The danger of filming Burma's revolution

(CBS News) On Sunday, Burma will hold a parliamentary election that the military government promises will be fair. It promises to be a rare taste of democracy after a half-century of brutal repression.

Burma's freedom movement began with some brave people who dared to stand up to the generals. CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports that there are some men who saw it all.

Win Maw was on the top floor of a nearby building in 2007 when monks gathered in Rangoon to pray. Maw is the kind of man the government used to not want Westerners to meet, because he witnessed the crackdown that followed.

"The security forces used tear gas," Maw said through a translator. "They beat the demonstrators with sticks."

Win Maw spent four years in jail after he was caught filming the 2007 anti-government protests. Called the Saffron Revolution, it was led by monks fighting for democratic reforms.

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The brutal crackdown that followed was filmed surreptitiously by ordinary people who risked torture and arrest to capture some of the most violent moments of the uprising.

The video was smuggled out - or uploaded - for the world to see by "The Democratic Voice of Burma", a small online network based in Norway.

Win Maw showed CBS News how he would conceal his camera before he headed out to the protests because of the great risks he was taking by filming them.

"If we didn't" film, Maw said, "the world wouldn't have seen what was going on inside our country."

Win Maw told CBS News he was an accidental activist. He is trained as a musician. But when he wrote songs that celebrated democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, he was jailed for six years in 1996.

"We showed our footage of the Saffron Revolution to the world," Win Maw said. "And the international community put pressure on the Burmese government to change. The changes came because of what the media did."

After a decade in prison, he hopes the reforms in his homeland will continue. After all, he has a home to re-build as a dad.

  • Seth Doane

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