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Sean Gleeson

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Kyaw Soe Oo leaving court in Yangon, 27 December 2017. Photo: Reuters

The Cell, Exile and the New Burma: A Political Education amid the Unfinished Journey toward Democracy
Kyaw Zwa Moe
New Myanmar Publishing House: 2018
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One night in the weeks before his arrest, Kyaw Soe Oo and his wife watched what became, in retrospect, an ominous portent of his future. The film chronicles a taxi driver who shepherds a foreign reporter through the city of Gwangju, South Korea, during civil unrest, ultimately quelled by the massacre of more than a hundred student demonstrators; the protagonist’s reluctant political awakening, and the solidarity of his peers, allows the journalist to expose the greatest abomination of the country’s military era. Sitting on a bench outside the courtroom hosting her husband’s trial earlier this year, Chit Su Win told the New Yorker he had been spellbound by the film. She had begged him to consider a career change.

Kyaw Soe Oo had by then been thrust into the international spotlight after an outwardly similar act of state violence in his own country. In February, his employer published a report of the systematic and premeditated execution of ten Rohingya villagers in the first days of the military offensive last year, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Rohingya civilians and precipitated the exodus of three-quarters of a million refugees from Myanmar to Bangladesh. He and his Reuters colleague Wa Lone were sentenced in September to seven years’ imprisonment. Their trial, held in a kangaroo court, was clearly intended to deter further investigation of military atrocities.

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