In June, our Crossroads video collection on migration was screened for the 15th time in Malaysia this year. The screening was hosted by the Migrant Ministry under the Kuala Lumpur Archdiocese Office of Human Development and attended by Malaysian parishioners of the Good Shepard Church.
Malaysia is one of the top destinations for migrant workers in Asia, where there are an estimated two million documented and two million undocumented migrant workers, according to a recent UN report. With limited coverage by the mainstream media and growing xenophobia, Crossroads screenings such as this one to an all-local audience provide good opportunities to foster empathy and understanding.
An extensive discussion was held after the five selected films, which began with how the current system of oppression faced by migrants is unlikely to stop as it benefits many groups such as agents, enforcement officers and related business entities.
There was a question from the floor on whether the videos could be used as evidence or basis for police reports. It was explained by Fajar from migrant rights NGO Tenaganita that hard evidence such as documents, photographs and medical reports are needed, although reports can nonetheless still be lodged.
One of the audience members shared that she worked in a factory and even though all the workers there had legal documents, they were still harassed. And when they tried to lodge a police report, they were told that the online reporting system at the police station was coincidentally offline.
The discussion then shifted to refugees and asylum seekers, where Fajar explained the difference and overlap between migrant workers, asylum seekers and refugees.
He added that although the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was allowed to operate in Malaysia, they are also in a weak position because Malaysia has not ratified the UN Convention on Refugees. This means that the country does not officially recognise or accept asylum seekers and refugees and so is not required by law to provide medical, educational or any other facilities to the tens of thousands who are currently stateless there.
More than 50 years on, a group of survivors revisit a prison camp in the Buru Islands. Buru is best known in Indonesia as a place where political prisoners used to be exiled and isolated because they were or were assumed as members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI/Partai Komunis Indonesia) during the New Order era.
The fall of New Order and the emergence of the Reformation Era in 1998 have triggered ex-prisoners to revisit the prison without fear. They tell stories of their suffering in silence, memories about loss, and unspeakable trauma while trying to recall the violence that happened in that different period. There are many accounts of people who lost their lives simply because they had the same name as someone the authorities were looking for.
Indonesian organisation Kotak Hitam Forum has been working to document these stories on video, and screening them to students in classroom settings to encourage better understanding and debate on history. One such story is that of Mia Bustam and Lekra, a social movement made up of artists and writers which was banned by the then President Sukarno (view subtitled version here).
It's said that there are 224 prisoners who do not want to go home and remain living in Buru farming in paddy fields as it has fertile land, which shows that they are dealing with the past, ignoring marginalization and stigma. But some others, surely, wanted to go back to Java and other places in Indonesia.
In 1978, Hersri Setiawan, one of the ex-prisoners, was going to back home. He said, “Buru was a symbol of slavery, a symbol that I was not free. But I wanted to be free, whatever might happen on Java. However, Buru is a part of my life that cannot be taken from me.”
What is the state of freedom of the press in Myanmar, which is currently the 9th most censored country in the world? This and other questions are addressed by Irrawaddy Media, an independent media organisation covering Myanmar and Southeast Asia from a Myanmar perspective.
In this blogpost, we highlight three videos from Dateline Irrawaddy, their discussion programme which features members of Myanmar’s media landscape, civil society and government.
Freedom of Press in Myanmar
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has ranked Myanmar the 9th most censored country globally in 2015. Despite recent reforms, at least 20 journalists have been arrested since 2013 and 12 media workers are currently serving prison sentences.
This episode of Dateline discusses press freedom in the country with speakers U Kyaw Zwa Moe, Editor of the English edition of The Irrawaddy, U Ko Ni, High Court Advocate and Ko Myint Kyaw, Secretary of the Myanmar Journalist Network.
Peace Process and Women's Safety
A discussion on the guarantee of women’s lives in civil war zones following the gang-rape and murder of two Kachin Christian school teachers in their church compound in the Northern Shan State.
The participating speakers include Ko Kyaw Kha, an Irrawaddy reporter and Moon Nay Li from the Kachin Women's Association in Thailand (KWAT).
The 2015 General Election
Myanmar’s next general election is scheduled to happen in late October or early November this year. Irrawaddy asks special guest speaker U Tin Aye, Chairman of the Union Election Commission (UEC), about the credibility of the upcoming polls.
View more discussions and special report videos from Irrawaddy Media here.
"I can't believe that I attended this camp. It's my first experience of a very creative camp", said Pan Myat Zaw, a journalist from Mizzima of Camp Chindwin, EngageMedia's Southeast Asia Video Camp in Bago, Myanmar.
The camp, which aimed to be a space for video activists and filmmakers from Myanmar to meet, interact and collaborate with video and filmmakers from the rest of Southeast Asia, brought nearly 40 people together in an interactive learning and collaboration environment for three days.
The participants were invited not only to learn from us, but to share their own experiences and discuss with others to understand our greatest challenges and opportunities. And to that end, the event was a great success, with the over 100 topics that were brought up.
One of the sessions I’d like to highlight is the discussion on violence against women, which was a collaborative effort between Dhyta and myself from EngageMedia, and filmmakers Nway Zarche from Myanmar and Ilang Ilang from the Philippines. We talked about how violence against women is one the main social problems in Myanmar today, and one person pointed out that out that even if we promote women’s rights, women in Myanmar women still don't have a basic concept of what they are. We collectively agreed that we have to conduct some activities for awareness of women’s rights in the near future.
And in that spirit of collaboration, the participants of the various sessions identified problems and suggested solutions. One of participants from Myanmar, filmmaker Thet Oo Maung said, “It’s a great camp for networking. We can gain a lot of knowledge by sharing with each other. Our region faces very similar issues and people in Myanmar can learn a lot from the experiences of other Southeast Asians. After what I’ve learnt from this camp, I have to try doing many new things."
The favourite moment for the participants was the “Banana Dance” by Prakkash from WITNESS. As a result of him teaching us how to “dance like a banana”, a group of camp-mates produced a cute short film called, ‘Kwayy Zuu Banana’ (Thank you Banana).
Everyone agreed that this very fruitful event shouldn't be our last chance to meet and work together, as there are still many ideas from it that need to be implemented.
With best regards from Myanmar,
I just got back from the EngageMedia's Southeast Asia video camp, Camp Chindwin in Yangon, Myanmar. We spent three fun days together, making many new friends from all across the region, sharing lots of skills and experiences, and trying out new food!
The camp-site itself, Bago Center, was quite unique with a kind of forest-kampong (village) scenery. And it is run by communities that live nearby. The locals were very warm and hospitable, and they served us delicious Burmese food which was almost always a mix of natural flavours and healthy vegetables.
Camp Chindwin was run in an unconference style, where all participants get a chance to join and propose their own sessions for sharing or discussion.
In one of the sessions, we learnt about new and secure apps for video production from our friend Arul Prakkash from WITNESS. Another cool session was a 101 introduction to video making with Kim Buy and co-production that was held by Josep Laban, an experienced filmmaker from the Philippines. And these were just some of the many interesting discussions that took place!
Even though the camp has ended we still have so much homework to do, including maintaining and nurturing this network of Southeast Asian video activists in the hope that someday soon, we will get to meet again!
Warmest regards from Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia,
Upon invitation from the Not34 Film Club, Crossroads, our video collection on migrant rights was screened with local activists in Penang, Malaysia. Penang, a Northern state which is one of the top tourist destinations in the country, hosts a great number of migrant workers seeking work in the businesses and development projects there.
The screening focused on the films Polis Pao and Perangkap, both of which were produced by Muhammad Mundir, an activist from the migrant community and participant in the Crossroads project, who also traveled up to help facilitate the discussion.
Polis Pao is a comic recreation of migrant run-ins with the police in Malaysia, including a local businesswoman's perception of the whole situation, while Perangkap tells the stories of two undocumented women migrant workers who are sexually harassed by some errant members of the police force.
The Malaysian audience found much they could relate to in both films, as police corruption and the abuse of authority are issues locals have to deal with on a constant basis as well. The activists also expressed that the equal rights of workers, such as minimum wage, should be basis for advocacy by locals and migrants alike.
The Not34 Film Club is keen to partner with EngageMedia to screen more films on migrant and other human rights to widen the discussion on social change in Penang.
Over the past month, Marcel Simok, one of the participants in Crossroads, our advocacy video project on migrant rights in Malaysia, has been holding screenings of the collection across Sabah, East Malaysia.
His travels brought him to several remote locations in the vast island of Borneo, where he shared and discussed the content of the films with various communities.
The first event was conducted with a selected group of NGO activists who are working on issues related to the plantation workers there, many of whom are migrants from Indonesia.
Next was a screening to students, teachers and volunteers in a school that was independently built to provide education to the children of migrant workers in Sabah. This was was an especially interesting event for the audience as the film Marcel had produced for Crossroads, 'School of Hope', was about the story of the school itself.
The last screening was held in a common area in the hills where many migrant workers gather. A feast was served for the attendees, who expressed after during the discussion that they found much relation to what fellow Indonesians were going through in the Malaysian peninsula.
Education opportunities for children who had followed their parents abroad was the main issue brought up at all the screenings in Sabah, one that remains critical and unresolved.
Crossroads, our collection of advocacy videos on the rights of migrants in Malaysia, was screened for the first time in Yangon, Myanmar.
A select group of 15 people attended the event, which was targeted at representatives from the independent media and migrant worker support organisations there.
The screening focused on the film, 'In Search of Shelter', which tells the story of how asylum seekers and refugees from Myanmar unite and combine resources to establish access to basic services like health clinics and primary schools for their children in Malaysia.
Members of the media such as Mizzima, Messenger Journal, and DVB had several questions on the production of the project, with Kamayut Media having published a video report which is available here.
Labour Rights Defenders & Promoters (LRDP) is keen for Crossroads to be screened during their training sessions in the industrial zones they work in, and we are looking forward to facilitating those and more similar events in Yangon in the near future.
Migrants and locals gathered in a village in Kota Kemuning, Malaysia, for a screening of Crossroads, our advocacy video collection on migrant workers, refugees and stateless people in the country.
The cosy event, which was held over a home-cooked dinner, was a good example of the communal spirit of the many community we've held over the year in villages or kampungs, as they are more commonly referred to in Bahasa.
The videos screened portrayed the many realities of migrants living in Malaysia and spoke to the heart of the community in attendance. They discussed having faced similar situations themselves, and in some cases, shared how they've overcome them.
To end the night, the audience wrote down their hopes and aspirations, reflections they've had after watching the films, as part of the Crossroads photo campaign which will be publicly available as a collection in June. Crossroads is available with English subtitles for online viewing and download here.
၂၀၁၅ ခုနွစ္အတြင္း မွာ EngageMedia ရဲ့ အယ္ဒီတာအဖြဲ႔ဟာ ျမန္မာလူမႈေျပာင္းလဲျခင္းဆိုင္ရာ ဇာတ္လမ္းဗီဒီယိုမ်ားကို စုစည္းျခင္း၊ ဘာသာျပန္ျခင္း၊ ျဖန္႔ေ၀ျခင္း မ်ားျပဳလုပ္ခဲ့ပါတယ္။
ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံရဲ့ လူမႈႏိုင္ငံေရးကို ေဖာ္ညႊန္းတဲ့ ဗီဒိယိုဖိုင္မ်ားကို ေကာက္ႏႈတ္တင္ဆက္ခဲ့တာဟာ အခုဆို ဗီဒီယိုေပါင္း(၁၈၀) ရွိခဲံျပီျဖစ္ပါတယ္။
Students Boycott Education Law (အမ်ိဳးသားဥပေဒကို ေက်ာင္းသားမ်ား သပိတ္ေမွာက္ျခင္း)
The Children of Bhamo's Brickworks (ဗန္းေမာ္ျမို႔က အုတ္သယ္ကေလးေတြ)
Monk Rejects Preaching Ban (တရားေဟာရန္ တားျမစ္ခံရေသာ ဆရာေတာ္)
A Song for Freedom (လြတ္လပ္ျခင္းအတြက္သီခ်င္းတစ္ပုဒ္)