- The Observer, Sunday 27 January 2008
The dusty transit van we’d hired for two bottles of Johnnie Walker was struggling down the road to Rangoon airport. Thousands of people blocked the way, monks in red robes and nuns in paler ones chanted and held hands. People seemed to appear from nowhere, holding flowers and walking slowly along the road. We wondered what was going on – Rangoon had been deserted up to this point. Nobody would tell us anything. Our driver just said we had to get to the airport now and refused to answer any other questions. I leaned out the back to take photos of the people, who smiled and waved in response. I assumed it must be a holy festival. At the airport, all was confusion and chaos: my camera was emptied and my luggage searched for film. We were finally bundled on to a plane to be met at Bangkok airport by the world’s press – we were the first foreigners out of Burma and they were eager to hear our story. My interview with Reuters made it to the front page of the Bangkok Post; I talked of the carnival atmosphere. But within days, I began to read of the atrocities – those soldiers we’d seen earlier had been attacking the people walking with flowers, arresting the monks.