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Don’t Fence Me In-Major Mary and the Karen Refugees from Burma cover image

Don’t Fence Me In-Major Mary and the Karen Refugees from Burma 2004

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources, 101 Morse Street, Watertown, MA 02472; 617-926-0491
Produced by Ruth Gumnit
Directed by Ruth Gumnit
DVD, color, 30 min.

College - Adult
Asian Studies, Human Rights, Women's Studies

Date Entered: 02/16/2007

Reviewed by Karen Hartman, Rutgers University

Widespread governmental and societal discrimination against minorities has characterized Burma since that country’s independence from the British in 1948. Among the ethnic minorities persecuted by the Burmese are the Karen people and their plight is the focus of the documentary, Don’t Fence Me In. The principle voice of the Karen in the film is the spirited freedom fighter, Major Mary On. This vital septuagenarian is the leader of the eight Karen refugee camps on the Thailand border and her stories depict the struggle of the Karen. Covert video footage smuggled out of the refugee camp document the burning of Karen villages by the current military junta and the suffering of those scattered in jungle encampments inside of Burma. Interviews with Karen from the Huay Kalok, Umphium and Mae La refugee camps convey the depth of the human rights abuses committed by the Burmese military. As Major Mary notes, “The Burmese army don’t want the Karen to be a Karen-they want only Burmese.”

Major Mary is the embodiment of the Karen’s strength, resilience, and determination to decide their political destiny. The documentary connects most effectively with the audience whenever she is on the screen, particularly as she describes her history and involvement with the Karen independence movement.

Don’t Fence Me In provides a steppingstone for discussion and study in Asian studies, sociology, women’s studies. It is highly recommended.