The last two days have been a whirlwind of excitement, interviews and declarations. On Thursday, I had lunch with William Robichaud, Coordinator of the IUCN/SSC Saola Working Group, whom I met at the Wildlife Conservation Expo in October, and then I interviewed: Paul Hannon, Executive Director of Mines Action Canada (MAC); Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan of the Thai International Campaign to Ban Landmines; Jackie Hansen, the Project Organizer for the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor; and, Mark Hiznay from Human Rights Watch. I got loads of wonderful information from each of the interviewees and great sound bytes for The Eyes of Thailand. I cannot wait to add these into the new film trailer!
On Friday, I had my “Michael Moore moment” when I arrived at the United States Embassy with 9 other U.S. citizens, including Larry and Jack from the cluster muntions field trip and Daniel Calder from Religions for Peace, to request a meeting with the consulate to discuss why the U.S. has refused to sign the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions. I knew it could be a bit dicey, so I hopped out of the van with my camera rolling. The security guards immediately ran up to me and started waving their hands in front of the camera yelling “No Photo, No Photo”. I turned off the camera and explained I was a US citizen. After going through security, waiting for almost 30 minutes and surrendering all my electronics (including my camera), Peter Haymond spoke with the 10 of us for almost 20 minutes about the U.S.’s policies.
He explained that the U.S. has been one of the largest donors for cluster bomb removal in Laos, where we dropped over 270 million cluster bombs during our war with Vietnam but as much as 30% failed to detonate and remain threats to humans, livestock and community development. However, cluster bomb removal has to fight for congressional attention, just like all the other issues facing the country, if we want to continue cleaning up after our mess.
The best news Haymond shared was the Department of Defense is currently reviewing its landmine policy. This means that with the right political pressure and public awareness, the U.S. may sign and ratify the Mine Ban Treaty in the next few years. This could be the right push the remaining non-signatories need to sign the ban and we could eliminate the use of landmines in our lifetime!
On Friday afternoon, I interviewed Fred Lubang from Nonviolence International, who gave me an interesting perspective on what is needed for all Southeast Asian countries, not just Thailand and Burma, to prevent more elephant landmine accidents.
The convention ended when over 100 youth leaders and landmine/cluster bomb survivors took the stage and read the Youth Declaration, reminding the state parties we are committed to banning and removing landmines and cluster bombs. This was especially poignant because while we were in Laos, two Laotian girls were in a cluster bomb accident: one died, the other is in the hospital with serious shrapnel wounds. Needless to say, I had goose bumps and there were definitely some teary eyes in the room.
There’s definitely lots of work to do to wrap the shoot, including digitizing and transcribing the 20 hours of new footage and updating the trailer for the website. If you’d like to support our efforts, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to The Eyes of Thailand or contact me directly to discuss sponsorship, grant and investment opportunities. We need to get the film out into film festivals in 2011 so it can start doing some good!
Kop chai lai lai!
Director/Producer, The Eyes of Thailand