Mon, Feb 18, 2008
Banned 'Rambo' a hot commodity in Myanmar

YANGON, MYANMAR - POLICE in military-run Myanmar have banned DVD vendors from selling the new 'Rambo' film about a Vietnam war veteran fighting the junta's soldiers, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to buy it.

'Many customers keep asking about 'Rambo 4' but I dare not to sell it. Police have warned me I could go to jail for up to seven years if I sell the latest Rambo film,' said one vendor, who declined to be named.

Another seller said at least 20 customers asked him each day whether he had a copy of 'Rambo.' 'I don't even know what kind of movie it is. I too want to see it but even among sellers it is very difficult to get copies,' he said.

Starring Sylvester Stallone, the blood-splattering follow-up to the classic 1980s film trilogy sees war veteran John Rambo fighting Myanmar forces to rescue captured Christian missionaries helping ethnic Karen villagers.

The film, which portrays Myanmar's military as sadistic and depraved, opened recently in the United States and Singapore against a backdrop of the junta's ongoing persecution of Karen minorities.

Just on Thursday, a top leader of Myanmar's largest Karen rebel group was assassinated at his exile home in Thailand by two gunmen, fuelling speculation among Myanmar exiles that Pado Manh Sha could have been killed by the junta.

In Yangon, the banned Rambo film has become one of the most sought-after DVDs, creating underground buzz among movie fans.

'Many people are talking about this movie, but I cannot buy it anywhere,' complained a 30-year-old business man, who declined to be identified. He said he also tried several times to download the film from the Internet.

'I have asked a DVD seller where I can buy the movie, but he told me I can buy anything - including banned porn videos from India, China, Japan and South Korea - but not 'Rambo 4',' he shrugged.

One 45-year-old pro-democracy activist was among a lucky few to watch it.

'I watched the movie at home with my family, and gave it to my friends because I wanted them to see it,' he said.

'I like the movie very much because Rambo fought against Myanmar soldiers,' said the activist, who declined to be named. He refused to say how he had obtained the copy.

In Myanmar, sales of pirated DVDs, mostly from neighbouring China, are illegal, but police rarely crack down on the thriving street business.

One DVD disc costs around 1,500 kyats (S$1.78) at roadside shops.

South Korean soap operas and Hollywood blockbusters are among the most popular.

For 25-year-old university student Mu Mu, the latest Rambo holds no appeal - her choice is South Korean dramas.

'I am not interested in watching 'Rambo.' I am only interested in buying Korean drama series,' she said.

'Thanks to China, we can buy easily DVDs at a low price,' Mu Mu said.

Vendors said there were some Rambo copies smuggled from Singapore, but said the audio and video quality was not good. They advise eager Myanmar customers to wait for pirated DVDs from China.

'Once this movie hits China, I think there will be a way for us to see it with much better quality,' one vendor said. -- AFP


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