Burma Relief - Amnesty International - Conference - October 17, 2010
On October 17th, 2010, Burma Relief - Amnesty International held its Inaugural NYC all-day conference (co-organized by Network 355), at the Liederkranz Foundation, a beautiful space on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. The event lived up to its billing, “Raising Burma Awareness,” drawing nearly 100 attendees to the hall. The first short documentary, This Is My Witness, was produced by the Nobel Women’s Initiative and detailed the Burmese military’s systematic use of sexual violence to brutalize the country’s women. Following a short break, the panel on Human Rights in Burma outlined the many crimes against humanity perpetrated by the junta against different ethnic groups there — clear violations of international humanitarian law. The panel included Tom Van Dyke from Free Burma Rangers, former NLD youth leader Nay Tin Myint, author Mac McClelland (For Us Surrender Is Out of the Question) and was moderated by Amnesty International’s Zack Michaelson.
A second short documentary, Meh Sha, was screened and told the personal tale of a young Burmese refugee in the United States, and his struggles to get his older brother out of a Thailand-based camp for Burmese exiles. An excellent Q&A followed with producer Hezekiah Lewis, and the film’s subject, Meh Sha, who now lives in Philadelphia with his mother and younger siblings. He spoke poignantly of his struggles to adjust to another culture and his efforts to maintain links with Burma.
There was a 15-minute networking break before the second panel commenced on the topic, “The U.S. Stance on Burma and What We Can Do About It.” After a short intro by moderator Moe Chan of Burma Point, the hall was abuzz with energy as Roland Watson (DictatorWatch.org) read a powerful statement about America’s failure to do something about Burma’s one-party police state. In particular, he cited the regime’s efforts to commit genocide against the indigenous Karen people, who have been waging a guerrilla war against the military for several decades in Eastern Burma. Other panelists included Free Burma Alliance’s Jeremy Taylor and Mac McClelland.
Taylor then screened his 52-minute documentary, Burma: An Indictment. This intense documentary gives a historical and sociological overview of the critical situation in Burma. It covers the effects of Cyclone Nargis, the National Referendum, the Saffron Revolution, localized slavery, the lack of a viable health care system, and much more. Following the film, a Q&A took place with filmmaker Jeremy Taylor explaining the many important talking points in his film.
Then Nay Tin Myint, a former political prisoner who spent 15 tortuous years in Burmese jails for giving a speech in Rangoon, stood up and described his harrowing experience. It was the most moving part of the day, bringing some of the audience to tears. The event concluded with a cocktail reception downstairs in the bar area and a book signing by McClelland, whose book (published by Soft Skull) details her substantial experiences in and around Burma.
Overall, the day-long conference was a compelling event that proved to be both educational and emotional, providing a much-needed focus on the underreported human rights crisis being perpetrated by the illegitimate military junta in Burma.
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