- Simon Reeve interview Duration: 03:48
- Dubai from the air Duration: 01:32 Egypt to Oman
- Bears for bile Duration: 02:30 Laos to Hawaii
- Great Pacific Garbage Patch Duration: 04:26 Laos to Hawaii
- Grilled squirrel for breakfast Duration: 02:31 Laos to Hawaii
- Preview of Laos to Hawaii Duration: 01:24 Laos to Hawaii
BURMA'S "FORGOTTEN PEOPLE"
The Chin people, who number roughly 1.5m and live mainly in the hilly west of the country near the Indian border, are one of the most persecuted minority groups in Burma. Yet their plight is little known in the rest of the world.Bangladesh to Burma programme information
Filming for Tropic of Cancer, presenter Simon Reeve and a two man BBC crew became some of the first western journalists to have visited the area. Risking capture and arrest at the hands of the Burmese army, who have around 50 bases in Chin State, they trekked through the jungle to a remote village where many people had never seen westerners before. “It was an extraordinary journey,” said Reeve. “The villagers I met gave me horrifying accounts of the abuses they suffer at the hands of Burmese troops.”
These stories confirmed recent research by American group Human Rights Watch. After interviewing Chin refugees in neighbouring India their report concluded that the Chin are subjected to forced labour, torture, rape, arbitrary arrest and extra-judicial killings as part of a Burmese government policy to suppress the Chin people and their ethnic identity.
The BBC team was taken into Burma by Chin Human Rights activist Cheery Zahau. Despite being on a Burmese army wanted list, Zahau was prepared to run the risk of working with the BBC, which, like other western media organisations, is banned from entering Burma. “If we don't speak up, if we don't tell the stories of the people under this repressive military regime, then no-one will know what's happening, and if they don't know they will not do anything,” she said.
The Chins are a mainly Christians, having converted to the faith when the British ruled the area before independence after the Second World War. The persecution of the Chin dates back to the military takeover of Burma in the 1962. According to the US State Department Burmese troops and officials have tried to forcibly convert the Chin from Christianity to Buddhism. They have also destroyed churches, and arrested and even killed Christian Chin clergy, who now often work undercover.
The Chin also suffer from acute food shortages. The United Nation’s World Food Programme believes that food consumption in Chin State is the lowest in Burma. In recent years food shortages have been further exacerbated by a plague of rats, which have devastated Chin crops.
There is little in the way of medical facilities in Chin state. The villagers told the Tropic of Cancer team that they hadn’t seen a doctor in ten years. The Christian NGO Free Burma Rangers one of the few sources of medical aid. They give training to local volunteers who take basic drugs and medical equipment to the remote villages. The danger of running into a Burmese Army patrol is ever present. “If they catch us they will kill us,” one volunteer inside Burma told Simon Reeve.
In the neighbouring Indian state of Mizoram Chin refugees receive little help from the Indian authorities or aid agencies. Instead they face discrimination and hostility, and are often forcibly repatriated back to Burma.
"The Chin are unsafe in Burma and unprotected in India, but just because these abuses happen far from Delhi and Rangoon (Yangon) does not mean the Chin should remain `forgotten people,'" said Human Rights Watch in their report.
Burmese refugees from other persecuted ethnic groups who can flee from the south and east of the country into neighbouring Thailand receive international help and assistance. Human Rights Watch has called for better treatment for the Chin and for Chin refugees who arrive in India.
The Burmese regime has previously denied repressing ethnic groups.
BANGLADESH TO BURMA and WEB EXLUSIVES
This episode takes Simon through Bangladesh and on a perilous covert journey into Burma, where western journalists are banned.WEB EXCLUSIVE - Arsenic: Silent killer in the water
In Bangladesh Simon sails down the mighty Padma River and visits fishermen who use trained otters to drive fish into their nets. Further on he sees the river banks crumbling before his eyes - increased river erosion is thought to be caused by global climate change - and in the capital Dhaka he meets some of the millions of child workers.
From North East India, Simon treks through jungles and across rivers into Burma to meet the Chin people - an ethnic group who are brutalised and oppressed by the Burmese government.
WEB EXCLUSIVE - Arsenic: Silent Killer in the Water
In Bangladesh water is everywhere and flooding regularly submerges more than half the country, but Simon discovers that finding safe drinking water can be incredibly difficult.
Tens of millions of Bangladeshi villagers rely on hand pumps for water for drinking and cooking. Pumps installed in the 1970s and 1980s to replace disease-carrying surface water, seem to have inadvertently tapped into a sinister, silent killer. Arsenic.
Simon meets up with a scientist from BRAC, a Bangladeshi charity, which tests village pumps for levels of arsenic, and installs new, deeper safe wells. He also sees physical signs of poisoning in villagers in a community where they are consuming aresenic-contaiminated water which is 20 to 30 times the World Health Organisation's safe standard level.
WEB EXCLUSIVE - Slash and Burn
Simon Reeve continues his epic journey into Tripura state in north east India, where slash and burn farming is destroying forest habitats and threatening extinction of rare monkeys and leopards.
Simon hears how the village families are struggling to survive in this remote area, where they feel there is no option but to slash and burn, a technique passed down from their ancestors.
TROPIC OF CANCER PHOTO MONTAGE
Simon Reeve is a broadcaster and New York Times bestselling author who has travelled to more than 90 countries, including troubled states in the Caucasus, Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Far East and Central Asia, and been around the world three times for the BBC series Equator, Tropic of Capricorn, and now Tropic of Cancer. He has been awarded a One World Broadcasting Trust award for an “outstanding contribution to greater world understanding”.
Simon’s books include Tropic of Capricorn (published by BBC Books), and The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism, a New York Times bestseller, published in 1998, which predicted the rise of al Qaeda and a new age of apocalyptic terrorism. His book One Day in September: the story of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre is also an Oscar-winning documentary movie.
On his travels Simon has survived malaria, played polo with the corpse of a headless goat, swum with sea-lions and fished for piranha. He holds an official Somali diplomatic passport – bought from a man called Mr Big Beard in the most dangerous city in the world. He’s been surrounded by a pack of hungry cheetahs, adopted by a tribe of former head-hunters in Borneo, blackmailed and abandoned by drivers in an Ebola zone, pursued by a huge amorous camel around a poisoned sea, had his life saved by Vietnamese sweet wormwood, and eaten some of the weirdest and most unusual foods available, from zebu penis soup to grilled squirrel.
SIMON SAYS ...
"Following the Tropic of Cancer, the northern border of the Tropics, was a unique opportunity to explore and witness a slice of life in the most interesting and important region of the world: the Tropics!" He continues: "The whole point of the journey is that tracking the Tropic of Cancer took us off the beaten track, to places we wouldn't normally visit, and parts of the world that are rarely visited by foreigners, let alone TV crews.
"It was an extraordinary opportunity and a fantastically exciting journey that was also frightening, uplifting, exhausting, upsetting, challenging and surprising. I heard stories, saw sights, and ate food I'll be remembering and dreaming about till the end of my days."
TROPIC FACTS AND STATS
• This ‘adventure journalism’ series is the last of a trilogy five years in the making.
• The Tropic of Cancer marks the northern border of the Tropics region, because it’s the most northerly point at which the sun can appear to be overhead.
• The tropical region is a band around the Earth’s middle comprising roughly a quarter of the planet’s surface area.
• Almost two thirds of the world’s population lives in the Tropics, which is home to more than 120 countries.
• The most biodiverse region of the planet, the Tropics is home to more than two thirds of our plants, animals and insects.
• But the Tropics are also home to conflict and endless suffering. Almost all (38) of the world’s 45 poorest countries are in the Tropics, plus more than two thirds of the most corrupt countries in the world.
• The Tropics are mercilessly exposed to the furnace at the heart of our solar system, and the region receives a higher dose of the Sun’s energy than the rest of the planet. It is simultaneously the attraction of the Tropics to outsiders, and the cause of much of the human suffering in the region, largely due to colonialism, corruption and the climate.
• The tropical conditions of the Tropics have expanded towards the poles, with scientists estimating the change between 140 - 330 miles due to global climate change. Scientists expected this, but only under an “extreme” climate change scenario, and only by 2100.
• Over a 41,000 year period the Tropic of Cancer crawls around between roughly 22.5 and 24.5 degrees. Because the Tropic moves by tiny amounts the length of the line also varies. But it is approximately 36,749 km (22,835 miles) long.
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