ONE to WATCH

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - REPORTAGE - Burma With Si­mon Reeve starts on BBC Two to­mor­row, 9pm

Si­mon Reeve trav­els to Burma to wit­ness first-hand the im­pact of a bru­tal mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion that saw hun­dreds of thou­sands of eth­nic Ro­hingya Mus­lims driven from their homes. Barbara Ge­orge finds out more WHY DID NOW FEEL LIKE THE RIGHT TIME TO MAKE THIS SE­RIES?

In the last cou­ple of years, Burma (also called Myanmar) has prop­erly started to open up to trav­ellers. I felt it would be a fas­ci­nat­ing time to visit a coun­try that was go­ing through a process of huge change. We were plan­ning and talk­ing about these jour­neys be­fore the Ro­hingya catas­tro­phe be­gan to de­velop prop­erly last sum­mer, and then, when that hap­pened, we felt it was even more im­por­tant to try and go there, travel around and try to work out what on earth is go­ing on. We’ve tried to show other as­pects of life in Burma as well, and ex­plore other eth­nic ar­eas of the coun­try where sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions have also been hap­pen­ing.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE SEE­ING THE RO­HINGYA CRI­SIS FIRST-HAND?

Noth­ing can ever re­ally pre­pare you for the over­whelm­ing emo­tions you feel when you are hear­ing the sto­ries of peo­ple who have suf­fered, and when you are see­ing, with your own eyes, im­mense hu­man dra­mas and tragedies play­ing out. I felt re­ally, deeply moved — and up­set and an­gry as well — by what I was see­ing. We weren’t able to go into the Ro­hingya ar­eas within Burma, so in­stead we trav­elled into Bangladesh and then dou­bled back, right up to the Burmese bor­der and vis­ited what is now the largest refugee camp in the world. There is sad­ness there, tragedy, cheeky chil­dren play­ing foot­ball — there is hu­mour amongst the dark­ness as well. There is all hu­man life.

CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT ANY DIF­FI­CULT MO­MENTS YOU EX­PE­RI­ENCED?

We came across this young guy, a Ro­hingya man, who had gone back across the bor­der to try and check on his farm in­side Burma. He had been caught by the Burmese mil­i­tary, very badly beaten up and threat­ened with his life. He had his skull frac­tured and crawled back across the bor­der — I had to treat him and ban­dage up his head, which was bleed­ing heav­ily, and then take him to a field hos­pi­tal. It was com­pletely sur­real, and very up­set­ting.

HOW SCARY WAS THIS TRIP COM­PARED WITH OTHERS YOU’VE EM­BARKED UPON?

There were cer­tain mo­ments of real fear and ter­ror. In the sec­ond pro­gramme, we cross into the east­ern part of Burma — we are sort of smug­gled across the bor­der and had to run through the jun­gle at night to evade army pa­trols. That was def­i­nitely a lump in the stom­ach sort of mo­ment. As was go­ing on pa­trol with the Shan State Army. They were very quick to tell us that they never know when they’re go­ing to have con­tact with the en­emy.

HOW LONG ARE YOU USU­ALLY AWAY FILM­ING?

I tend to try and do three-week trips max­i­mum be­cause I have a seven-year-old son who I am slightly ob­sessed with and very keen to re­turn home to, so I can take him to Beavers and foot­ball.

DOES HE HAVE THE SAME AD­VEN­TUR­OUS STREAK AS YOU?

I hope not! I’m cer­tainly try­ing to dis­cour­age it. I want him to do in­ter­est­ing and ex­cit­ing things in life, and I have promised him a big present if he breaks a leg, or if he breaks any­thing, be­cause that will mean he is tak­ing ex­cit­ing risks. But my plan is to tether him to me later in life, so he can’t go off jol­ly­ing around the world. I will just bribe and black­mail him to stay at home, I think.

DOES BE­ING A DAD CHANGE THE WAY YOU WORK?

I don’t do crazily long trips any­more be­cause my first re­spon­si­bil­ity is to be a dad. And, al­though we are talk­ing about the danger­ous mo­ments in an ad­ven­ture I’ve had, gen­er­ally we try and re­duce the risks as much as pos­si­ble. We’re not bonkers — we wear seat belts and think about what we are do­ing and try and make sure we all come home safely.

DO YOU HOPE YOUR SHOWS IN­SPIRE VIEW­ERS TO TAKE MORE OF AN IN­TER­EST IN THE WORLD AROUND THEM?

Def­i­nitely. There is a risk that we’ve all evolved into think­ing hol­i­days should be about sit­ting by a pool. Get­ting out of a re­sort, and get­ting off the beaten track, push­ing our­selves out of our com­fort zones, is where the strong­est mem­o­ries and the most emo­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences lie. Take chances — don’t just go for the club sand­wich and get out and do stuff that your granny or grand­chil­dren wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily ap­prove of. This is a safe and hos­pitable world, de­spite what the me­dia will some­times tell us. There has never been a bet­ter time to get out and ex­plore.

TREACH­ER­OUS TRIP: Si­mon Reeve in Burma

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