Myanmar nationals remember demo victims with Rambo screening

04 Feb 08

Hundreds of Myanmar residents in Singapore gathered Sunday for a unique tribute to victims of last September’s crackdown in their homeland – a screening of the new “Rambo” movie.

In the fourth film of the series, ageing Vietnam war veteran John Rambo takes on the Myanmar military as he and a group of mercenaries try to rescue Christian missionary-aid workers captured by the army.

The film, which portrays Myanmar’s military as sadistic and depraved, is set against a backdrop of persecution of the country’s ethnic Karen people.

The filmgoers, who included Buddhist monks wearing saffron robes, watched largely in silence, except for some sympathetic groans when the army brutalised people.

But the nearly full house erupted in loud cheers and applauded at the film’s climax, when Rambo arrived to save the missionaries and slaughter the troops who had earlier abused people.

“Just like Rambo is in the movie, Burma is waiting for a hero or someone to lead the revolution,” said engineer Maung Zaw, one of the Myanmar nationals who attended.

A special ticket booth was set up and all 600 tickets were sold, said Aung Sayar Pyi, of the Overseas Burmese Patriots group which organised the event.

“I’m happy to see the event as a success. We managed to sell out the entire cinema,” he said.

Several dozen among the crowd wore T-shirts in red, the colour favoured by activists expressing their opposition to the regime.

“We are one,” the front of the shirts read, while the back said, “We pursue peace, justice and democracy for Burma,” the country’s former name which is still favoured by activists and the US government.

Organisers said they received permission from Singapore’s media watchdog to hold a special programme before the film started. The crowd stood and loudly sang their national anthem which was played over the theatre’s speakers. They also heard a speech, given in Burmese, by one of the organisers.

It was not immediately clear why a slide show about the crackdown did not take place before the film as planned.

The demonstrations in Myanmar led by Buddhist monks became the biggest threat to the ruling junta in nearly two decades. The crackdown against them sparked worldwide outrage.

New York-based Human Rights Watch, in its annual report released Thursday, placed the death toll at about 100, far higher than the 15 dead reported by the junta.

Several hundred people are still believed to be jailed over the protests, in addition to the 1,100 political prisoners already locked away in Myanmar, the report said.

Myanmar nationals in Singapore have held other events to protest against the crackdown, including a rare outdoor demonstration last November.

Protests are unusual in Singapore, which has tight restrictions on public assembly.

An estimated 30,000 Myanmar nationals live in Singapore, many of them drawn by jobs as labourers that pay far above what they could earn in their poverty-stricken homeland.

“We want to bring more attention to support affairs in Myanmar, and show what kind of thuggery that goes on there,” Aung Sayar Pyi said ahead of the event.

“The movie will show the unity of the Burmese people,” a university student who wanted to be identified only as Leon, 20, said as he waited for the film.

Amy Phaw, a Myanmar national working in Singapore, said she volunteered to help at the event “to create awareness” of the situation in her homeland.

Rape, forced labour, summary executions and land grabs remain widespread in ethnic minority regions of Myanmar were rebel armies have fought the junta for decades in one of the world’s longest-running civil wars, Human Rights Watch said.

The “Rambo” movie was shot in the area of Chiang Mai, Thailand, not far from the Myanmar border.

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