Adam Boulton
Secret Passage Into Devastated Burma

350burma By Sky News cameraman in Burma

Enormous efforts had to be made behind the scenes in Bangkok before just three of our 15 strong team were able to penetrate Burma’s closed border.

Through methods that cannot be disclosed, a producer, a reporter and myself, a cameraman/editor, made it to our base for the coming week, Rangoon.

Difficult though it was to get into Rangoon, it was to prove far more of a challenge to get back out of the city, and into the delta region.

The city is sealed off from the delta by a series of check-points along its connecting roads. To be caught and identified as a journalist would have meant immediate expulsion for us, and imprisonment for anyone thought to be assisting us.

Our first two attempts to enter the region were unsuccessful. But finally, on our third attempt, again by methods that cannot be disclosed for the safety of all concerned, Sky News entered the devastated delta region.

Travel through the delta was tough-going. We spent many hours on broken, unpaved roads, and as many again in long-tail boats, open to the elements. The heat in the delta is suffocating, malaria and dengue fever a real hazard, the monsoon rains almost unimaginably heavy.

We barely ate or slept for two days. We took the minimum of kit with us. A mosquito net, sleeping bag, waterproofs, boots and water.

Using Sky’s latest technology, everything we needed to broadcast live pictures from this inhospitable corner of the world, fitted into a small backpack.

Due to the vastly increased presence of police and military in the area, (we were told more for security than aid efforts), we had to keep moving the whole time. We grasped brief filming opportunities whenever we could. On one occasion, we had to lie low and hide in the back of a boat whilst the military crossed a bridge just meters away.

On another, we came very close to being caught by a passing police boat. At all times we had to remain hidden from view, our fair skin colour so easy to spot among the local people. We passed-by swollen, forgotten bodies amongst the reeds, shattered buildings, villages and lives. We saw and filmed the saddest of scenes that have become all too familiar over the past three weeks.

Each time we went ashore, we witnessed for a brief time, the miserable existence of these unfortunate people. The villagers were only too pleased to welcome us and would offer us all they could give.

It was a truly humbling experience. We filmed quickly; images and interviewees were not difficult to find. At the last village we visited, we took a gamble and set up the equipment necessary to go live. The laptop, satellite dish and camera were an incongruous sight on the muddy banks of the tropical river, among a people, most of whom had rarely, if ever, seen a westerner.

The reporter mentioned how strange it was to be stood at that spot, and listen via her earpiece to the gallery at Sky going about its daily business. It was all quite surreal. And so we were able to report live on the plight of the people in the delta. The loss, the despair, the lack of help.

We filmed enough for the required reports and looked on as privately donated aid was distributed from one of our boats. The villagers were deeply grateful for the little help that was offered.

Eventually our guide decided that it had become too dangerous for us to remain in the delta any longer, and so we set about the return trek to Rangoon. From there we edited and sent our reports and continued providing live links.

Our journey was an intense experience. We witnessed great suffering and hardship among a people that had so little to begin with, and that are now left with virtually nothing at all.

Operating as a television news crew in this environment is certainly not easy, but no matter where an event like this may happen in the world, it’s always important that the full story be told.

Written by Sky News, 23/05/2008


Well done Team Sky who went to Delta. True stories leaking out of Burma is the greatest fear of military regime. Even Burmese private people are not allowed to help the victims. Some of them went to jail. It is very cruel scenes and i appreciate your courage to get in there and help the people. I am writing on behalf of peoples from remote Delta. They had never seen the technology in their life time. This is systematis dispowerment of people by Junta.

If the Burma government don't want us involved then so be it. Leave them alone. We would be the same. There are enough problems in UK that we pay our taxes to solve without poking our noses throughout the world.

Journalism as you know is best served when done so by a team of dedication and courage, whose inpartiality speaks volumes vis Sky.
Your story whilst to be applauded and one which will have long lasting memeories has further shown the world through your words what human nature is really like within the region, albeit otherwise portrayed by the powers to be.
Thankfully, the Junta have agreed to all such outside aid to be delivered directly, however little, but sadly in many a case too late.
None the less, [Sinead O'Connor-Nothing Comapres to You] and our deepest best wishes are with you any time and all the time!
Take Care.

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