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SALWEEN

Thailand, 1993 (MIFF 1994, Prince Chatri Retrospective)

Director: Chatrichalerm Yukol

Through the personal moral confusion and conflicts of a young idealistic police officer, Salween highlights the terrible killing and lawlessness of the Thai-Burma border. A conflict that stretches back to when Burma achieved independence without first having found an acceptable solution to the problem of the various ethnic minorities. In 1947, the Karens began a battle to establish a separate and independent Karen State. Thousands are killed in the constant fighting, yet little is known of the struggle. Apart from those killed in the actual fighting, the state of lawlessness, where neither Thai nor Burmese laws can be enforced, results in untold hardships for villages living under the gun.

In this setting, with all its moral and political ambiguities, we find young police officer Lieutenant Danai, who tries to do the right thing when he is sent to police the area along the banks of the Salween River. He discovers that the police murder their suspects, helpless as they are in the face of all the confusion, believing it vital for keeping law and order. When Danai is sent across the Salween into Burma to apprehend an escaped murderer, he too is faced with the same moral dilemma: with justice impossible to enforce in this lawless land, should he kill the criminal or see him go free? That Yukol offers no easy solutions to the very real questions about the region, yet has managed to make a tense action-drama, is testament to his great skills as a filmmaker.
- Phillip Cheah, Singapore Film Festival

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