The situation in Myanmar remains dire, the International Coalition of Film makers at Risk (ICFR) has warned, with prominent cultural figures continuing to be imprisoned, and in some instances even killed. To date, more than 100 professionals from the local filmmaking community have been targeted for arrest, it said.
As Deadline reported in February, the country’s military forces, known as the Tatmadaw, seized power in the country after disputing an election result back in November that saw a landslide win for Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, the NLD.
Widespread demonstrations in response to the action saw thousands of protestors thrown in jail and reportedly more than 700 deaths, while three prominent members of the NLD also died in police custody, according to Reuters.
The ICFR said that the first day of the coup saw three writers – Than Myint Aung, Maung Thar Cho and Htin Lin Oo – arrested along with filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi. On February 21, renowned Burmese actor Lu Min was arrested for having allegedly incited civil servants to join the civil disobedience movement.
On April 6, the satirist and comedian Zarganar, a longstanding critic of the military regime, was arrested. Singer Saw Phoe Khwar and music producer U Kyi Win have also been incarcerated. Last week, the film director Christina Kyi and actor Zenn Kyi were detained at an airport as they tried to flee the country, as reported by Reuters.
Arrest warrants have also been issued for many more figures from the world of literature, film, theatre, music, and internet celebrities, which the ICFR said is a bid by the Tatmadaw to crack down on freedom of expression. Many of those people who have been targeted have fled the country or are in hiding.
Three days ago, the Tatmadaw reportedly ordered the release of 23,184 prisoners from jails across the country under a New Year amnesty. However, it is understood that the majority of those people were arrested prior to the coup on February 1 so are unconnected to the protests. Aung San Suu Kyi remains locked up.
ICFR, which was launched at Venice Film Festival in 2020 by International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, International Film Festival Rotterdam and the European Film Academy, is calling for the release of those who have been arrested in joint action with the Artists at Risk Connection, PEN America, and Freemuse.
“We heartily condemn the shameful and brutal actions of the military and police towards the artistic community in Myanmar [and] demand the immediate release of the artists from the filmmaking community,” said ICFR board member Mike Downey. “Freedom of expression is a basic human right. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”
A separate statement was also released today by a collective of film festivals led by Korea’s Busan Film Festival, according to the Korea Times.
“We strongly condemn the ruthless massacre of peaceful protesters and call for an end to all of the violence. We also call for an immediate halt to searches and imprisonment of filmmakers who are trying to tell the truth by resisting the coup. We urge the military to immediately cede its power to the rightful democratic government chosen by its people,” read the statement.
A press conference will be held on April 30 during Korea’s Jeonju International Film Festival to voice support for the filmmaking community in Myanmar.
On Mach 30, Korean actors Park Ho-san and Jin Sun-kyu took to social media to post photos of themselves doing a salute inspired by The Hunger Games to show support for the people of Myanmar.
“Even now, the people of Myanmar are threatened by soldiers who should be defending them. Sadly, Korea experienced a similar history in which the military seized control of the country. I will pray for Myanmar so that a democratic spring comes to the country,” Park said on Instagram.