Reporting Myanmar: The Photojournalism of Ta Mwe

Since gaining independence from colonial rule in 1948, Myanmar (Burma) has been primarily ruled by a military dictatorship following a coup in 1962. After elections in 2010, the military junta was replaced with a democratically elected government. Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest and assumed the head of government role following further elections in 2015. Despite her prominence as a political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize winner, the Myanmar government and military were severely criticized during her time in office for their role in the genocide against the Rohingya and their prosecution of journalists.

On 1 February 2021, Myanmar’s military leaders carried out another coup deposing the democratically elected government that was returned in late 2020. In response, protests became a nationwide uprising known as the Spring Revolution. Although these protests were peaceful in the beginning, they became increasingly violent as the military responded with deadly force, firing live ammunition at civilian protesters. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners reports more than 9,400 people were arrested and 1,500 killed by junta forces in the months following the coup. By the end of 2021, the military was still in power. However, a parallel opposition government and its armed division prevented the military from consolidating complete control over the country, and resistance continued.

Journalists attempting to cover the resistance have faced intimidation, harassment, and violence. In a move to suppress reporting on the ongoing massacre of their own people, the military set about criminalizing journalism – revoking media licenses, ransacking newsrooms, beating, arresting, and imprisoning editors, reporters, and staff. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 115 journalists were arrested in Myanmar in 2021 while covering protests or after being tracked down by the intelligence services, and three were killed.

Myanmar photographers have been documenting these events despite this hostile environment. They have continued to take to the streets, attend the funerals, enter the homes of the bereaved, and bear witness to the destruction of their country. As communications infrastructure has been gradually dismantled and financial services suspended, many of these photographers continued to work despite there being no immediate outlet for their images or economic incentive for their efforts. Their objective is to fulfill their responsibility to document their country’s situation to preserve and honor its history.

In this event, Ta Mwe, one of those Myanmar photographers, presents and discusses some of their work. Because of the security situation in Myanmar, Ta Mwe does not appear on screen.

Ta Mwe is part of Sacca, a collective created after the 2021 military coup to support Myanmar photographers in their work, and in this event, we also hear from the manager of Sacca.



David Campbell: So, thanks again to everyone for joining us on this VII Insider event on reporting Myanmar where we’re going to be looking at the photojournalism of Ta Mwe and others working in the region. So, Ta Mwe is joining us from the region. He is staying off camera for this event because the safety and security of photographers in Myanmar is paramount. And we don’t want to compromise that. And we’re also joined by Matt Grace, who is the manager of Sacca Photo Agency and Collective that helps support photographers in Myanmar, of which Ta Mwe is a member. So, that’s great to have you and Matt with us. We really appreciate that. Ta Mwe if we can begin, I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions about the context of the current situation in Myanmar and what it was like for you working in Myanmar. Bring us up to date on what the political situation in Myanmar is now in 2022. And what it’s been like since the coup in February 2021.


Ta Mwe: Yes, yes. It currently is like, now it’s like we can say like it’s a second phase of the revolution. Yeah. Since last year, February, military staged the coup. And everyone was like, everybody in Myanmar was against it and military usually they crackdown, brutally. And all those people survived from the crackdown, they went to the ethnic control area. There are like ethnic rebel armies, and they join and there and they get military training and they’re now resisting the military attacks around the country. So, it’s nationwide, kind of a resistance movement happening right now. There are fighting everywhere, especially in Kayin state and Kayah state and Taunggyi and Kachin. Yeah, Kachin state, so there is fighting everywhere and also the military is committing crimes in different areas. They’re usually burning villages to inject fear into the people. Like, if you are resisting the military, your villages will be burned to the ground, something like that. It is happening everywhere. So, there are a crazy number of refugees around the country, as well as the resistance movement is growing everywhere.


David Campbell: And what is it like currently, for photographers trying to work covering that situation? What is the security situation, the photographers’ experience while they’re trying to document the situation at the moment?


Ta Mwe: Since last year, February, journalists were trying to cover the coups and protests and movement around the country. And now military is seeing journalists as kind of an enemy. So, they are arresting journalists everywhere around the country. Currently, at the moment, they already detained like over 130 journalists, and they did kill three journalists already. So, there are like, the journalists have to flee around the country. The journalists are moving around to the ethnic camp organization area and as well as those staying in the capital and Mandalay, they stay trying to live low profile, hidden and they usually report with different pseudo names, alias names, because usually military is arresting journalists. If they cannot arrest the journalists, they trying to arrest family members and seize the property of the journalist, something like that. So, journalists are like, everyone is reporting by using an alias name and also even for photojournalists we are like, kind of have to stay low profile because there were last year, December, military arrested one photojournalist in Yangoon for taking photo just around the city and they killed him during the interrogation. So, it’s kind of risky. And yeah. So, everyone is trying to stay hidden. Yeah. And people are still like, continue reporting about what’s happening in Myanmar. Yeah.


David Campbell: And were you covering the situation from the very beginning about the most latest political upheaval in February 2021? Were you covering that from the beginning? And is there a difference in the way the regime is treating journalists now to February 2021? Has it gotten worse?


Ta Mwe: I can say it’s getting worse now. At the start in February last year, journalists were like, it was risky, but not that risky. And right now, because they were like, they are like, yeah, and they estimated that journalism and after studying from last year months, they realized that journalism or the information they cannot control because they have their own media, like a kind of propaganda media. But nobody is watching their TVs or their newspaper, but people are getting informed by the free individual journalists. So, they try to control the information by arresting journalists. And yeah, trying to arrest journalists and they start arresting journalists and even the like targeted the journalists when they crackdown the protests. So, they usually, police were, police and military would usually follow you if you are a journalist, because they target like a protester as a second, like a journalist and political activists are the first target for them. Yeah. Now it’s more like, they are still trying to get like detain the journalists everywhere. They set up a check point everywhere. And they can check your computer or mobile phone or camera. Yeah. If they find out there is information about the military or something, they they’re going to arrest you right away, something like that. So, it’s hard to, yeah, hard to go around the country without clearing your browser history or email history, everything. You have to be clean and clear from the military related reports in your devices, something like that.


David Campbell: Yeah. I’ll be interested in a bit later to come on to some of those practicalities of actually how you worked and how you insured your own security. But why don’t you show us the selection of images that you’ve made from your work covering the situation in Myanmar. So, if you can share your screen and talk us through the images that you want to show us?


Ta Mwe: Thanks, yeah, sure. This is the photo from the downtown Yangon. This was taken after the military staged the coup in this year February. They, on that morning, they cut down the cell phone, internet, everything, no communication at all on that morning. So, they’d also taken the city hall area. And this is the first mass gathering movement in February. She is one of the leaders from the protest movement.


These other people came out to protest the military coup. It was a nationwide protest everywhere around the country. These two photos are from Yangon. These are the main city, like a crowded area. There were people everywhere.


David Campbell: And these people resisted right from the beginning? This was very early on, straight away after the coup?


Ta Mwe: Yes, it is. Yeah. Like, there were a few protests. But it was small. They started protesting around February 3rd or something like that. Yeah. And there were also other people, and the mass protests happened on February 6.


And this is one of the girls. She was protesting right in front of the central bank in Yangon. Yeah. The bank was protected by the military with armed vehicles and there were around like 100 soldiers over there. And she, when I was there, she was already like crying and like, shouting, like, soldiers to restore the democracy. Yeah, it was around noon, something like that. In the evening, she passed out. Yeah. On the right is the same girl. She passed out. Yeah, people helped her and sent her to the hospital.


And this was taken in Yangon and military was using tear gas, rubber bullet, on those days. It was like, second week of February. They were still using rubber bullets. Later, they started using live ammunition. And there were journalists starting to get arrested. And this is the time they start using live ammunition. The protester was shot in the head and yeah, she, he died on the spot.


David Campbell: So, the more people resisted, the stronger the crackdown became and the more violent the response was from the military.


Ta Mwe: That’s right. Yeah. The military was like, they were starting to use the live ammunition to oppress the movement because they were like, mass protests around the country for several days already. They couldn’t control that, and they start using live ammunition, yeah. And they start arresting people, as well. And this was around the popular area in Yangon. And police start arresting— even for journalists like me, I have to take a photo and I have to run and hide somewhere like a random building. I ran into random buildings and like hide in a stairway or something like that. Yeah, the left side photo, I ran into a convenience store and the lady, she opened the door for the people, including me and the other protesters. So as soon as we were inside, she closed the door, and she locked the door and she also hide behind the shop. So yeah. She is kind of saving a lot of people from getting detained. Yeah.


David Campbell: The combination of those two photos you can really feel the tension of the situation of the search party and people hiding. It’s extraordinary.


Ta Mwe: Yes, right. Yeah. On that day, police arrested two journalists as well. Yeah. This was one of the popular areas in Yangon. Yeah, the youth, like the protesters, were using shields made from the plastic paper or something, plastic bar or something like that, and make it as a shield. Because even though they cannot defend the real bullets, they’re still trying to cover just in case the military starts shooting the tear gas, they can counter it or something like that. So, from that time, reporting about the coup is starting to get dangerous. Yeah, you can get shot by the live ammunition as well. And it’s really hard to take photo because it’s more like a safety first, photo is second, something like that. Yeah, yeah. Sometimes it’s really hard to balance. You want to take a good photo, or you want to risk getting your safety, something like that. So, it’s like a trying to balance about the reporting. Yeah. And this is one of the protesters shot in the head. Yeah, he is. His name is Chit Min Thu, and the lady is his mother. Yeah. Yeah. At the funeral. Yeah. He tried to be a front liner of the protest movement, something like that. They they usually have, like a shield made from the bar or something like that. And they stay on the front line to get the other protesters safe from the military. He is the, we call front liner. He gets shot in the head. Yeah.


David Campbell: How many protesters were killed? I mean, I’m pretty sure it’s ongoing. And this is over a period of time. But once they turned to live ammunition, how many were killed, do you know?


Ta Mwe: I think it’s hard to say now, because it’s already been over a year. But on those days, there were like, around 12 or 15, something like that, people die by the military around the country. Yeah. He’s one of them on that day. There were like, around a dozen like, something like that being killed around the country. Yeah. Yeah. And these are the more people killed by the military. The lady is kind of, she is not even a protester. She was like, a staff from a bank. And she was traveling with a van from the office car. The military was like, shooting randomly. And she she got hit by the three bullets from military, something like that. Yeah.


David Campbell: When you’re when you’re photographing situations like funerals, do you feel welcome from the people who are holding the funeral? Do they want your presence there? Do they want this documented?


Ta Mwe: I think the rest of the family members, they don’t even maybe, they didn’t even realize journalists are there because they already suffer from the loss of their members. The girl is daughter for them. Yeah, their daughter and they were like, as soon as I arrived to do to the funeral, they already crying, and I think they didn’t even realize there were journalists. Yeah, I think so. Yeah, it was like a heartbreaking moment even for journalists. Yeah. It was. Yeah. And later in April the protesters had to, like they had to block the road to in order to protest because military was like crackdown, crackdown, like brutally. They usually ram their military vehicle into the crowd, or they start shooting live ammunition so protesters have to block the road with bricks and things they can find around the street, something like that. And also, sometimes they find a tire, something like that, garbage to block the road so they can protest, and it is more safer for them. Yeah. Those times, yeah.


David Campbell: What is the significance of the three fingers salute that we see the protesters making quite regularly? What do the three fingers mean?


Ta Mwe: Three fingers was, I heard like, it was kind of taken from the movie called Hunger Games. It was like resisting the authorities something like that. It’s like uprising. So, people start using since the day one. Yeah. Raising three fingers. It’s quite common around the Southeast Asia region, I think Yeah. Thailand also protests with three fingers. Yeah, something like that. Yeah. And these are taken in this year. The uprising is starting to turn into a second phase, like an armed resistance movement, because military was like, brutally crack dawning like a protest. So, people are starting two different times. The first day they start the front by making a homemade weapon, not even weapons. They started resisting with slingshots, and yeah, homemade, like kind of non-lethal weapons, and later they starting to develop into like a hunting rifle. And then now it’s like a fully automatic rifles and yeah, something like that, already brought into a kind of civil war. This is taken in Kayah state. This is the village being bombed by the military. The military usually uses a lot of like excessive air strike bombings, something like that in the region. They also use the artillery shelling around the region. Yeah. So, these are the one of the villages. People already left their village. Their village was completely destroyed. Yeah.


David Campbell: So, the uprising and the resistance was not limited to cities. It was also as you said, all around the country, so it was just as much in the rural areas as the cities.


Ta Mwe: Yes, right. Yeah, they were not just in the city. There were happening in rural areas, like villages as well. This is taken closer to Kayah state, Demoso Township. This is the kind of village. Now it’s already a front-line zone area. Yeah. This is the resistance armed group called KNDF, Karenni Nationalities Defense Force. They were founded after the coup in order to fight back the military so they are like, their numbers are growing every day. This is in Kayah state. Yeah. Now they have kind of like automatic rifle and yeah everything. They started last year with a hunting rifle, homemade rifle. Now it’s like already growing and they control more area now. Yeah, Kayah state is already controlled by this kind of resistance army. There are this kind of KNGF groups. The other groups are called PDF, People’s Defense Force, which is also funded by the shadow government called NUG, National Unity Government. It’s a rival government to the military and they fund the PDF. This one of their resistance groups.


Ta Mwe: This is the funeral of a woman where I stay in Kayah state. She was killed by the military artillery shelling. She and her brother were about to go out from their hole and there was the artillery shell by the military truck next to them and she died on the spot. And her brother was taken to the hospital. Yeah, people saw — almost every day around the country by the military, something like that, because the military is like, they usually use air strikes and also artillery shelling.  So, they can shoot up to like 20 miles, 15 miles from their base, without going out from the basecamp.


This is one of the victims. He also got injured by the military shelling. He had to go through like, amputated his hand and his leg as well. There are around 20 people in that IDP camp suffer from the military air strike and shelling.


And this is the photo I taken at the IDP camp in the Kayah state. They are from the village area, but now they already moved to inside the forest, something like that. And they usually move to a place next to natural caves. There are many natural caves in Kayah state because they can go and like take shelter inside the natural caves if there is a military air strike or artillery shelling, so they usually take shelter around those natural caves in Kayah state. This is one of the caves. The children were like playing around those caves.


And this is one of like Sunday morning prayer in Kayah state. The majority of Kayah state people believe in Christianity, Catholic, they are mostly. And these are people from the IDP camp, and they were like, gathering for Sunday morning mass prayer. And there was, when I was there, there was a military like a surveillance jet was flying around the church and people were standing still like this and they all go silent. They were actually whispering the sermon. And suddenly when they hear the surveillance plane, they stop and stand silent. It’s kind of like they don’t want to be like discovered by the surveillance plane because military usually sent surveillance planes around in the morning and an hour later, they will send fighter jets to start air strikes something like that. Kind of everyone’s know what they have to do if they hear the fighter jets flying around something like that. Yeah, everyone, yes, was like, I think that even the women and children, they have like mental trauma or something like that. They are usually afraid of the sound of the fighter jet engine something like that. As soon as they hear the sound, they usually take cover and run towards the natural caves, something like that, in those areas. And this is one of the villages in Kayah state. People have to start carrying a hunting rifle to protect their villages, something like that. The these are ordinary—like before the coup, they were ordinary farmers. After the coup, they have to make make a hunting rifle to protect their village because military was usually like, attacking religious and arresting people for, like a supporter, or sometimes they even use people as a human shield to attack the PDF base camp, something like that. So, every village has this kind of civilian carrying hunting rifles to defend their own village or something like that. It’s kind of, like their duty for every villager to join the civil service, something like that. Yeah, it’s kind of everywhere people have to carry a kind of gun or machete or something like that. They have to patrol around the villages as well, to inform the villagers to flee if there is a military start coming to the village, something like that. Because before that, there were like, last year there was a village next to this village, there were people killed and burned, around 30 people next to this village that’s in Kayah state by the military because there was no security like these people at that village. So now everyone has to do the scouting and securing the villages in those areas.


David Campbell: It seems that everywhere in the country is at war.


Ta Mwe: Yeah, it is.


Ta Mwe: Yeah, right. Yeah. Every village has to form this kind of group to secure their village. Okay, this is the photo from my current documentary project. So, yeah, these are all and yeah, there will be other photos. Yeah. Other people’s photos you can find on this Yeah, yeah. Thank you, everyone.


David Campbell: Or a potential conflict zone.


32:23 David Campbell: Ta Mwe, we thank you very much for sharing that work. We’ve got a couple of questions. I just wanted to start with kind of a, sort of a practical one about how you’re working. When you’re taking those photographs are you on assignment for someone? Or are you pursuing this work as a personal project, the need to document the situation in yourself? Or mix of the two? I mean, what’s driving your possibility of taking those pictures?


Ta Mwe: Yeah, it is more like a personal project, actually. Yeah, I started documenting about this revolution starting from day one. On February 1 morning, I went to City Hall, downtown area to start taking photographs. Because it’s— I know that it’s kind of important, like a historic event for Myanmar, because we have seen military coup back in 1988. That’s the last time and then in 2010, the military is starting, like, starting, like giving, democracy back to the people, kind of democracy. And now in 2021 days, taking back, yeah, and starting coup again. So, it’s like a historic event. So, I think I wanted to do a documentary about that. And, yes, so I started as a personal project.


David Campbell: Yeah. Perhaps you can end your, while staying off camera, you can end your screenshare. Great. We’ve got a question from Mike in the audience. It’s about how you distribute your photographs and most importantly, who do you hope will see the images that you take? And also, I would add to that, what sort of impact would you like to have with the images that you take? So, who do you hope will see them and what sort of impact do you hope the images will have?


Ta Mwe: It’s hard to say, because for me, this documentary project is like, I hope that everyone who sees this happening in Myanmar will take action to help Myanmar, something like that. I hope so, but it’s hard to say who particular person will see? I’m not sure. Yeah, it is. For me, it’s like a documentary for myself and it’s a historic event, something like that. I’m not sure anyone, like a political leader or something like that from the other international community will see it or not because I hope if someone sees it, I hope they will start like doing something about Myanmar.


David Campbell: Yeah. A couple of questions about the sort of situation in Myanmar. Ted is asking, given the atrocities that the military commits, how does the military attract people to join them? What’s the— and how do those people who join the military live amongst the population? Or do they live amongst the population, given their violence towards the population?


Ta Mwe: Military will usually recruit like, they used to recruit like a child, something like underage child before and also there will be like a criminal, something like that. Not many people joining the military because everyone knows that you get paid just a little and you have to work for your whole life. So, people usually don’t join to the military, so they usually recruit criminals and child and some people related to the military already, something like that. Those people only join the military. And now, as far as I know, nobody’s joining the military. So, military is like, their number is like decreasing every day because of the conflict around the country. And there are also the soldiers deserting the military, because of the like, generals start giving orders to burn the villages and kill the civilians, something like that. So, people are starting to desert the military as well.


David Campbell: One final question for you at the moment. We’ll have some more a bit later. Just about the general circumstance before we come to Matt. Mike is asking amidst all the violence and conflict, are there aspects of normal life in Myanmar at the moment? What about markets? The jade trade? Is there any tourism? What’s the situation on that front?


Ta Mwe: I think there is kind of pretending to be a normal life in city area. People might do their ordinary— like, doing shopping, or maybe enjoying the entertainment probably, but just a few number. Most of the people were suffering from insecurity. And most of the people were like a feeling like at one night military might knock on your door and arrest a family member or something like that. Everyone has the same feeling because military is like arresting whoever they like without a notice or without a warrant. And also, military is like setting up a checkpoint around the city. And they might grab your phone and start looking at your social media posts. And as soon as they see like anti-coup messages or status or a photo, they will arrest you right away and you will be lost from your rest of the family member suddenly. So, most of the people are suffering kind of insecurity everywhere. Even for the people in Kayah or Saigaing or Kayin. This is like, difficult for them. A lot of people already had to flee their villages and most of them are living in the jungle with a lot of difficulties and diseases like malaria. Something like that is kind of difficult situation for Myanmar.


David Campbell: Great. We’ll come back to you a little bit later on Ta Mwe. I’ve got a couple more questions. Matt, to bring you in, tell us a little bit about Sacca as an organization. When it was set up, what it does, how does it support people like Ta Mwe?


Matt Grace: So, I was living in Myanmar for just over a decade, up until just after the coup. And working with photographers like Ta Mwe, who I’ve known for a long time and other other very talented photographers in Myanmar. I had to leave about six weeks after the coup for various reasons, including it just being not possible to get visas and stay safely anymore. And the organization that I was running previously had to shut down operations. But obviously, there were a lot of photographers who needed a lot of support. Just in terms of newsrooms being raided and shut down. There’s absolutely no work left for freelance photographers. And as Ta Mwe says, as the protests went on, and as the crackdowns became worse, journalism generally was basically criminalized, there was no way to work openly. There was a complete failure of the banking system. So, even if you, even if you had someone buying your work or hiring you or commissioning you, it was almost impossible to get any money into the country. So Sacca was kind of set up to alleviate some of these issues. I had access to a bank account in Yangon. And we could distribute money from that and then I could receive payments outside of the country. So, that was one way of getting money in if photographers needed it. We started with small things while I was still in the country, providing things like helmets, press badges to wear and there was a very short amount of time that they were actually useful. Because again, as Ta Mwe says, soon the military started actually targeting the press. We moved into things like making sure the resources for HEFAT training were put into Burmese language so that photographers could could access those. And then people that I’d worked with previously on training Burmese photographers and exhibitions that we ran in Yangon, especially including VII Foundation, but also the Frontline Club. We’re very happy to support with small grants for project development. So, that’s one of the main ways that we’re doing work at the moment. We have a group of funders who want to ensure that the photographers can keep working. We’re able to say we’re able to distribute money and the photographers are then able to keep working to a certain extent. Obviously, we’re sort of well over a year in now. And there’s only so long this can go on. But there was so much development of this sector in Myanmar over the last 10 years. And obviously, the fear was that with no income, with no support, these photographers wouldn’t be able to continue doing that work. So yes, supporting in any way that we can in order to make sure that they don’t have to give up photography, basically.


David Campbell: Yeah. And is there an appetite in media outside Myanmar for the images that they’re producing?


Matt Grace: There was, in the immediate aftermath it was a big enough story. You’ll have seen that a lot of the big awards over the last 12 months, prominently featured various photographers including Ta Mwe, also, our friend who was with the New York Times at that time and that has understandably been overtaken. First by Afghanistan. Now by Ukraine. There’s only a certain amount of space in the international sort of media sector for international news. And certainly, from a European perspective, Ukraine is all people are really interested in the moment. And it’s very hard to continue talking about the situation in Myanmar because it is to a certain extent, now just a slow burn civil war, which it was which it has been for 70 years. It’s just on a larger geographic scale now.


David Campbell: Yes. Are there other outlets for the work of Burmese photographers other than the international media? Are there other forms of distribution, other audiences that you can get to or try to get to circulate the stories?


Matt Grace: There are local media organizations. Most any of those that are producing worthwhile work have had to leave the country. So pre-2010 and to a certain extent, pre-2015, which are the times when there were democratic elections, 2010 being a pseudo-democratic election, 2015 being what we consider to be a reasonably well-run democratic election. Previous to that, all of the exile media was based predominantly in Northern Thailand, also in Mizoram, and Norway was doing a huge amount of support independent media. And we are reverting to that situation now. So, there are local news agencies, but they are so incredibly strapped for cash that although they are more than happy to distribute, disseminate, and tell the news that their budgets are so small that to sustain a working photographer, that there’s not enough there for them. So, I mean, a lot of it will now come down to trying to publish to more of a, I guess, a photographic audience than a news audience, photography publications, people that will do full spreads and will pay you know enough for that. But yeah, in terms of producing news photography, as Ta Mwe says, it’s almost impossible to operate in Myanmar itself. There’s a huge amount of work being produced along the borders, but it’s similar imagery of a very slow burn civil war that isn’t going to pick up a huge amount of international interest, unfortunately,


David Campbell: Were there are international photographers coming into Myanmar at the beginning of the coup to cover the situation or was it completely local photographers?


Matt Grace: It was almost completely —there may have been some there, but only people have been there for long term. Myanmar shut its borders completely for the Coronavirus pandemic. And those borders are only just starting to open up. So, there wasn’t even, there weren’t even international news correspondents there. BBC didn’t have a correspondent. Aljazeera didn’t have a correspondent. I don’t think AP had a correspondent. The Reuters desk was all but shut down at that point. And people read a lot into that at the time and whether this was one of the reasons why it was a good time to hold the coup, but there were very few international and not just reporters, a lot of the embassies were on a shoestring local staff. I still, like at the time there wasn’t a British ambassador, for example, in country I don’t think. But yeah, that was all, that all happened before at the very start of the Coronavirus pandemic, and it just happened to overlap.


David Campbell: So, a perfect demonstration then of the need to sustain local photographers.


Matt Grace: Exactly.


David Campbell: Because without them, we wouldn’t see anything.


Matt Grace: Yes, yeah, entirely.


David Campbell: Yeah. Kind of a perverse outcome of the situation. But a reminder, nonetheless. Speaking of reminders, reminder to the audience, if you have any questions, please drop them in the q&a session. We have a few minutes left where we can take some more questions. Ta Mwe, I wanted to come back to you just on some of the practicalities of working in a situation of violence and conflict. You talked a little bit about or hinted about sort of digital security, making sure that things weren’t on phones and would be checked and so on. But as a photographer and a journalist you also had to lay low. What were the other important things that you had to take into consideration to keep yourself secure in situations of violence?


Ta Mwe: Yeah, I yeah, there is a, you have to make sure about the digital security because something like for my field trip I have. I take full digital and film as well. So I usually keep the digital file, like an SD card hidden somewhere in case there is a military checkpoint Yeah. So, I have to hide it. And also, even at my home, I have to keep all my important stuff into a hard drive and keep it hidden somewhere, like a secret place, something like that. And also, like, I have to make a copy and give it to a trustworthy friend, something like that. It’s kind of, yeah. Not just for journalists, even for ordinary people. They have to like, they usually use, like an internet and something like that. To share about that anti-coup protest, something like that. Whenever they leave home, they have to delete everything. Something like that. Yeah, yeah. Because yeah, it’s quite dangerous to go out because military might set a checkpoint randomly around the city. Something like that. Yeah. And also like, you have to take away all the things indicating you as a journalist in Yangon. Yeah. Usually, you have a press card or something similar. Yeah. So, you have to discard it. Everything. Yeah. Yeah. In your home, when you go out everything, yet you have to do low profile and something like that.


David Campbell: So, we have a question for you, Ta Mwe, from Elise in the audience, about the prospects of resistance groups like the NUG and the CDN winning. What do you think needs to happen in Myanmar for the resistance to succeed? And what can or would you like to see people outside the country do to support that outcome?


Ta Mwe: Yes, yeah, I think yeah, this time. Yeah. It’s hard to say but I think we have seen the resistance movement is getting grower and seeing more success around the Myanmar, something like that. But yeah, it’s hard to say. Yeah, but I think yeah, I think we will see like a big turning point later this year or maybe next year? I think so. Because yeah, it’s like, around the country is like you either join the resistance army or get your villages burned, something like that. People have not much choice because of the military is like, doing all those brutal crackdowns and doing crimes, war crimes around the country. So, it’s people— usually there are people like, don’t want to involve in politics. Now they have to try, and they have to join the resistance movement. Because of those, like a kill or be killed, something like that is happening around the country. Yeah.


David Campbell: So, we’re coming towards the end of our time. So, we’ve got a final question that actually I’ll direct to both you, Ta Mwe and to Matt, it comes from Mike in the audience. Who should people be following to stay updated on the truth about what’s happening in Myanmar? Are there photographers who are perhaps sharing anonymously to places like Instagram? Who should people follow either in regular media or social media to keep abreast of the situation? Ta Mwe?


Ta Mwe: Yes, there are. Yeah. for that. Yeah. I guess a little bit hard to recommend because all those media used to be based in Myanmar are now scattered around the Southeast Asia regions and they are trying to re-establish the news and the regular circulation. So, it’s hard to say at the moment, but there will be more and more reporting we will be seeing like former exile media like Mizzima, DVB. There will be also coverage on the international media. We have seen reports about Myanmar from Bangkok Post or from Singapore Straits Times something like that occasionally. So, I think there will be more and more journalists from Myanmar who are reporting to the international community. I think so. Yeah, it just temporarily, everyone has to take shelter and take a secure location, have to move. Yeah. So, we will be seeing a lot more in-depth reporting.


Matt Grace: Yeah, I’d also say in English language, you search out Myanmar Now. And also, Frontier Myanmar. And for Burmese language, as Ta Mwe said, DVB, which, who were Democratic Voice of Burma operating out of Thailand until about five, six years ago, and have now re-established themselves in Myanmar. Sorry, in Thailand. But yeah, Myanmar Now and Frontier Myanmar for English language news. I think both of them do a daily briefing, which you can sign up for. If you go to their websites, I’m sure they’ll have information.


David Campbell: Yeah. Excellent. Well, that brings us to the end of our time, I really want to thank you, Matt, for for joining us. And also, the work that you do at Sacca, supporting the photographers in Myanmar. And Ta Mwe, I especially want to thank you for appearing and showing your work and for the work that you do, reinforcing the importance of covering a situation like Myanmar and continuing to do that. So, I know that everyone in the audience is wishing you the best and also wishing you to stay safe and productive, so that we can keep seeing those photos. So, thank you both very much for joining us. And thank you very much to everyone in the audience for participating today.


Matt Grace: Thank you.


Ta Mwe: Thank you.


David Campbell: Thanks. See you later. Bye bye.

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