Sunday, 31 March 2013
Best Friend Library -- Emotions Stirred!
On Thursday the 28th of March The Best Friend Libray in Chiang Mai hosted an event called “Burma’s Burning Issues”. This event was scheduled and published before the horrid fire at Ban Mae Surin refugee camp near Mae Hong Son and before the latest escalation of ethnic violence inside Burma. To report that the evening was charged with emotion would be an understatement. The venue was the gallery / office of Documentary Arts Asia, an ideal venue for small events. This time the gallery was packed! People lined the balcony on the second floor, crowed into whatever space they could find on the ground floor and filled the stairs, where I was sitting. I was only stepped on twice and never lost my soft drink. At least two of the ladies had very nice perfume and one person definitely needed to do something about his body odor! I guess we could have squeezed in another 10 or so. The slight overcrowding added to the excitement and many emotions were stirred. The event was a huge success!
The biggest success was, in my opinion expressed in the compassion of the people present. Almost 15,000 THB was raised to help the refugees at Ban Mae Surin after the devastating fire that occurred on Friday the 22nd. More about that was written in my last post, and likely more will be written in a future article. I just had to mention it here.
'Nothing About Us Without Us' was the first film shown. For those of you who want to watch it, or watch it again, here is the YouTube link: Nothing About Us Without Us
The film is just over 19 minutes long. Seldom have I seen a film so short leave the viewer with so many questions and so many emotions. A fair bit of controversy has also arisen over this film. An anonymous source told me that this film failed to present a balanced perspective. He called it a 'straw man'. Others have complained that it fuels rumors. Personally, I think everyone who cares at all about the refugee situation should watch it and then draw their own conclusions.
In my 68 plus years on this good earth, I've been exposed to a lot of rumors and several conspiracy theories. Most of the time there is enough fact based information to get them started and sadly there is enough dis-information, mis-information and a plain lack of information get get people riled up and get the rumors rolling. Want to prevent a rumor? Tell the whole truth! That's just my opinion and as many of you know I've often been accused of over simplifying complicated issues. That's fine we have governments, large businesses and all sorts of agencies who seem to specialize in complicating that which ought to be fairly simple.
Joseph from Burma Partnership Organization was on hand to answer questions and hear comments. The common thread was that neither UNCHR, the representative governments nor the international NGO'S have made sufficient effort to include the refugees in the planning and decision processes that will so greatly effect their lives. No wonder they complain about the refugees spreading rumors!
In fairness, it was mentioned that subsequent to the release of the film "Nothing About Us Without Us" there has been some improvement in communication with the refugees and the organizations that represent them.
At the event, I was able to pick up three position papers by three separate organizations. The common themes are that they do NOT want to be returned to Burma until there is a verifiable nationwide ceasefire. They also want to be involved in decisions that effect their lives. From what I read in the news, their positions are are reasonable and rational. Point (10) from the Karen Refugee Committee reads "The repatriation can only take place when the concerned organisations, KRC, INGOs, NGOs, UNHCR, and CBOs agree that there is genuine peace in Burma".
What can you do? If everyone does something, just about anything really, the world will be a better place. How about helping to promote The Best Friend Library and their good efforts by forwarding this to everyone you know, sharing it on you social networks, and even donating some money to help on going efforts?