In February and March I spent four weeks in Burma (formally known as Myanmar) to document the life of former political prisoners before the historic election today at April 1.
This was my first big photo essay as and there was of course a lot of challenges to overcome. It is very difficult to obtayn a journalism visa to Burma and therefor I had to travel there as a “tourist”. In Burma there has been a very strict military dictatorship since 1962. It is the second most corrupt country in the world. Journalists has been imprisoned there for working as a journalist.
During the last couple of months there has been a lot of positive changes in the country. It has been easier to get access and they have released all of the 651 political prisoners they had in prison. I followed some of the monks in Maggin monastery in Yangon. They where some of the leaders of the big uprisings in 1988 and 2007. All of them was put in prison and released on January 13 this year.
During my stay I got a small sense of how it is to be watched by the secret police there. On my second day I was in a small city doing a interview and on our way back my translator and the person I was interviewing was stopped by the police and taken to the police station. They where question about who I was and why I was here. At the same time this was going on I was standing outside when some of the locals there put me on a bisycle and sent me to the taxi-station to get away. My translater managed to talk ourself out of the situation.
The second encounter was at a monastery where the people I was meeting thought we where being watched at a cafe the day before. And it turned out we where. The next day at 7 AM I meet at the monastery and they had gotten a tips by a monk in the city. He had heard that someone in the police knew I was there and where on their way to find me and that I had to get away. So I hurried up and took a taxi away from the monastery.
Back home I only hope that Burma can get the democracy the people have fought for so long. The true test will be at the primary election in 2015 when Aung San Suu Kyi probably will win if the election is free and fair.
You can read the story in VG here.