Sopheap Chak

Riding the wave of change in Cambodia

Burma VJ: people power vs repressive military junta

The world were quickly aware of the historical and dramatic days of September 2007 in Burma where the Saffron Revolution unexpectedly began after 19 year silence. We all mobilized and joint the solidarity cause for Burma. A group of Cambodian rights activists, net-citizens, and ordinary people wearing red-shirt gathered to protest in front of Burmese Embassy of Cambodia for the same solidarity cause for Burma by condemning the violence that had claimed the lives of demonstrators including monks.

Thanks to digital technology and a number of reporters who risk their life to make information reached the world so that we all could be aware of the event and solidarity cause could be mobilized.

Through Burma VJ, it is hardly to deny the role of media in democratization and social movement. Even worst, the role of media is more crucial, though it bears more risks, in a closed country, such the case of Burma. Though the role of media in the film acted a bit beyond its professionalism, once the reporters apparently guided and advised the demonstration forces, it could be understood that media in such sociopolitical context has its tendency and agenda for their country’s freedom.

Once we have watched the film, we would agree that the film is deserved its Award of Best Documentary Feature, not because of geopolitics or film production, but the natural and its way of reporting from a CLOSED COUNTRY.

Make your own judgment by watching it:

7 Comments

  1. Sopheap,

    The thing that really rocked me about Burma VJ is that these people, both the VJs themeselves, and the hundreds of thousands of monks and ordinary citizens, showed tremendous courage to stand up to a repressive military regime that is known to kill and torture people. Rights groups estimate that at least 3000 people were killed in the 1988 protests, many driven off in trucks and never seen again. Not sure about in the 2007 protests, though monks were beaten and killed. In a recent update, those responsible for Burma VJ said that some of the monks they interviewed for the film were later taken away by the authorities, and some of the VJs themselves were eventually captured by authorities.

    It is very difficult to create a social movement like this, with such unity and strength of numbers. And it take amazing courage from those participating. There is one point in the movie when the protestors are being faced by the military and one of the protest leaders announces “Those who are not afraid to die, come to the front” and people do. People were willing to give their lives for democracy and reconciliation. A similar thing happened in Iran after the recent election, and the ensuing crackdown was documented in a similar way.

    What is discouraging is that even when it is possible to mobilize such an enormous display of discontent, regimes such as Burma and Iran have accumulated such a firm grip on society, through control of all political and social institutions, that they can remain in power regardless of mass discontent.

    In Cambodia such a strong and unified social movement is unlikely for many cultural and historical reasons – not least because society has already reached rock bottom – and the desire for change is weak as long as socio-economic indicators continue to creep up and social and political stability is maintained. The importance of this historical context will perhaps decline in coming years, with the emergence of a new generation with higher aspirations and a desire to participate meaningfully in decision-making outside of the cynical traditional model of patronage/corruption.

    The important thing in Cambodia is to halt and try to reverse the insidious creep of influence that is allowing a small number of people to acquire such enormous political and economic power. If one group or faction is allowed to acquire all-encompassing power over political and state institutions, the media, the courts, and the security apparatus, then any future political or social movement in Cambodia which expresses a desire to change the direction of the country is likely to end in the same way as the courageous democracy movements in Burma and Iran. Failure.

  2. Sopheap,

    Thanks for you post.

    The thing that really rocked me about Burma VJ is that these people, both the VJs themeselves, and the hundreds of thousands of monks and ordinary citizens, showed tremendous courage to stand up to a repressive military regime that is known to kill and torture people. Rights groups estimate that at least 3000 people were killed in the 1988 protests, many driven off in trucks and never seen again. Not sure about in the 2007 protests, though monks were beaten and killed. In a recent update, those responsible for Burma VJ said that some of the monks they interviewed for the film were later taken away by the authorities, and some of the VJs themselves were eventually captured by authorities.

    It is very difficult to create a social movement like this, with such unity and strength of numbers. And it take amazing courage from those participating. There is one point in the movie when the protestors are being faced by the military and one of the protest leaders announces “Those who are not afraid to die, come to the front” and people do. People were willing to give their lives for democracy and reconciliation. A similar thing happened in Iran after the recent election, and the ensuing crackdown was documented in a similar way.

    What is discouraging is that even when it is possible to mobilize such an enormous display of discontent, regimes such as Burma and Iran have accumulated such a firm grip on society, through control of all political and social institutions, that they can remain in power regardless of mass discontent.

    In Cambodia such a strong and unified social movement is unlikely for many cultural and historical reasons – not least because many in society have already experienced rock bottom in the 1970s, and the desire for change is therefore weak as long as socio-economic indicators continue to creep up and social and political stability are maintained. The importance of this historical context will perhaps decline in coming years, with the emergence of a new generation with higher aspirations and a desire to participate meaningfully in decision-making outside of the cynical traditional model of patronage/corruption.

    The important thing in Cambodia is to halt and try to reverse the insidious creep of influence that is allowing a small number of people to acquire such enormous political and economic power. If one group or faction is allowed to acquire all-encompassing power over political and state institutions, the media, the courts, and the security apparatus, then any future political or social movement in Cambodia which expresses a desire to change the direction of the country is likely to end in the same way as the courageous democracy movements in Burma and Iran. Failure.

  3. It’s really very difficult in this full of activity life to listen news on TV, thus I just use the web for that reason, and take the newest news.

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  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further post
    thanks once again.

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