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A Life in Shan State

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Stories of the victims of the Burmese Junta video project hosted by Antonio Graceffo

When Sei Lieng came back to his village he saw the head of an old man hanging from a tree. His father was already dead. When he found his mother, she was still breathing, so he dragged her to the temple and asked the monks if they could help her. She died a few minutes later. After the next attack, he found his sister dead in a pool of blood behind a hut. Unable to care for his six year old brother alone, he left his brother at a monastery. Eventually, Sai Lieng made his way to the Shan State Army headquarters at Loi Tailang, where he attended school for the fist time in his life.
 
He was ten years old.
 
This is only one of thousands of stories at the Loi Tailang camp.
 
“A Life in Shan State” video project will document the lives, joys, and suffering of the internally displaced people, orphans, soldiers, and civilians living at the Loi Tailang facility. The Shan young people are intelligent, literate and thinking. This project will allow them to tell their story to the world, a world that has ignored their suffering.
 
“By my second visit to the camp, I was so moved by the courage and power of the Shan people, I knew I had to take some greater action, beyond just writing magazine articles.” Said adventure writer Antonio Graceffo. “Some of the kids showed me a book they had written, called Letters from Shan State.” Available at www.shanland.org/general/2007/letters-from-shan-state- The proceeds from the sale of “Letters from Shan State,” go to fund educational projects for Shan youth.

“The book was so inspiring, that it made me think of the greater reach of video. How can we expect the world to react to the suffering of the Shan People when most Americans don’t even know Shan State exists?”
 
Antonio hopes that by releasing the video he can help to bring greater asttention to the plight of the Shan People. The final video will be given away to organizations dedicated to raising awareness of Shan State people and their struggle for independence. The proceeds from any copies sold will be donated to the school and orphan dormitories at Loi Tailang.
 
This project is a joint collaboration, between Antonio Graceffo and film makers, Soso Whaley, and David Lawlitts. They are completely self-funded, and seeking donations to complete the film.  
 
Background for this project
 
For the last forty years, the Burmese government (SPDC) has been waging a campaign of genocide against the ethnic minorities of Burma. The Shan people, an ethnic group similar to the Thais of Thailand, occupy the area known as Shan State, which borders on Thailand. For centuries, the Shan State had been an autonomous principality. The Panglong agreement, signed in 1947, gave Shan State the right to succeed from the Union of Burma, when Burma gained independence from England. In 1962, however, General Ne Win staged a military coup, seized control of the Burmese government, and nullified the Panglong Agreement.
 
Since 1962, the Shan people have been subjected to all manner of human rights abuses at the hands of the SPDC government forces. Villages are forcibly moved. People are tortured or killed. Children are taken away from their families. Livestock and rice harvests are stolen, leaving villagers to starve. The life of the average Shan civilian is a pitiful existence, living between hunger, fear, and death.
 
Escaping the horrors of life under the regime, many Shan people crossed the border into Thailand, becoming refugees at official refugee camps, or blending into Thai society as illegal migrant workers with no legal rights. Others are trapped in IDP camps for Internally Displaced Persons, within the borders of Burma. The lucky ones make it to the Shan State Army headquarters at Loi Tailang, where 350 families live in an IDP camp, under the protection of the Shan State Army. The families are given food allotments, engage in family farming, and the children attend a free school.
 
The army base at Loi Tailang hosts a Shan Buddhist monastery, a clinic, two schools, military training ground, government offices for the Shan State, and an IDP camp, which 350 families now call home. Of the nearly one thousand children attending school on the base, 250 are orphans.
 
“A Life in Shan State” shot on location, inside of Burma, the video will be comprised of interviews with these displaced and suffering people. They will talk about their life before and after attacks by the SPDC, the loss they endured, their new life at the camp, and their hope for the future. The video will contain songs and music written by the people of Loi Tailang.
 
 
Checkout Antonio’s website http://speakingadventure.com/

Get Antonio’s books at amazon.com
The Monk from Brooklyn
Bikes, Boats, and Boxing Gloves
The Desert of Death on Three Wheels
Adventures in Formosa

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