Monday, September 21, 2009

The Story of the Paper Plane: Hollywood Movie in the Making?

You thought that the story of the red balloon you watched so many moons ago was moving. Wait to you hear this one. A poor stateless boy pleads with the authorities of his adopted country to let him compete in an international paper airplane contest--after his airplane stayed aloft for 12.5 seconds and winning in his age bracket "for an expenses-paid, global paper airplane competition held Sept. 19-20 in Chiba, Japan." He was refused his prize--the reason? According to the Global Post "Mong, was ineligible because he was born to Burmese construction workers in the Thai city of Chiang Mai." As a result of the decision he cried all day. As a "a citizen of nowhere." because "Thai law insists that, by parentage, Mong belongs to Burma — a neighboring country that does not even recognize his birth." Mong was a temporary resident at constant risk for deportation. Someone in the media got hold of the story and through a tearful display on TV news and public opinion Thailand's Prime Minister intervened and Mong was allowed to compete.

Apparently there are over two million stateless people in Thailand the result of laws that place immigrant workers at their peril when they leave police states like Burma. It turns out the boy finished the 3rd place and feels proud of his efforts. The larger question is whether the story will bring renewed pressure to ensure that other stateless people are given pathways out of their often desperate situations.
My guess is not until a Hollywood film director gets hold of the film rights. There is no doubting that the film could be a runaway success--what after all could symbolize better what freedom means than a simple paper airplane expertly crafted by a stateless boy?

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