Dodging the goons in Rangoon
Scouring the net for Burma-related stuff – there’s getting less and less from the ground – I come across Frontline’s Ben Hammersley and an intriguing wee snippet from the year 2000’s where are they now file,
When I got to Rangoon Airport, I knew I would be searched. I had been followed all afternoon – despite changing cars and clothes across the city – by two men on a moped. One had a mobile phone. These are rare in Burma and could only mean one thing: bad guys. The two Customs officials who searched my bags were being directed by a plainclothes man with short hair. Speaking English, they opened my bag and started to empty it.
â€œWalkman,â€ said a female offcial to her note-taking colleague, â€œCamera. Trousers – unwrap these please – shirt, presents? One Buddha, tapes â€¦â€ There it was. The memory stick recorder. She picked it up and unzipped the case. â€œElectric razor? OK.â€ She turned to him and said: â€œHeâ€™s clean.â€ (Note: she honestly said this. PoMo lives!).
But he wasnâ€™t happy. They went through my stuff again. â€œWalkman,â€ He took the tapes aside, â€œshirt, book, Buddha.â€ He got to the memory stick recorder and opened it. â€œElectric razor,â€ the Customs official piped in. The man grunted and confiscated my tapes and all of the – dummy – film I had half-heartedly hidden. Somewhere in Burma thereâ€™s a man who has recently heard Jimi Hendrix for the first time. Customs, satisfied with some music and film, let me go, but I still had to go through the metal detectors with a tape and a metal digital picture disk in my pocket.
Here the Thai coins did the trick. With the disk next to my Camels, I emptied my pockets into a basket, walked through, grinned at the security guard, put everything back in my trousers and strolled to the plane. link
Some crafty tips from seven years ago. Not sure how many of these would cut the mustard in 2007 with or without an internet in Burma. For Ben’s part, looking back he’s non too happy about what wound up in the papers,
Writing that article was an immensely frustrating experience for me. It had been commissioned by the features desk, not the foreign desk, and had sat in a pile for 6 weeks… Eventually it was scheduled to run, but only after massive rewrites to take out the news angle and put in all the derring-do at the end. It gutted the piece, and me, and I could barely look at what should have been my finest moment to date. link