June 1st, 2003

Myanmar in the spotlight

If you've somehow missed this fact from the previous journal entries, I visited Myanmar for 3 weeks in February, and I absolutely loved the place. It has an other-worldly charm, which feels more like time-travel than world-travel. For the last few decades, its been rather ignored by the rest of the planet, and usually it needs to be introduced as "formerly Burma", like some sort of maiden name.

In the last few weeks it has burst onto the global stage (relatively), but as is all too often the case, for all the wrong reasons.

A brief history:
1000AD - 1880s: the Burmans (under many names and ethnic groups) self ruled.

1880s - 1930s: British colonial rule. Left a strong western influence, including the language.

1962 - 1988: Under the crazy,
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<a [...] region's>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

<img title="Taken from the Myanmar phonbook" width=277 height=689 src="http://66.92.164.246/image/journal/IMG_2084%20zoom.JPG"
align="left" valign="top">If you've somehow missed this fact from the previous journal entries, I visited <a href="http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/south_east_asia/myanmar/">Myanmar</a> for 3 weeks in February, and I absolutely loved the place. It has an other-worldly charm, which feels more like time-travel than world-travel. For the last few decades, its been rather ignored by the rest of the planet, and usually it needs to be introduced as "formerly Burma", like some sort of maiden name.

In the last few weeks it has <a href="http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&edition=&q=myanmar&btnG=Search+News">burst onto the global stage</a> (relatively), but as is <a href="http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&edition=usa&q=congo&btnG=Search+News">all</a> <a href="http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&edition=&q=laci+peterson&btnG=Search+News">too </a> often the case, for all the wrong reasons.

A brief history:
1000AD - 1880s: the Burmans (under many names and ethnic groups) self ruled.

1880s - 1930s: British colonial rule. Left a strong western influence, including the language.

1962 - 1988: Under the <a title="overnight he replaced the country's existing currency with 45-kyat and 90-kyat notes because nine was his lucky number" href=''><b>crazy</b></a>, <a href='' title="He was so suspicious of foreigners that he walled Burma off from almost
all outside contact, imposing an erratic "Burmese Road to Socialism" that
turned the region's richest country into its poorest in only three
decades.
"><b>paranoid</b></a> and corrupt General Ne Win Burma went communist and took a serious backslide into the 1700s technologically.

1988 - 1990: Gen Ne Win was forced out, but replaced by some of his best buddies in a military <a href="http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?junta">junta</a>. The <a href="http://www.dassk.com/">leader</a> of the opposition party was put under house arrest.

The junta renamed the country Myanmar to distance themselves from the countrys negative <a title="among other things"><b>human rights</b></a> record.

1990 - 1992: After an election they lost badly to the party that intended to further democratize the contry, the junta refused to turn over power and suspended the constitution

1992 - present: <a title="term of respect"><b>Daw</b></a> <a title="father, General Aung San, had been a national hero who helped Burma gain British independence" href="http://myhero.com/hero.asp?hero=suukyi">Aung San</a> <a href="http://www.dassk.com" title="leader">Suu Kyi</a> is released from prison. During a series of speaking tours, the goverment grows concerned after her traveling speeches gather large crowds. There is an altercation involving Aung San Suu Kyi's entourage, and several of her supporters are left dead. She is arrested, and has not been seen in roughly 2 weeks. The offices for her party the National League for Democracy are locked, and universitys are suspended by the government.


The govt are rough folks. When I spent extended time with locals, they would eventually speak of of spies everywhere, people disappearing. The guidebooks were clear about this while we were there. But there was always a comforting sense that 'we were tourists'. The govt doesn't fuck with tourists. And the govt is the only bad guy around. So we felt safe, untouchable.


Daw Aung San Suu Kyi isn't the lone voice of resistance in Myanmar, but she's certainly the most visible. Many shops and homes, keep a framed black and white photograph of her father. He's a war hero, who would likely have led the country, if he hadn't been assassinated. But the party has some cracks. Aung San Suu Kyi wants outside countries to boycott trade. To speed the country into a collapse, knowing rightly that if it all goes down, she will be the next leader. Some former patry members would prefer trade as a way to steadily improve quality of life, and through corporations to have a way to put pressure on the government. Regardless of which you feel is a better approach, things seem to be coming to a head fast and furious. Both the US & UN are beging to put pressure on the govt to release her, or at least provide proof that she is healthy.

<hr>

<a href="http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1471934/20030516/less_than_jake.jhtml?headlines=true">Less</a> <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000093U1G/ref=cm_rev_all_1/102-3639967-1660139?v=glance&s=music&n=507846&vi=customer-reviews">Than </a> <a href="http://www.punknews.org/article.php?sid=6186">Jake</a> <a href="http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&safe=off&scoring=d&q=%22less+than+jake%22&btnG=Google+Search">have</a> a <a href="http://ubl.artistdirect.com/music/artist/card/0,,566849,00.html?src=redirsearch&artist=Less+Than+Jake">new</a> <a href="http://www.lessthanjake.com/anthem/">album</a> <a href="http://www.lessthanjake.com/">out</a>.