In the UK: playing on Channel 4 on Monday, October 2, 8 – 9 pm
In Burma’s Secret War, Dispatches exposes the new surge in violence inflicted on the Burmese people by their own regime. Enslaved by a brutal military dictatorship which wields absolute power, Burma is a secretive state where suppression reigns and dissent is not tolerated. It is a country where the democratically-elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi is kept under lock and key while the junta prospers from international trade and tourism.
In this film, journalist Evan Williams, who is banned from entering the country after reporting on Burma for more than 10 years, goes undercover to investigate the mass ethnic cleansing, forced labour and vicious clamping down of political opposition which characterise the dictatorship.
Williams spends a month in the Burmese jungle with the Free Burma Rangers, Christian medics who are part of the Karen guerrilla movement which has spent more than 50 years fighting for democracy. The rangers take aid to villages which have been attacked by the army.
Williams treks for two weeks with one group across gruelling terrain peppered with landmines, dodging army patrols to reach one village which has been burnt to the ground by the army. There he meets the former inhabitants, now camped out in the jungle, who describe witnessing the murder of their neighbours and loved ones. He soon discovers these villagers are not alone in their suffering as he meets further refugees fleeing the most savage assault against the ethnic minority Karen people for 10 years.
But it’s not just ethnic minority communities at risk in Burma. Williams investigates the extreme methods employed by the regime to suppress any opposition. He poses as a tourist to meet secretly with the underground activists operating under fear – speaking to journalists and members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party who have been imprisoned and tortured. He also investigates the death of one pro-democracy activist – one of over 120 who have died in police custody since the junta took power.
Williams discovers that the junta also make use of their military might by imposing systematic forced labour on hundreds of men, women and children. He meets the secret cameramen who risk their lives to film evidence of people forced to work in appalling conditions, under the threat of death.
Williams examines Britain’s role in trade and investment with Burma. He also discovers how forced labour has contributed to the burgeoning tourist trade in Burma and the way in which British tourists are indirectly supporting the regime.
Press Contact: Marion Bentley: 020 7306 email@example.com
Picture Publicity: Rob Fuller 020 7306 firstname.lastname@example.org
Reporter: Evan Williams
Prod/Dir: Sarah MacDonald
Exec Prod: David Henshaw
Prod Co: Hardcash
Comm Ed: Kevin Sutcliffe