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Brad Balfour

Brad Balfour

Posted: April 6, 2010 04:18 PM

A Benefit to Support Burmese Children Refugees

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While the world has begun to address the human rights abuses in Darfur with humanitarian legal indictments, the on-going crisis in Burma is less emphasized and only two million in annual relief is passed along. Even the Oscar nomination of the film Burma VJ didn't generate a major outpouring of concern or money.

Tomorrow, April 7th, 2010, a fundraiser sponsored by the Free Burma Alliance and Network 355 (a new humanitarian women's group) will take place that hopes to play a part in changing this. Profits will go to support the orphaned Burmese refugees housed at the Child Protection and Education Center at Mae Tao Clinic. They were fortunate enough to make it across the border into Thailand -- surviving rape, gun shots and/or enslavement -- but not so star-kissed as to have escaped trauma or, in many cases, TB or malaria.

Being held from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm at the famed Friar's Club (located at 57 East 55th St. www.friarsclub.com), the event also celebrates the launch of the Free Burma Alliance, an organization dedicated to the urgent cause of the Burmese people oppressed by a brutal dictatorship. Japanese violinist Sarina has been added to the entertainment line-up which includes comedian Yannis Pappas, magician Oz Pearlman, a traditional Burmese dance performance, buffet style dinner, open bar, networking opportunities, a dj for dancing and a gift bag,

Filmmaker Jeremy Taylor is the dynamo behind the FBA and tomorrow's event. Before the 40-something embraced humanitarian work, he had published two film-related magazines (Film Festival Today and Film Festival Reporter), worked on Slamdance and apprenticed as an agent. But once the native New Yorker jumped into making a doc about the oppressive Burmese regime, Burma: An Indictment, he found more than a profession: he discovered a calling in fighting for the rights of the Burmese people.

The FBA is a coalition of human rights and humanitarian relief organizations dedicated to bringing freedom to the ill-treated and oppressed people of Burma. It aims to consolidate all Burmese organizations under one umbrella in order to act as a unified front delivering the same message.

Q: What made you so committed to this cause?

JT: I became committed to Burma's cause because Burma's legitimate leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the 1990 free and fair election by a landslide, has been under house arrest for the past 20 years. The Burmese military government rejected the results, annulled the election and put her away, first in jail then, after an international outcry, under house arrest.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the only Nobel Peace Prize Laureate in jail. Her husband was dying of cancer in England; she couldn't go visit him to say goodbye because the Burmese ruling military junta wouldn't let her back into Burma. Her two sons are in England, but she hasn't see them in 15 years. If she visits them, the junta won't let her back in. She sacrificed her family for her country.

Q: What inspired this degree of involvement?

JT: When I realized that she sacrificed her family for her country, she became my hero. After reading [up on] this she became my hero. That's when I decided to step up by making a documentary called Burma: An Indictment, and getting on board with the Burma movement to make a difference for Burma's peaceful people by starting the FBA, Free Burma Alliance [after I realized that making the film wasn't enough].

Q: But why did you do the film?

JT: I made the film because genocide is going on and our lame media never talks about the ill-treated, oppressed, gentle, kind, peaceful people of Burma.

Q: Why is this cause important in general?

This cause is important because international law is being violated and because Burma's Senior General Than Shwe has committed crimes against humanity and war crimes against Burma's people; he needs to be held accountable. United Nations Security Council should step up and create a COI -- Commission of Inquiry. Enough already. President Obama should refuse to recognize the junta's election results that are taking place later this year.

Q: Have you or your team ever had any trouble with the regime?

JT: The videographers that I sent to Burma were followed by the junta's militias. Burma's military government call themselves the SPDC. State Peace and Development Council. The SPDC's militias are called the USDA--Union Solidarity Development Association. My still photographer took pictures of the USDA taking pictures of her.

Q: What about your own personal experiences with the Burmese?

JT: The Burmese are gentle, peaceful people. They're great. We're having a series of fundraisers and I want to focus on helping out the NLD-LA (National League for Democracy-Liberated Area) They are the former political prisoners, (prisoners of conscience) that were released from the junta's jails in Burma and fled to Thailand. They have a clinic in Mae Sot that provides Burmese orphaned children with food, shelter, education and health care.

Right now they're being funded by Japanese and Korean monks. So I decided to step up and help them out. We also plan on funding the Backpack Health Workers Team which goes into Burma to help out the IDPs. (Internally displaced persons) There is no health care system for providing assistance for displaced people inside Burma.

Q: What are your own passions?

JT: My passion is human rights in Burma and human rights for China's people. China's Communist Party (CCP) is the Burmese [regime's] big brother. The CCP protects all the world's worst dictators. CCP keeps the dictators in power. What a disgrace.

No one should have to live under an authoritarian dictator and have no rights. Would you or your readers want to live under a dictator and have no free speech, no free press, no free assembly, no religious freedom, no independent judiciary? Fight tyranny and liberate the oppressed.

Q: And what's next?

Our documentary, Burma: An Indictment, complements this year's Oscar nominee, Burma VJ, because in addition to talking about the Saffron Revolution (monks marching) we cover the history since WWII (when Burma got it's independence from England), political prisoners, slave labor, poverty, no health care, cyclone Nargis and the National Referendum coming up later this year in Burma.

Our objective is to mobilize people like they were galvanized for Darfur. We're the Save Darfur Coalition, but for Burma. We're the Free Burma Alliance and we need everyone's help. Please go to www.freeburmaalliance.org and sign up.