Myanmar expats raise Rambo battle-cry in Singapore

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - The critics may have turned up their noses at the latest Rambo offering, but for 600 Myanmar nationals in Singapore, the Vietnam War veteran’s single-handed demolition of swathes of the Burmese army was a huge hit.

Actor Sylvester Stallone arrives for a photocall to promote the movie "Rambo" in Madrid January 28, 2008. REUTERS/Susana Vera/Files

As the closing credits rolled on Sunday on Sylvester Stallone’s latest orgy of blood-letting, this time set in the jungles of Myanmar’s Karen State, whoops and cheers erupted from the block-booked audience.

For some, it was elation at seeing somebody -- albeit a fictional Hollywood character -- taking it to the foot-soldiers of a military regime that has ruled with an iron fist for the last 46 years.

For others, it was a painful but telling reminder of real life-and-death encounters.

“Everything is almost -- 80 percent -- the same as what the movie showed,” said 28-year-old Cinthy, a student who grew up in Karen State, where the mainly Christian people have been fighting for independence for 59 years.

“They rape the Karen people. They kill the Karen people. They just try to kill the village,” she said, recalling one military incursion into her village when she was just five years old.

“My parents ran away and we all went and slept inside the jungle and bushes,” she said. “Twenty years later, it’s the same”.

In “Rambo 4”, released a week ago, an ageing John Rambo leaves his quiet retirement as a boat repair man in Bangkok to help Christian missionaries kidnapped by a battalion of Burmese soldiers in Karen State.

After the crushing of last September’s monk-led protests, anti-junta activists see the movie as a rallying cry to a cause that receives little Western backing beyond words of support for detained opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We wanted to show our unity,” said Edward, a leader of the Overseas Burmese Patriots group which coordinated the movie’s screening, complete with red t-shirts reading “We pursue peace, justice and democracy for Burma”.

He declined to give his family name, mindful of the dim view Singapore authorities take of any political gathering of more than four people.

“The war is still a reality,” Edward said. “Rambo can let the world know the military government is totally cruel.”