Image provided by: University of Oregon Libraries; Eugene, OR
About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (Sept. 18, 2017)
ASIA / PACIFIC
Page 4 n THE ASIAN REPORTER
September 18, 2017
Myanmar accused of laying mines after refugee injuries
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) —
Myanmar’s military has been accused of
planting landmines in the path of
Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in its
western Rakhine state, with Amnesty
International reporting that several
people have been wounded.
Refugee accounts of the latest spasm of
violence in Rakhine have typically
described shootings by soldiers and arson
attacks on villages. But there are at least
several cases that point to anti-personnel
landmines or other explosives as the cause
of injuries on the border with Bangladesh,
where 400,000 Rohingya have fled in the
past three weeks.
AP reporters on the Bangladesh side of
the border saw an elderly woman with
devastating leg wounds: one leg with the
calf apparently blown off and the other
also badly injured. Relatives said she had
stepped on a landmine.
Myanmar has one of the few militaries,
along with North Korea and Syria, which
has openly used anti-personnel landmines
in recent years, according to Amnesty. An
international treaty in 1997 outlawed the
use of the weapons.
Lt. Col S.M. Ariful Islam, commanding
officer of the Bangladesh border guard in
Teknaf, said he was aware of at least three
Rohingya injured in recent explosions.
Bangladeshi officials and Amnesty
researchers believe new explosives have
been recently planted, including one that
EXPLOSIVE EVIDENCE. A Rohingya child is
carried in a sling while his family walks through rice
fields after crossing the border into Bangladesh.
Myanmar’s military has been accused of planting
landmines in the path of Rohingya Muslims fleeing
violence in its western Rakhine state. (AP Photo/
the rights group said blew off a
Bangladeshi farmer’s leg and another that
wounded a Rohingya man. Both incidents
occurred the same day.
“It may not be landmines, but I know
there have been isolated cases of Myanmar
soldiers planting explosives three to four
days ago,” Ariful said.
Myanmar presidential spokesman Zaw
Htay did not answer phone calls seeking
comment. Military spokesman Myat Min
Oo said he couldn’t comment without
talking to his superiors. A major at the
Border Guard Police headquarters in
northern Maungdaw near the Bangladesh
border also refused to comment.
Amnesty said that based on interviews
with eyewitnesses and analysis by its own
weapons experts, it believes there is
“targeted use of landlines” along a narrow
stretch of the northwestern border of
Rakhine state that is a crossing point for
“All indications point to the Myanmar
security forces deliberately targeting
locations that Rohingya refugees use as
crossing points,” Amnesty official Tirana
Hassan said in a statement. “This is a cruel
and callous way of adding to the misery of
people fleeing a systematic campaign of
The violence and exodus began on
August 25 when Rohingya insurgents
paramilitary posts in what they said was
an effort to protect their ethnic minority
from persecution by security forces in the
majority Buddhist country.
In response, the military unleashed
what it called a “clearance operations” to
root out the insurgents. Accounts from
refugees show the Myanmar military is
also targeting civilians with shootings and
wholesale burning of Rohingya villages in
an apparent attempt to purge Rakhine
state of Muslims.
Bloody anti-Muslim rioting that erupted
in 2012 in Rakhine state forced more than
100,000 Rohingya into displacement
camps in Bangladesh, where many still
Rohingya have faced decades of dis-
crimination and persecution in Myanmar
and are denied citizenship despite cen-
turies-old roots in the Rakhine region.
Myanmar denies Rohingya exist as an eth-
nic group and says those living in Rakhine
are illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
Ai Weiwei puts human face on migrant crisis in Human Flow
By Jill Lawless
The Associated Press
ENICE, Italy — The United
Nations says there are 65 million
forcibly displaced people around
the world — a number so huge it can be
overwhelming to contemplate.
Artist Ai Weiwei wants to make viewers
see both the scale of the crisis and the
humanity of the migrants with his
documentary Human Flow, premiering at
the Venice Film Festival.
The film, one of 21 competing for the
festival’s Golden Lion prize, draws on a
deep empathy with his subjects — one the
artist came to through direct experience.
“It’s in my blood,” said Ai, who spent his
childhood in a remote Chinese community
after his poet father was exiled by the
country’s Communist authorities.
“I was born when my father was a
refugee,” the artist said. “I understood how
low humanity can go from (when I was)
very, very young, and how wrong things
“I feel I am part of it,” he said of the
migrant crisis. “I know them so well. They
are part of me.”
Many other people feel detached and
powerless when faced with images of
migrants making perilous journeys by
land and sea. Ai says that is due in part to
news reports, which inform people but can
also dull the senses.
“Because you feel, ‘This is senseless,’” Ai
told The Associated Press in Venice. “Then
you shut off because the crisis is getting too
big, you cannot do anything about it.
“That is the most dangerous moment.”
The 60-year-old Ai is one of the world’s
most successful artists, famous around the
world for his installations of bicycles and
sunflower seeds. In his native China, he
was alternately encouraged, tolerated,
and harassed, spending time in detention
and being barred for years from leaving
Now based in Berlin, Ai frequently
draws on images of flight and exile for his
work. And he often thinks big: Last year,
he wrapped the columns of the German
capital’s Konzerthaus in thousands of
orange life jackets left behind by migrants
on the Greek island of Lesbos.
Human Flow is on an even larger scale.
Ai’s team of around 200 crew members
travelled to 23 countries and territories,
visiting Syrian refugees in Jordan and
Lebanon, Rohingya from Myanmar in
Bangladesh, Afghan refugees returning
home from exile in Pakistan, and
Mexicans on the border with the U.S.
The film also follows the route taken by
more than 1 million people since 2015,
across the Aegean Sea to Greece and then
by land through Europe. Some in the film
are halted by police and barbed wire at
borders, while others make it to a
reception center in Germany, or head for
the English Channel in hopes of getting to
Ai wanders through the film as a
compassionate observer, taking pictures
on his phone, talking to people, and even
cutting one man’s hair. Interspersed with
those scenes are aerial shots that turn
teeming crowds into almost abstract
“With this kind of tragedy, you are
trying to find a language to deal with this
large topic,” Ai said.
“Sometimes my iPhone has to touch the
(person’s) face or drop in the water.
Continued on page 7
New rules, tech are dimming Hong Kong’s signature neon glow
Continued from page one
Kong’s neon industry has been gradually
dying out, a victim of changing tastes, new
technologies, and tighter regulations.
Some groups have been fighting to save the
signs as part of the city’s cultural heritage
before they disappear completely.
O REGON PROBLEM GAM BLI N G RESOURCE
“Neon signs are not just something that
illuminate,” said Cardin Chan of Hong
Kong Neon Heritage, whose members are
cataloguing the signs still left and working
to come up with creative ways to preserve
them. “They should be considered as art.
And it is very unique to Hong Kong.”
Wu Chi-kai is one of about half a dozen
neon-sign masters left in Hong Kong. The
50-year-old said he now earns about a
third of what he made during the “golden
era for the neon sign industry” in the 1980s
and early ’90s.
At the time, Hong Kong was at its
economic peak. Wu had done a six-month
apprenticeship in his teens before being
hired by a sign maker. Their days were so
busy, he said, that he sometimes slept in
“Around 1997, LEDs came out,” said
Wu. “I thought that it would be a strong
enemy of neon signs. As neon signs had
been used for decades, people perceived it
as old-fashioned. And people usually love
to use something new for their store signs.”
Light-emitting diode signs have since
proliferated across Hong Kong’s cityscape
because they’re brighter and more energy
efficient, but purists say they also lack
neon’s warm tones. Neon’s appeal also
faded because of its association with
red-light districts, a turnoff for businesses
wanting a wholesome image.
Government regulations have also sped
neon’s demise. Decades ago, few
regulations governed sign placement and
size, said Wu. Businesses tried to outdo
each other by putting up bigger and bigger
signs, held up by cables and jutting out
over busy thoroughfares like the Nathan
Road tourist strip in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha
Tsui district. At night, they appear to float
in the sky.
“When our clients wanted their neon
signs to catch the attention of passersby,
they would make the signs wider to avoid
being blocked by the other ones,” he said.
Hong Kong’s Buildings Department has
been cracking down and ordering that
some be removed. It doesn’t tally how
many neon signs Hong Kong has, but it
says the city has about 120,000
signboards, many of which are believed to
be unauthorized. In each of the past two
years, the department has removed or
repaired about 2,700 dangerous or
unauthorized signboards and issued
removal orders for about 700 more.
Among those caught up in the
clampdown was a sign depicting a giant
Angus cow that had long been a local
landmark, hanging above the entrance to a
restaurant called Sammy’s Kitchen since
The owners donated it to M+, Hong
Kong’s museum of visual culture, which is
now adding neon signs to its permanent
collection and had dedicated an exhibition
in 2014 to neon signs.
AP assistants Daniel Ma and Emily
Cheung contributed to this report.