March 30, 2012

Human rights advocate to speak on campus

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A human rights advocate and former political prisoner from Myanmar (Burma) will visit Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week to help launch a film that looks at political prisoners in the Southeast Asian nation.

Bo Kyi (pronounced Bo Jee) will be at the screening of “Into the Current: Burma’s Political Prisoners,” at 7 p.m., Monday, April 2, in the Kleinau Theater on the second floor of the University’s Communications Building.  Admission is free and open to the public.

The film focuses on Bo Kyi’s work to free all political prisoners in Myanmar.  Bo Kyi spent more than seven years in the 1990s under political arrest for his pro-democracy activities, and endured physical and mental torture.  After a second arrest in September 1999, Bo Kyi fled to the Thailand-Myanmar border and organized the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B).  Bo Kyi earned the Freedom and Human Rights Award in 2011, and the Human Rights Watch Alison Des Forges Defender Award in 2009 for his work.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the lecture and screening.  Bo Kyi is also available for telephone interviews prior the event or on Monday, April 2. For more information contact Lisa Brooten, associate professor in the Department of Radio-Television, at 618/549-9474 or by email at

The documentary film looks at political prisoners in Myanmar and Bo Kyi’s efforts to free them. The campaign tour featuring the film began earlier this month with screenings at several universities and film festivals in the United States.

Lisa Brooten, an associate professor in the Department of Radio-Television, is a scholar on Myanmar and the region, and first met Bo Kyi when she was living along the Thai-Burma border from 1989 to 1992.  Brooten said she hopes the audience gains “a window into the power of the human spirit against all odds, and recognition of how we can help to promote lasting change through our solidarity with these struggles.”

The film and Bo Kyi’s visit are “important and moving as a testament to the power of ordinary people who bring change through their often unrecognized struggles, frequently stretching over years and even decades,” Brooten said.

Bo Kyi’s story “is quite moving and shows us how what has been happening in the largely reclusive Burma is an especially poignant example of the profound power of people’s movements we have seen emerge with new levels of collective strength during the recent ‘Arab Spring’ and ‘Occupy’ movement,” Brooten said.