Internally Displaced People in Burma Struggle for Safety and a Free and Democratic Country


Shoot On Sight: The Ongoing Military Junta Offensive in Eastern Burma


Other videos from our partner in Burma:

Entrenched Abuse: Forced Labor in Burma,

Always on the Run: Internally Displaced People in Karen State,

Season of Fear: Internally Displaced People in Burma Call for International Action


Human Rights Issue: Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Refugees


Location: Burma


Partner: Burma Issues


Background on the Problem: Burma's military junta, known as the State Police and Development Council (SPDC), seeks to assert absolute control over ethnic minority border areas and uses relocation, forced labor, torture and arbitrary execution to systematically destroy the capacity of rural civilians to live independently. As a consequence Burma has the worst internal displacement crisis in Asia, and is gripped by a silent humanitarian crisis following thirty years of brutal military campaigns.


Over 3000 villages have been destroyed or forcibly abandoned in the past decade - an average of almost one a day. Over half a million people have been compelled to leave their homes and become internally displaced persons (IDPs), living homeless in forests, temporary settlements, or government-controlled relocation sites after attacks by the military. Lacking anything but the most minimal humanitarian aid, denied the stability of a home and livelihood (not to mention essential services like medical facilities and education), they are never at peace. A million more people live as refugees and undocumented migrants in neighboring countries.


Target Audiences: Burma Issues' recent videos have targeted international audience including UN representatives, key donors supporting aid to refugees and IDPs, officials and parliamentarians from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, the US, the UK and other foreign countries, as well as activist and lobbying groups and the mass media.


Advocacy Goals of Videos: Burma Issues aims to make the situation facing IDPs and rural populations in Burma a critical issue on the international agenda -- alongside discussions of political prisoners and the nation's democracy movement -- and to increase appropriate aid and support to vulnerable IDP populations. Most recently, Season of Fear, produced in 2005, presses for action by the United Nations Security Council -- the only UN body with the authority to compel international action -- to support an immediate end to attacks on civilians and adequate humanitarian aid. Shoot on Sight, the follow-up to Season of Fear - produced in 2006 - complements and builds on that video and the lessons learned in advocacy with that video. It provides arguments in support of the movement within ASEAN pushing for a tougher regional stance on Burma.


Distribution Strategy: The videos have been used in lobbying at the UN for Security Council action, and in parallel briefings at the UN Human Rights Commission and the ILO, presented at US Congressional and UK Houses of Parliament briefings, key donor conferences and at press launches at Bangkok's Foreign Correspondents' Club, distributed to individual policy-makers, and used by grassroots activists in their campaigns for action. Typically they are shown alongside speakers who provide clear guidance on what to do, and are used to draw attendees into the day-to-day realities of life as faced by displaced civilians and to provide the calls for action voiced by the IDPs themselves. Burma Issues' latest video, Shoot on Sight was used in lobbying and activism by advocates in Asia during the ASEAN Civil Society Parallel Summit in December 2006, at a public forum in Indonesia and screened for parliamentarians from across the world attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting in Bali in 2007.


Burma Issues' footage is also leveraged for broader press use, where possible in targeted support of advocacy. Images and testimonies from civilians on the ground have been screened on CNN, PBS in the USA, Channel 4 in the UK, on Canada's "The National" evening news broadcast as well as on BBC's premier current affairs program "Newsnight." During the recent events inside Burma, Shoot on Sight on YouTube was repeatedly cited by bloggers as evidence of the broader pattern of abuse in Burma, and received over a 250,000 hits, making it one of the most-watched videos on Burma.


In addition, the videos have been used in support of multiple e-action pushes for Security Council action and for renewal of the sanctions on the SPDC imposed by the US government.


Advocacy Results: From 2002 to 2007, WITNESS worked with Burma Issues to support the movement to internationalize the systematic repression of civilians by Burma's military government, and to place footage documenting that issue in front of activists and government officials worldwide. The rising profile of this crisis helped lead to the introduction of a first-ever resolution at the UN Security Council on Burma, as well as significant increases in funding for displaced civilians from the US as well as the UK.


December 16, 2005 marked the first-ever UN Security Council briefing to consider the situation in Burma, a pivotal moment in the campaign as the US and other nations pushed for more international action, and finally in September 2006 Burma was placed on the permanent agenda of the UN Security Council. These movements followed extensive activist mobilization and the release of a report from Vaclav Havel and Desmond Tutu demonstrating that Burma is a threat to regional security. One criterion for the report's call to action is the massive level of internal displacement.


The videos were also used to support pushes for increased funding in the US and the UK, including screenings and individual distribution of DVDs to key Congresspeople in the US in advance of the review of a significant rise in funding. Footage from Burma Issues was also used to buttress a critical BBC "Newsnight" item in June 2006 that criticized the current Labor administration in the UK for its minimal levels of funding, and helped push the government to conduct an official review that, in July 2007, recommended a four-fold increase in aid to internally displaced persons.


The campaign for UN Security Council action continued throughout 2006, culminating in September when the Security Council placed Burma on its permanent agenda for the first time ever. Although a resolution proposed by the USA was vetoed by China and Russia in January 2007, Burma is now firmly on the international agenda, and the concerns of internally displaced people in Burma are being responded to with increased attention and funding. Burma Issues and its allies continue to press for action on the treatment of IDPs in Burma, calling on the Security Council to move beyond words and into action by issuing a resolution on the military junta's abuses. Burma Issues is also focusing attention on supporting the movement for change in the region - distributing Shoot on Sight to regional allies, and translating it into key regional languages including Indonesian and Japanese.