Earlier this year, a group of protesters rode from Jakarta to Bali on bicycles as an effort to raise awareness of an environmentally damaging reclamation plan. This is just one action from the protest campaign that's been held for the past two years, that has been doing everything in its power to ensure that Benoa Bay in Bali, Indonesia, does not become a giant tourist playground.
Before that event, thousands of people including activists, NGOs, artists, students, expats, tourists, local communities, celebrities and Indonesians living abroad gathered in front of the Bali Governor’s office demonstrating against the plan. These are both the kind of mass actions being carried out by the growing For Bali (or #FORBALI) movement.
For Bali itself is a civil community which consists of students, NGOs activists, artists, youth, musicians, academics, environmental consultants and other individuals who believe that the Tanjong Benoa reclamation plan is destructive towards nature.
Alongside demonstrations, the campaign also garners people’s participation through popular media such as posters, documentary films, comics and it even launched a song titled, 'Bali Tolak Reklamasi', composed by well-known Indonesian musicians Superman Is Dead, The Bullhead, Nymphea, Gold Voice and Nosstress.
The issue first came to light in December 2012 when the Governor of Bali, Made Mangku, secretly signed a legal letter to give permission to PT. Tirta Wahana Bali International to reclaim Benoa Bay, which is in the Southern part of Bali and along the Indian Ocean. The corporation aims to build a huge tourist district and a theme park similar to Disneyland, together with an international hospital, college, marina, and retail district, each complete with their own personal docks and yachts, hotels, apartments and golf courses.
Many studies have stated that the corporation should not conduct the reclamation as it will cause several issues such as flooding, increased risk of drowning, social and cultural disorder, and serious harm to biodiversity in sea and on land.
Benoa Bay is also a sacred area because of the presence of 60 natural sites, including 19 estuaries and 17 small islands that emerge during the low tide. The plan to "develop" 700 hectares of the bay will damage all of these sacred sites.
The For Bali movement is growing throughout the world, with artists, musicians, activists and filmmakers protesting on the streets to pressure the Indonesian government to stop the reclamation.
In partnership with the U.S. Embassy and the Innovation Lab: Phanteeyar, this Tech Camp aimed to promote inclusiveness in Myanmar by creating technology strategies for a new Myanmar. Among the many topics that were discussed were data collection, citizen journalism, online/offline community organizing, digital privacy, data visualization, tools for emergency and data mapping.
International trainers from BBC, RFA, the Carter Centre, Change.org, Open Development Initiative, IRI and ICT4Peace showcased various tech solutions and strategies that could potentially aid the growing democracy. Local trainers like myself and others from different organizations also attended and trained at the camp.
Esra Dogrmaci from the BBC and I specifically trained on 'Social Video and Podcast Production’, where we introduced a selection of mobile video editing apps for iOS and Android. The focus of our session was on how to produce short and effective campaign videos for access on slow internet connections. We also spoke on tactics for reaching new audiences via social media, specifically for mobile video
Esra suggested using text-based video tools because they don’t require getting a good voiceover or presenter. The strength of making text-based video is that everyone can easily understand concepts and ideas through a combination of text and photographs.
Our participants had a lot of fun producing content using the apps and techniques we recommended, and were really excited to finish their projects within the given time frame. The four groups made up of our participants worked on themes such as drug abuse, child rights and caring for the elderly.
One participant from the Pat Jasan organization, which is conducting an anti-drug campaign in the Kachin area, shared that they’d like to work on a documentary on drug abuse because it’s a serious problem there. He felt that the session was very valuable for him, adding that although he can only produce short mobile videos now, he hopes that he’ll be able to produce documentary films with professional editing software.
Tech Camp Myanmar was a great platform to bring innovative groups of people together, engage them in meaningful training, and kick-start a conversation on the importance of digital communication strategies. Welcome to the New Myanmar!
Based on MCMAHT’s reports, the area is home to many who become migrant workers in neighborhood countries like Thailand and Malaysia. We found it fitting then, to screen films from Crossroads, our collection of advocacy videos on migrant workers, refugees, and stateless people in Malaysia.
Beginning our Journey
At 10am on a Monday morning, I, Kyalyi from EngageMedia, and MCMAHT volunteers departed from Yangon by bus and we arrived at the town of Zeekone at about 4pm. Kwin Sann village is located in the vicinity of Zeekone, but we had to travel for two hours on motorcycles to get there. We arrived safely at Kwin Sann at 6pm.
Most of people in the village are of Catholic faith, Karen ethnicity and speak the Karen language. Thankfully for me, one of the characters from a film of mine is a Karen girl, so I was familiar enough with their language.
On Tuesday, I visited the village leader’s home to get permission to screen our films there. I was delightfully surprised that they chose to screen the films in the area where they congregate to pray, called “a Holy Place for Mary”.
The area faces a sever lack of electricity and the people there can only get power from small solar generators. We faced an issue in making our projector work and finally we had to think of an alternative. Some of the villagers have small TVs with 14-inch screens, but I decided that it would be better to screen the films from my own laptop which has a screen of almost 16 inches.
I’ll never forget how much I worried about the battery life of my laptop for the screening the next day. But by a stroke of luck, using one of the small solar generators somehow worked out.
The Screening Day
At 5pm on Wednesday, after candlelight prayers, the MCMAHT volunteers and I started began the much-anticipated screening. We opened with the filmed, ‘In Search of Shelter’, a film about Myanmar refugees and migrant workers in Malaysia. In this video, a Karen man talks about the issues facing migrant workers in hopes that villagers who often “export” such workers would better understand them. We also showed the films, ‘Here to Help’, ‘Polis Pao’, ‘Siti Got Cheated’, ‘Trap’ and ‘Forsaken’.
The audience, which consisted of men and women aged 10–74, engaged in a lively post-screening discussion and answered a questionnaire on the issues raised in the films. A resource person from MCMAHT spoke in further detail with the villagers about official documents and how individuals looking to become migrant workers can better protect themselves.
One of the villagers who came back from Malaysia said that he is really afraid to ever go to Malaysia again because of the police there. He shared that was always staying and hiding in the darkest corners of the factory in which he worked for only three months before returning to Myanmar.
His account served as a stark reminder of the realities faced by migrant workers throughout the region, and we were glad that the screening of films from Crossroads helped to spark such dialogues in remote locations where even watching television is considered a luxury.