Voice of Witness sheds light on Burmese police state
- Voice of Witness sheds light on Burmese police state
Last November, hundreds took to the streets of San Francisco to protest the Burmese election. According to the U.S. Census, there are more than 9,000 Burmese refugees in the Bay Area, many of whom consider the election a fraud. President Barack Obama weighed in, saying that the pro-democracy groups in Burma were not allowed to participate. The Burmese censorship board responded by issuing an announcement that the media may not publish any reports about voting rigging. And, sure enough, President Obama's press release was blocked. But one thing the Burmese military regime hasn’t blocked is an oral history series based in San Francisco called Voice of Witness. This nonprofit, founded by Dave Eggers and Lola Vollen, sent authors Maggie Lemere and Zoe West on a mission to find survivors of Burma’s military regime and hear their stories. The result was a book called Nowhere to be Home: Narratives from Survivor's of Burma's Military Regime. KALW’s Holly McDede has more.
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June 6, 2011
HOLLY MCDEDE: The journey began in Burma’s neighboring countries: Bangladesh and Laos, and especially Thailand, where most Burmese refugees live. That’s where editors Zoe West and Maggie Lemere met Ma Su Mon, who was 22 when she was arrested for her role in Burma’s democratic movement.
MA SU MON (translated from Burmese): The Military Intelligence officers said, “If you sign this paper, you can go back home right now.” The paper said, “I will not be involved in any political movement.” After I said I would not sign, they divided us all into two groups. They put hoods over our heads, like people getting the death sentence. There were so many people we couldn’t even breathe. I thought, I am the daughter in prison. But I hoped maybe my father would still be proud of me.
Lemere and West recognized that their narrators would only share their most personal stories if they got to know them, s...
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