Thankfully the BBC thought it was a great idea and you can listen to the short interview below where Daw Nita talks about her experiences as a political prisoner in Burma.

Click HERE to listen to the interview

Many thanks to Aunty Nita for agreeing to accompany me to the interview and to the BBC World Service for the airtime to help raise awareness for Burma’s 2,199 currently detained.

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