Video: Burmese Children on Freedom of Expression

by Khet Mar    /  November 21, 2011  / No comments

Ei Ei Aung: "I should have chance to say what I want."

Today there are over 1,600 political prisoners in Burma. Because they said what they wanted to say, the government considers them enemies.

One month ago, Tint Swe, the head of Burma’s repressive state censorship body told Radio Free Asia that “Press censorship should be abolished in the near future.” And even though the government has released about 200 political prisoners since then, there are still many in jail for speaking their minds.

Not only are the adults unable to speak, their children are growing up in a country where they too can’t say what they want.

Three months ago I asked Arrman, a video journalist inside Burma, to interview five kids in sixth and seventh grade who are living in Rangoon. He asked them two questions: “Why is it important to say what you want to say?” and “If you could change anything in the world, what would you change?” Arrman asked permission from the kids’ parents and didn’t give the kids any instruction but the questions.

One of these kids dreams of an equal society where the line between rich and poor doesn’t exist. Another one believes that everything in his country would be better if each citizen respected their environment. They also want to stop the pollution coming from factories, and they dream -as I did- of waking up without hearing adults talk about the hundreds of people who have lost their lives in wars around the world each day.

“Human beings the world over need freedom and security, that they may be able to realize their full potential,” Aung San Suu Kyi has repeated in many interviews. I wonder how these kids will realize their dreams if freedom and security are not guaranteed in their country –the same country that I grew up in and was forced to leave for the things that I too wanted to say. Will they live in a country where censorship will be a bad memory, as Tint Swe suggested? Or should they leave Burma and live in another country as I do now?

About the Author

Khet Mar is a staff writer at Sampsonia Way. A former writer-in-residence at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, Khet Mar is a journalist, novelist, short story writer, poet, and essayist from Burma. She is the author of one novel, Wild Snowy Night, as well as several collections of short stories, essays and poems. Her work has been translated into English and Japanese, been broadcast on radio, and made into a film. In the fall of 2007, Mar was a visiting fellow at the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

View all articles by Khet Mar

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