Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Political prisoners’ tragedy captured in video

Tuesday, 03 January 2012 11:27 Jim Andrews

(Mizzima) – One of the most compelling appeals for the release of Burma’s remaining political prisoners comes from a little girl whose parents are serving sentences of more than 100 years behind bars.

The three-year-old toddler, Phyu Naychi, is the “star” of a powerful documentary film, “Into the Current,” on the fate of up to 1,500 “prisoners of conscience” still in prisons in Burma.

Phyu Naychi’s mother and father, Nilar Thein and her activist husband, Kyaw Min Yu, popularly known as Jimmy, are among them. They were rounded up after the demonstrations of August and September, 2007, and a military court condemned each of them to 65-years imprisonment.

Nilar Thein entrusted her three-month-old daughter to the care of her sister-in-law. Like Aung San Suu Kyi, she chose service to her country over a secure family life. In a filmed interview conducted while she was still in hiding, she defended her decision: “I will accept my daughter’s blame for my selfish decision when she grows up.”

In a deeply moving scene in the film, Nilar Thein’s daughter, now a three-year-old toddler, is quietly questioned about her parents, replying with a pride and confidence beyond her years.

“Who is your daddy?” the interviewer asks.

“U Jimmy,” comes the firm response.

“And who is your mum?”

“Nilar Thein.”

“Where is your father?” the interviewer asks.

“”At Taungyi (prison),” replies the little girl

“Where is your mum?”

“At Thayet (prison).”

Then, at the gentle invitation of the interviewer, the little girl launches faultlessly into a poem she has learnt by heart:

“Until the end of time, long live Burma!

“We love our land, it is our inheritance.

”We will give our lives to protect our country.”

Finally, the little girl is asked:

“What do you wish for when you pray to Buddha?”

Back comes the reply: “May papa and mum and me be together soon.”

The film contains several other vivid and often disturbing interviews with former political prisoners, some of them on the verge of tears as they recall their dreadful ordeals.

But it is the eloquence of the innocent little girl, deprived of a normal childhood by a brutal, uncaring regime, that must surely burn itself into the heart of the most hardened viewer.

Contributing to the considerable power of the film is a quiet, understated commentary, a musical score that exactly matches each change of mood and authoritative appearances by a man charged with the responsibility of making sure Burma’s political prisoners are not forgotten—Bo Kyi, who runs the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) in the Thai-Burmese border town of Mae Sot.

Covering the walls of the AAPP office are photographs and biographies of prisoners whose fate is being followed by Bo Kyi’s organization. For some, assistance is now irrelevant – they have died behind bars, some of them tortured to death.

The central question of “Into the Current” is: how many more must die behind Burma’s prison walls before the country’s new government can claim membership in a civilized international community of nations? How much longer must young Phyu Naychi wait before she enjoys a child’s right to a normal family life?

“Into the Current” is produced and directed by Jeanne Hallacy and can be viewed on YouTube at

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