“What if nothing is happening when you get there, and you’re stuck for weeks?” asked a Sky News boss.
It was a strange but valid question as we pondered our final plans for our secret journey into the jungles of Myanmar.
We knew there was a military coup in 2021, a civilian coup, and stories of an escalating civil war, but the details were sketchy.
Foreign journalists are sometimes allowed into Myanmar by the junta, but the problem is that wherever you go you are watched, and you cannot go where you want. You are only shown what the government wants you to see. And it is impossible for many local journalists to work independently, many are in hiding, being hunted by the junta, others have fled into the jungle.
For two years we wrestled with plans to go to Myanmar and find the other side of the story, but COVID 19 global pandemic, Then Ukraine was shot at the start of the war.and of course The Ukraine War had himself ascertained that our journey should be delayed.
Sometimes journalistically you know there is a story waiting to be told. I felt it, and Sky’s senior foreign producer Dominic van Heerden was totally convinced and urged everyone to reject the notion that a month in the jungle could be a waste of time. .
Jungle’s secret hospital on the frontline
As I glimpsed the makeshift tents of thousands of displaced people on the sides of the mountains and passed the piles of Myanmar military vehicles on the streets that had been destroyed in the fighting just days before, I knew we were right to come. .
There is a major civil war in this country, a civil war that has been going on and on for decades, but now on Janata takeover in 2021 – and the rise of young people flooding from the cities to join militias and armies in the country’s many ethnically diverse states.
The Myanmar jungle was to be our home for a month as we reported on a war that few outsiders witnessed. Our task was to gather evidence of a conflict that the junta denies and to record the testimonies of thousands of civilians forced from their homes after a wave of airstrikes, artillery shells and infantry attacks.
Schools, hospitals, synagogues, shops, even their rice fields are being destroyed in the army’s efforts to crush the resistance.
Read more about Myanmar:
How China is using a new railway to expand its influence in Myanmar.
More ‘death and destruction’ to come, UN warns
Children among 100 killed as soldiers target village
Inside the country, it was clear every day that this was a dangerous and challenging exercise. If we are wounded or in trouble there is no easy retreat, no respite from danger because everywhere is dangerous, and if we find ourselves surrounded there is no safe haven to run to.
But this is what Myanmar people experience every day, and they have no option to leave after a month.
We were always on the move, and often changed camps because you couldn’t stay anywhere long because of the possibility of spies finding us and reporting back to the authorities.
I don’t think I’ve ever had an assignment where I felt so threatened every hour of every day.
But we felt that witnessing the incredible bravery of volunteers, paramedics, doctors and nurses, working in dire and dangerous conditions – and documenting the resilience of families to survive and even thrive in this environment. to do Daily danger, death and destruction.
Most of the people we spoke to told us how the Myanmar military is strengthening its resolve rather than breaking it.
As we were leaving, we wanted to thank everyone who looked after us, and it was incredibly emotional because we felt like we were leaving them behind.
Leaving the hospital was also especially nerve-wracking because we knew there was a good chance we wouldn’t see any of these people again. And they knew it too.
As we walked out, a surgeon came, looked us in the eye, and said: “I hope to see you again one day and have a drink together in Yangon… when this is all over.”
Will they succeed? It’s possible, but it’s likely to take a lot of time.