Monday, December 31, 2007
"Do something, do something!" Gunter Grass
Here is an organization to help -- in 2008 and beyond -- note call for papers for special issue on Burma in Spring 2008.
Kyi May Kaung
Jan. 25th Friday.
7.10 PM to 8.30 PM --
Pakistan: Military Rule and Democracy -- by political economist Dr. Kyi May Kaung
at Kefa Cafe, 963 Bonifant St., Silver Spring, MD.
Dr. Kaung wishes to add that she is not an expert on Pakistan, only a supporter of world wide democracy. This event was first planned in October 2007, after the first assassination attempt on Benazir Bhutto of the Pakistan People's Party. Ms. Bhutto survived.
Since then, we sadly mourn her loss and worry for Pakistan's future.
For this event there are no specific book reading assignments other than to read the news. We look forward to a discussion which will add to our understanding of this complex region.
For everyone in Burma, stay alive and well --
For Americans, please be less self centered.
Don't give me a version of "Why should we care?"
I have heard it one time too many.
We need to care because we are all interconnected.
"When a butterfly flutters its wings in one part of the world, it can eventually cause a hurricane in another . . ."
From Edward Lorenz and Chaos Theory.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
and find BUR-2007-1230-1930
program is 15.47 minutes into the whole broadcast.
Thanks for listening.
Summary: I said that analysts should take a more macro economic approach rather than a micro economic approach and that due to the command economy of the Burmese junta, the people will have a hard time and real economic development will not take place.
Things will be mitigated somewhat by the geographic proximity of the booming Chinese and Indian economies and the discovery of natural gas deposits in Burma.
But very little will trickle down to ordinary people.
I presented a similar argument with more detailed figures in a recent article in Mizzima.com
You can find everything I have written by Googling my full name.
Copyright Kyi May Kaung.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Glad I never went -- relatives who did described it the same way.
then to "ah than" in Burmese --
where you should look for
2nd part starts at 24.01 mins into the program, you will hear female voices -- rest of broadcast sounds all male. Use fast forward button and cursor.
Do I hear my friends in poor countries like Burma going, "Oh, oh, oh! -- Perfectly good buildings!"
Notice how skillfully the implosion is carried out.
Don't you wish it were a neat metaphor for old defunct systems like dictatorships and command economies? Unfortunately, political and economic systems don't (can't) go down, or be brought down, that neatly.
Kyi May Kaung
This is one of the paintings I created and exhibited in Chiangmai in July -- based on green vines and black house outside my veranda.
Poem copyright Kyi May Kaung --
I took a bit of poetic license here -- rosselle seeds do not cling to your clothes like some grass seeds - but it's emotionally true, as they say on TV interviews.
Kyi May Kaung
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
It art so threatening?
it's in Burmese, abt 15 mins into the program -- 2007/12/25
-- economist colleagues in Burma apparently heard it.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I read the script, leaked by Paramount on line, and it is masterly.
Daniel D. Lewis is one of those wonderful classically trained British actors.
He was scary also in Gangs of New York, as the Butcher -- I feel this role is played in the same way.
Strange no one picked that up.
I "watched" Gangs with my eyes half closed most of the time -- so much -- too much blood and graphic violence -- but the story was still mesmerizing.
In the end that is all that counts, the story.
Kyi May Kaung
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Sunday, December 23, 2007
We don't even know who they were, and their families may never know what happened to them.
It's interesting how the movie adaptation, a loose one, focuses on character -- and it's disintegration, and "loses" the socialist literalism of Upton Sinclair's original.
The director and the actor revealed very little plot, but analysed character a lot in a recent interview with Charlie Rose.
I haven't seen the film yet, but think the screenplay -- leaked by Paramount, is masterful.
Kyi May Kaung.
Toughtful review of movie There Will be Blood, based on Upton Sinclair's novel Oil! -- published in 1927.
One example: This is the time to donate Tho Thingan Robes.
-- You have it wrong, it's not "Tho Thingan" -- it's "Ma Tho Thingan." (Robes that last forever, don't go bad).
-- No, I meant Tho Thingan -- as we can't donate (the robes, because the monks all gone) the robes have gone bad (tho thwa te)
--- The comedians play "good cop, bad cop." One on far right says --
-- "I am afraid, I am afraid" and keeps walking out.
-- At beginning he says, "We agreed, didn't we? No sending metta (loving kindness.)"
-- In September, the monks walked around the city chanting the metta sutra and have been brutally repressed, with the arrests etc continuing.
-- We salute all these brave artists and the audience who supported them.
Sketch, notes and translation by Kyi May Kaung.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
The so-called Saffron Revolution began in August 07 due to fuel price hikes by the Burmese government. A naive blogger wrote "I hope they removed the price hikes."
Here is an example of how the generals create artificial scarcity -- in a system gone bonkers:
This is what the Burmese call -- ta lwe zapin kaun -- or
"Beautiful hair in the wrong place," i.e. in pubic area.
A member of the Burmese language broadcast media recently asked me by email -- "Which sectors should the Burmese economy give priority to?"
I declined that interview.
As it's the whole political-economic system that is upside down, due to the power holders making all the economic and other decisions, only a complete system change or systemic reforms, not piece meal measures, will make a difference.
Meanwhile the poor Burmese people continue to suffer while the regime and the crony capitalists get rich. That is why I have no time for junta apologists.
Copyright Kyi May Kaung
Saturday, December 15, 2007
There's an apparent typo in the text -- the monastery must be Old Ma Soe Yein -- which means
"Old, Never Fear" Monastery.
It can't be "Ma Soe" as Ma Soe is a woman's name, Ms. Soe.
Otherwise everything in this article confirms what has been reported elsewhere.
Kyi May Kaung
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Let's do this for the monks of Burma --
Monday, December 10, 2007
Sunday, December 09, 2007
What it is like post-clampdown, which is really a misnomer as the clampdown is continuing and seemingly without an end.
After the meeting with Suu Kyi described in this piece, the junta has gone back to its old ways.
Kyi May Kaung
UN Human Rights Rapporteur Sergio Pinhiero's Report Finds Serious Abuses in Burmese Junta's Continuing Crackdown --
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Friday, December 07, 2007
Min Min Oo (pseudonym of high school student interviewed by Human Rights Watch)
Ironically, in the past 19 years since 1988 and past 45 years since 1962, this is nothing new in Burma (which the junta calls Myanmar).
Posted by Kyi May Kaung
Torture methods used and conditions in Burmese prisons are detailed here --
(based on a photograph)
This is Ma Soe Yein Sayadaw (Abbot), U Kovida, who will be accepting the degree on behalf of all the monks of Burma, including of course U Kovida who fled from the regime and is now on the Burma-Thai Border and U Gambira, who was arrested inside Burma.
U Gambira's father was released this week. The junta arrested his family members, including a AIDS patient, before it found and arrested him. He had been in hiding in Pauk in central Burma, gave interviews on his cell phone (Oct. 19th) while he was on the run. U Gambira has been charged with treason for which there is a death sentence. Amnesty International has designated him a prisoner of conscience of special concern.
Please speak out and be active for U Gambira and the monks of Burma and all the people of Burma.
Give to people who really need it, including Burmese refugees.
Here are some organizations that you can find on the Internet --
1. Burma Refugee Project -- run by a medical doctor and a social scientist -- they have a medical clinic on the Thai-Burma Border. The number of refugees increases as the Burmese junta grows more oppressive.
2. Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners -- Burma -- (AAPPB) -- They send money to political prisoners in Burma, of whom there are between 2000 and 3000 at any time in Burma, and growing daily, through trusted channels and provide other strategic/logistical help. In Burma, you can be arrested for anything, including clapping during the recent demonstrations. The prisoners are spread all over the country in different jails and the families (already stressed) have to provide htaung win sar -- ("money to get into prison") -- of which the jailers take a large portion, to feed their son/daughter or other family member in detention.
3. Burma Border Consortium (BBC) -- Has been feeding Burmese refugees for the last 19 years. Recently suffered a funding cut. Are only able to provide basics such as rice and fish sauce.
4. Democratic Voice of Burma, radio and TV station broadcasting to Burma -- yesterday won prize from Reporters Without Borders for coverage of The Saffron Revolution. Only station which aired photographs of the demonstrations, taken by their Citizen Journalists, who risked their lives to do so, and are in hiding or were arrested. Oslo based, with staff on the Thai-Burma border.
5. Mizzima.com -- a newsletter run from India and Thailand.
I am a board member of BRP and sometimes contribute articles to Mizzima ("Middle Earth") - and have been interviewed by DVB, but have no financial connection with any of these organizations.
Kyi May Kaung
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I am just experiencing this, and have experienced it in non-profit world where I mostly work, even at level of writing articles/books.
Partly it's due to enthusiasm and so project grows in ambition, but I feel every now and then one should, as diplomatically as possible, draw the line.
And keep one's rights as a free lance writer.
Even work for hire, sometimes the employer encroaches.
A friend told me that she was asked to turn in all photos she took on her own on a work trip. She refused.
We should be like doctors and dentists. "Would you like to write the check now?" (Before anyone touches our teeth etc). Why do people think we can write (or paint) effortlessly and without any costs, in our sleep.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
I first noticed this article in a browse-through due to the name Kamdar.
Yes, she is one of the Rangoon Kamdars that I used to hear mutual friends talk about.
Interesting that almost everyone that the junta thought it would see the last of when they expelled them in 1962, has become influential in the world.
It just shows the enduring power of truth.
Kyi May Kaung
The recent crisis in Burma that started in August with the Burmese government raising fuel prices from 100 to 500% happened at a time when world fuel prices were $72 per barrel. At the end of November, light sweet crude was at $99 per barrel and seemed likely to rise further. But the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank's interest rate cuts and a sufficient supply of oil, resulted in a slight price fall this past week.
Any assessment of the economic fallout of the crisis in Burma will have to include these international economic factors as well as systemic factors built into the command economy that the SPDC favors.
An assessment is doubly difficult as it has to be based on figures for isolated years; estimates picked from different publications at different times, that don’t form a continuous time series. So my analysis will be for the most part quite conjectural, but it will give a picture of what to expect in Burma in this international context where the United States is probably in for a recession due to the home mortgage debt crisis, while China is playing an increasing role in the world economy and is not expected to have any dampening of its 10-11% p.a. growth rates. (See The Economist, How fit is the Panda?” Sept. 29th, 2007, pp. 75-77.)
Burma’s other main neighbor on the west, India, is also increasingly a major player on the world economic stage, with an average of 8% growth in the last 3 years (CIA Factbook) and 9.4 % growth in 2006-2007. It just happens that Burma is geographically spliced between the two fastest growing economies in the world, and if physical closeness alone could do the job, it should be in good economic shape itself, but as everyone knows, it isn’t. It’s also resource rich, including rich in fairly well educated workers (who would be better educated if it were an open society), yet its economic prospects are always dismal.
I’d like to argue that all this is due to the military government’s command economy that has been in place more or less unchanged since 1962. Add onto this the ongoing economic and social disruption of the last 3 months, and we see a system that has been failing on its own, even without sanctions, which are more targeted and effective this time around.
I will try to beef up these impressions with what scattered statistics I can find. Probably the most reliable are from the CIA Factbook on line.
Since at least 2004, leading Burmese economists have been gently casting doubt on the performance of the Burmese economy, saying metaphorically to the effect that -- if it’s such a new model car, how can it drive so fast on such poor roads? This points to an anonymous technocrat’s realization that infrastructure and the design of the economic system are largely responsible for how fast (or slow) a growth rate can be achieved. The CIA Factbook updated Nov. 1, that I accessed on Nov. 15th, gives a 2006 estimate for Burma of 3 % per annum growth rate. As the UN Special Envoy for Burma has been talking of poverty alleviation in Burma and “trying to find out its causes” it seems relevant here that a year 2000 estimate in the CIA Factbook mentions that fully a quarter or 25% of the Burmese population is below the poverty line. The inflation rate for consumer prices (2006 estimate) is 20% per annum.
F. William Engdahl (a pseudonym?) in an article “The Geopolitical Stakes of the ‘Saffron Revolution’” Oct 17, 2007, http://samsara.tuditi.del.si/2007/11/18 accessed on Nov 19, says:
. . . few will argue that the present military dictatorship of the reclusive General Than Shwe is right up there when it comes to world class tyrannies. It’s also a fact that Myanmar enjoys (sic) one of the world’s lowest living standards. Partly as a result of the ill-conceived 100% to 500% price hikes in gasoline and other fuels in August, inflation, the nominal trigger for the mass protests led by saffron robed monks, is unofficially estimated to have risen by 35% (that is, since August?) Ironically the demand to establish “market” energy prices came from the IMF and World Bank.
The UN estimates that the population of some 50 million inhabitants spend up to 70% of their monthly income on food alone. The recent fuel price hike makes matters unbearable for tens of millions.
This points to the fact that prices may have risen “up to 35%” since August alone. Before the August to October crisis, there were reports that people could not afford to go to work because of the high transport costs due to high petrol prices. During the demonstrations themselves, some dissident websites overseas reported that over the long run, demonstrators would have difficulties in coming out onto the streets daily as they were “struggling with their livelihoods on a day to day basis.”
Looking at petroleum oil imports alone, CIA Factbook states that Burma imports 19, 180 barrels a day (2004 estimate.) At $100 per barrel, Burma would be paying $19m a day just for its fuel oil imports. Foreign experts as yet have been unable to ascertain if the army pays the central government for its fuel needs. The answer is “probably not” and as the central government and the army “tatmadaw” are increasingly becoming one and the same thing, we can only expect accelerated inflation rates post-clampdown since Oct. 2007. It is highly likely that the fuel price increases will be financed by budget deficits and more printing of paper money.
The United States has instituted stronger and more targeted sanctions against Burma which are of a financial nature, and already there are reports that Bagan Air has closed down flights specifically citing sanctions and high fuel prices as the reasons. It is also widely rumored that the targeted financial sanctions by the U.S.A. on top SPDC officials and connected businessmen has caused Singapore banks, where the junta does most of its banking and shopping, to close down the accounts of certain individuals and to return cash to the former account holders. This was said to have been transported in suitcases to Rangoon, subject to a 10% surcharge levied by the Burmese government, but we could not confirm this.
Several experts that I spoke to who did not wish to be named, said that the Burmese balance of payments and the government budget figures are in Burmese kyats, at the official exchange rate of about 7 kyats to the US dollar, while the black market or real exchange rate was about 1300 kyats to the dollar in September. They said that beyond the exchange rate, it was highly likely that the regime top brass “skims off the top” from Burma’s export earnings before the figures are entered in the official statistics. This leakage is un-estimated, but shows itself in the high spending life styles of the top junta officials.
Looking at the trade figures, total Burmese exports are $5,321 billion f.o.b. in 2006 and consist of natural gas, wood and wood products, pulses, beans, fish, rice, jade and other gems. But this official figure does not include the timber, gems, narcotics, rice and other products transported overland illegally (smuggled) to Thailand, China, India and Bangladesh. Since the “old original” Gen. Ne Win staged his coup in 1962, the military government which has ruled Burma under different names, has caused these illegal cross border trade flows to flourish due to the mass nationalizations on private enterprises immediately after 1962, the on-going inefficiency of the State Economic Enterprises, and the economic irrationality of the centrally controlled command economy. After 1988, at about the same time that the People’s Republic of China stopped financing the CPB (Communist Party Burma), the cross border trade with China was also legalized but obviously many contraband goods were not included in the official statistics. It is common knowledge that the hardwood resources of Northern Burma have been largely exploited and depleted and there are jade buying depots in Yunnan close to the Burma border.
Burma’s imports were estimated at $2.284 billion f.o.b. in 2006. CIA Factbook states that “import figures are grossly underestimated due to the value of consumer goods, diesel fuel and other products smuggled in from Thailand, China, Malaysia and India.
Burma’s main export partners and direction of exports are as follows:
Exports to Thailand consist mainly of natural gas.
Burma’s buys (imports) most from the following countries:
S. Korea 4.3%
The United States’ trade with Burma according to the U.S. Census
(accessed 11-15-2007) is
Zero imports from Burma
Exports to Burma US $7.5 billion.
In mid-November, Burma recently held another gem auction. It has been holding these emporiums increasingly frequently in an obvious attempt to raise revenues. Irrawaddy magazine reports that though many buyers came to the current emporium, and a lot of jade tonnage was sold, revenue figures were not given as they “are lower than usual this time.” Sean Turnell of Macquarie University, Sydney, has pointed out that gems are easy to hide. Burmese jade is mostly sold to Chinese customers while rubies and sapphires are cut and set into jewelry in Bangkok. In the case of rubies they are “baked” to enhance color. As the main market for Burmese gems are in Asia, it is uncertain how large an impact the gems embargo will make on Burma’s earnings from gems, which in a normal year are estimated at $300m. a year.
The SPDC typically tries to raise revenues through greater exploitation of resources and people, rather than trying to decrease spending. It could be argued that in some sense “it cannot decrease spending” as it needs to pay off its crony capitalists and top army personnel in order to buy the political support it so badly needs.
In foreign investments, an Associated Press article published on Nov 26th
states that foreign investment in Burma’s oil and gas sector reached $470m in 2006-07, accounting for more than 60% of total investment, according to recently released government statistics. Of this, $240.68m was from the U.K. and $160m from Singapore and Russia and S. Korea also had large investments in this sector. These figures show that Burma is fast becoming a country dependent on and dominated by foreign investors (corporations) in spite of the policies of the junta which are often seen as “isolationist.”
Not just the United States but Canada also tightened sanctions. But as total trade between Canada and Burma sank to $9 m. last year, the sanctions are seen as largely symbolic. (VOA news, 14 Nov. 2007). Australia likewise has a slight trade relationship with Burma, which will also be influenced by sanctions. According to the Australian government’s figures, Australian exports to Burma ranked 77th and fell 19.9% in 2006-07. Imports from Burma ranked 73rd in importance to Australia and rose 47.7% in 2006-07. Australia mainly exports wheat to Burma and imports mainly fish and shellfish (crustaceans) from Burma. According to official Australian trade figures, compiled from IMF etc., this is Burma’s trade picture.
Burma’s principal export destination, 2006 were –
1. Thailand 49.0%
2. India 12.8%
3. China 5.3%
4. Australia 0.4%
Burma’s principal import sources were:
1. China 34.6%
2. Thailand 21.8%
3. Singapore 16.2%
4. Australia 0.7%
So Australia’s sanctions on Burma are also largely symbolic and will hurt Burma more than Australia itself notices.
Besides these trade effects, the fuel price increases, the demonstrations themselves and the on-going clampdown are likely to have a dampening effect on the Burmese economy. The Economic Intelligence Unit, which estimates average consumer price inflation will be 39.5% in 2008, while real GDP growth will be 2.5%, has presented the most succinct prognosis for Burma. This was accessed from the Internet on Nov 15:
Myanmar – Economic Intelligence Unit – The Economist.
OVERVIEW: Following its brutal suppression of peaceful protestors, including Buddhist monks, in September, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC, the ruling junta) still maintains a firm grip on power. Given that public resentment towards the junta has reached new heights, there could be a renewed effort to oust the regime in the near future, but any such attempt is likely again to be violently suppressed. The US remains strongly critical of the Burmese regime, and will keep sanctions in place, as will the EU. Although China and Myanmar’s fellow members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) have expressed some criticisms of the military’s repressive actions, these countries are unlikely to impose any punishment. Economic policymaking will continue to be erratic. The energy sector will remain fairly buoyant, but the outlook for the rest of the economy is poor. High inflation will put downward pressure on the free-market exchange rate. Gas exports will put the current account in surplus.
In conclusion, as the economic fallout of the recent crisis in Burma is continuing on top of structural or systemic factors which have been in place since 1962 and 1988, and on top of the generals’ own tendencies toward erratic and dysfunctional economic behavior, overall the outlook is quite bleak. But the energy sector and the physical closeness of a super charged Chinese economy and a rapidly growing Indian one will have some mitigating effect on it all.
Copyright Kyi May Kaung.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Affordable Houses for Hot and Wet Climates: Brad Pitt commissions house designs for Ninth Ward, New Orleans --
Congrats Brad and Angelina for your activism and good sense. I hope these get built.
Kyi May Kaung
These ten were held two months without trial.
Burmese political prisoners have been held up to 19 years -- Writer U Win Tin, in his 70s, the longest time continuously.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Friday, November 30, 2007
Time for me to take out my inks from Singapore and my paper from Seoul and Bangkok.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
This is a beautiful and historic building a block from Dupont Circle --
very appropriate that I will be speaking there, partly about the role of women in Burmese politics.
Kyi May Kaung
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
I have not yet read Seamus Heaney's 1999 translation, but to me (though I don't read Old English)
this translation best captures the alliteration in each line, connecting two parts of each sentence, that is a feature of the original 11th century poem about 6th century events, of which only one manuscript survives, with two 18th century transcripts.
In 2000, Seamus Heaney's translation was included in a Norton Anthology of English Literature.
Like magical realism, the epic poem Beowulf combines real and imagined characters and events. There is a burial mound in Sweden dating to the same period that has been identified as Beowulf's. See -- Wikipedia.
Kyi May Kaung
Friday, November 23, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Arresting family members as hostages is totally unacceptable.
U Gambira, Su Su Nway and others were only excercising their God-given right to express themselves freely and peacefully.
See Francois Bizot's Memoir, The Gate.
Duch pronounced "Doik." See also First They Killed My Father, and Dith Pran and Haing S. Ngor's memoirs.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Broadway shows rake in $30m over Thanksgiving week alone.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Quote: "My blog is my castle. If you don't like it, there's another one down the road."
Saturday, November 17, 2007
- Elie Wiesel from his Nobel acceptance speech.
This quote comes from poet E. Ethelbert Miller's site. Thanks Ethelbert.
If this quote does not apply to Burma, nothing does. Let us try and keep the focus on Burma and other countries like it, other cases like it.
We can't get "compassion fatigue" when there is so much abuse. I met Weisel once in Williamsburg when he came to speak at an event to which Fulbright scholars were invited. It was 1988. March. The earth shaking events in Burma had started. But my colleague and I were still gripped by fear, and we tried to avoid the reporters.
It's amazing how far I have come, if only in losing my fear of the mike and what the Burmese junta might do. I am still afraid, of course, but I still say what I have to.
Peter, Paul and Mary sang "Pop the Magic Dragon" and we met a monk from Sri Lanka and Nelson Mandela's daughter at that Williamsburg event.
Kyi May Kaung
Thursday, November 15, 2007
2. Prevents severe illness. The flu puts about 114,000 in hospital each year in the US. Children younger than 2 are likely to be hospitalised, as are those over 65.
3. Protects others.
Center for Disease Control.
If you are in Burma, I don't know if you can get a flu shot.
In Burma, AIDS is being spread by using the same needle for everyone, especially in prisons! At home or with a doctor, make sure needles are boiled each time.
In 2001, a Burmese medical doctor called me to add into my interview of her that AIDS was being spread by monks' (head) shaving blades (thindone dah). I rushed to add it to my taped interview before it was broadcast, but the editor!!!! and the management did not allow me to make the addition!
will hit a Less (or Least) Developed Country like Burma even more.
Stallone recently gave an interview to Entertainment Tonight (ET), in which he discussed things he saw and heard during filming on location, along the Thai-Burma Border.
Go see the film and become more interested in Burma.
"Be the change you want to be." Gandhi.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
UN Security Council media stakeouts (press conferences) on briefing by Ibrihim Gambari of his most recent trip to Burma.
Listen especially to Gambari's press conference, and those of 2 US Embassadors to UN, Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad and his deputy.
I am planning regular updates on Burma on this blog and in articles I write and appearances.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
They are also sometimes called Independent Experts. They report to no government and are not paid, but receive logistical support from the UN
Web issue of TAP is read by one million unique readers a day.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Lu, writing under a pseudonym, lived 11 years in Mongolia herding sheep and wrote this part memoir, part allegory, part environmental novel over 6 years after 30 years of thinking about it.
Amazing and wonderful.
I hope champion translator Prof. Howard Goldblatt will translate it and we will be able to read it in English soon.
I went to a poetry reading today, where I bought a poetry book, Where are the love poems for dictators? by E. Ethelbert Miller.
In 1983, Ethelbert wrote:
"when the generals invite you home
do not salute them
when they ask you to forgive them
do not forgive them."
Copyright E. Ethelbert Miller.
In the Introduction, John Cavanagh, Director, Institute of Policy Studies, relates how Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffit were killed by a car bomb, (in view of the Chilean Embassy), in 1976, in Washington DC when they were on their way to work at IPS.
In Burma, in 1976, I read about the bomb.
It was only in 1998, that Jeremy Woodrum, of U.S. Campaign for Burma, in an interview I did of him at Sheridan Circle, showed me the small memorial, that looks like a tree stump, at the Circle.
John Cavanagh relates how Pinochet's arrest in London in 1998, led to the verb "Pinocheted."
It's amazing it took so long to get Ieng Sary pinocheted.
I have met variously, several Cambodian survivors and the human rights lawyer who worked on the Yale Genocide Project.
So that is what the ads on the metro are about.
For me, the late John Gardner's Grendel is still the best.
I don't know why this obviously learned book editor did not mention Gardner's work at all.
"The young monks are quiet in their cells, or they are dead. But words have escaped." John Pilger.
Definitely the most beautiful and thoughtful piece written so far about Burma.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
I really don't see how Aung San Suu Kyi could have "worked for economic development in Burma" when she was under house arrest most of the time. She was never economics minister in Burma! She has not been part of a government in power yet. She never was in a position to make decisions on a national scale that could effect the economy. For instance, she did not nationalize all industries in 1962, she does not set the purchase price of rice (paddy), decide how much and what to export, set the exchange rate of the kyat, decide how much the military government will spend, etc etc. It is the military government which does these things.
Friday, November 09, 2007
original source -- mizzima.com
"I was released at 4 PM but only got home at 9 PM, as I had to sign about 15 things. But none of them was a pledge."
Par Par Lay.
Long live comedians and other artists of all stripes in our poor beleagured country!
Thursday, November 08, 2007
This article is also on this Blog.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
How USA has no good options and Musharraf's regime is also caught in a bind.
There have been Senate and well as Congressional Hearings. I was so fortunate as to be able to attend the special Senate Foreign Relations Sub-committee Hearing on Burma in the Dirksen Building at 2.30 PM, on October 2nd.
The Hearing was attended by over 60 Burmese dissidents and democracy supporters. The DC based U.S. Coalition for Burma was well represented and almost all attendees wore USCB T-shirts calling on the front of the shirts for an arms embargo on Burma and with a sign on the back symbolizing how bloody the upcoming Beijing Olympics will seem. Burma (called Myanmar by the junta) has the largest trade ties with Thailand, China and India, and China and Russia supply it with arms. USCB and others are pressuring China to effect change in Burma.
Barbara Boxer opened the session by stating what unimaginable horrors the people of Burma have suffered. She held up photographs taken by citizen journalists inside Burma which had been printed in a large format by USCB staff. Senator John Kerry made a very strong statement, saying – “Shame on us if we take our eyes off this. Words must transfer into action. This is a bi-partisan matter.” He quoted Martin Luther King who said, “Freedom is never voluntarily given. It must be demanded by the oppressed.” Kerry said that it is time for Sr. General Than Shwe to step aside. Kerry said he had worked with Senator Mitch McConnell on Burma and there has now been years and years of oppression with the junta laying on excuses. He spoke of “their deceptions and their lies.”
Senator John Kerry: Now with this Saffron Revolution (referring to the saffron colored robes worn by the Buddhist monks), this is the second time in 20 years that this has happened and it has taken a human toll. In 1988, everyone spoke up, and then everyone lost focus. This time it is going to take a strategy or policy which has focus and applies on-going pressure.
Kerry said the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy on Burma, Mr. Ibriham Gambari had gone to Burma for a few days, and “left Burma without any sense of tangible process.” Kerry said the sanctions need to be multilateral. He mentioned that “four of us met with the Chinese ambassador on this issue. The generals in a bunker (their new capital Naypyidaw) in a bunker of a country are surviving because of China. The killing has to stop.”
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is the primary voice for reform in Burma. She said the Burmese junta “has effectively minimized the effect of sanctions by playing investors off against each other. Many of the largest investors are unwilling to go beyond words. It is a difficult balancing act for Burma’s neighbors. It is our job to get a balance of sanctions and engagement.” She mentioned the role of China and India as major trading partners of Burma, and said that one third of Thailand’s natural gas supply comes from Burma.
Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA), two well-known supporters of the democracy movement in Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi, then presented their individual statements. McConnell said that unilateral sanctions have almost never worked in Burma as China, India and Thailand have adapted to the permanent condition in Burma. He said no one is interested in applying real pressure, as it would be bad for business. He commented, “The ambivalence of India is surprising. The Europeans are somewhat better. The Burmese regime is a pariah regime like Iraq (was) and Iran is. The sanctions will only have bite if China, India and Thailand co-operate. We should all continue to pressure to bring this regime to its knees.”
Diane Feinstein related her long involvement, over ten years, with the Burmese democracy movement. In 1997 she co-authored legislation requiring the President to ban new investment in Burma. President Clinton signed the order in 1997 and it remains on the books today. In 2003, after the regime attempted to assassinate Daw Suu Kyi in the incident now known as the Depayin Massacre of May 30, 2003, McConnell and Feinstein introduced the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003, which placed a complete ban on imports from Burma. It was signed into law and renewed one year at a time for the last 4 years. Feinstein stressed that for these sanctions to work, all nations need to join the United States. She encouraged China to persuade Burma to stop the killing and free all political prisoners and sent a message to the people of Burma – “We are watching – and we will not give up our shared vision of a free and democratic Burma.”
Among the witnesses, Scott Marciel, Deputy Asst. Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Department of State, said that the Burmese military has insinuated itself into every fiber of the country. Senator Boxer spoke of the large loophole whereby Chevron was “grandfathered in” by the 1997 law, and doing a business worth 400-600m USD annually, “is the biggest revenue raiser used to fund the crackdown.” Boxer asked Mr. Marciel what other options might be available under the Patriot Act (to pressure Burma). Kerry said he heard “a slow walk diplomacy in an urgent situation” and asked what the State Department is doing as leverage.
The second witness, Micheal Green, former National Security Council Asia Director, worried about the international community falling back into complacency, spoke of the need for an arms embargo and to organize diplomacy better with a special envoy to talk to China, India and Thailand.
Aung Din, Co-founder of the USCB and a 1988 veteran, updated on how on September 25th alone, a hundred dead bodies were counted at the Rangoon General Hospital. The official count from the junta was 10 dead, including the Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai who was shot point blank and died as a citizen journalist was filming. Aung Din described soldiers searching house to house with photos in hand and the monks under arrest in shackles and on hunger strike.
Tom Malinowski, Washington Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch, who used to be an aid to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an early advocate for change in Burma, said that the junta’s going after the monks crosses a line and they will rue the day. He argued for more focused sanctions but declined to go into details in a public setting. Aung Din added that “the Burmese people are sick of UN envoys. The junta knows how to trick and trip these envoys. He (Mr. Razali, the former UN Envoy) comes back saying he saw a light at the end of the tunnel but it is a fire.” In response to questions, Aung Din also replied that there is no real mutiny among the Burmese army, as some analysts have suggested. He complained about Ban Ki-moon’s “bad use of language” during the height of the clampdown, when Mr. Ban urged all sides to avoid provocating. “We are the people beat upon, and we are to avoid provocation?” Aung Din asked.
Update: Events since the Senate Hearing.
Mr. Ibriham Gambari is again in Asia, but the U.S. is urging him to go to Burma again as soon as possible. Even as Mr. Gambari was in Burma, the junta was busy arresting people, and arrests are continuing. At least one dissident has died of torture in prison. The international community seems again to have settled into complacency. The Burmese junta’s air force chief was in Russia allegedly buying drones and other aircraft. In a Congressional Hearing, the head of the Voice of America Burmese Service, Than Lwin Htun, stressed that “the only way it is normal is that repression continues.” Meanwhile the junta is holding mass rallies in support of its own policies, which the population is forced to attend, and appears so confident as to hold a state funeral for its number four man PM Soe Win, who died of leukemia.
1. Meetings are in new capital Naypyidaw up country, not in Rangoon.
2. Not meeting Sr. Gen. Than Shwe -- meeting PM who is holding something like a VP position.
3. Junta already said it will expell Charles Petrie, UN Development Program Resident Representative (ResRep) from Rangoon.
4. Mr. Gambari said to "not even have a cell phone when he is on his missions in Burma." At present has no office of his own, no permanent staff of his own, no international human rights abuses monitors on the ground in Burma.
5. We need to "push, push, push" as US Charge d'Affaires Shari Villarosa said during the crisis. The USA is doing that, but there is also of course the Iraq War, Iran issue and now Pakistan "on the plate."
Commentary points, copyright Kyi May Kaung.
Being allowed to live in refugee camps along the border is also not much.
Many have been stuck there for over a decade already.
Monday, November 05, 2007
This is much much better than the way some scandals are handled -- or rather not handled by many organizations.
Things she is doing right:
1. Immediate action.
2. Looking into the problem herself.
3. Appointing an independent inquiry commission.
4. Meeting alleged victims directly.
5. Good follow up.
6. Being true to the original goals.
7. Checking relevant laws and getting legal advice.
In the Burmese case also, I have heard of several cases of abuse of refugees by people purporting to help them. After the tsunami, it was reported that human traffickers went to disaster sites immediately to "recruit victims."
Pay attention everyone.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
"The interesting thing about the engagement and isolation strategies is that neither has had the slightest effect in moderating the Burmese government's behavior."
Greg Sheridan, Unconventional Wisdom on Burma, in The Australian, Nov. 3, 2007.
In response to the pro-engagement matra "Sanctions don't work" we should counter with "Engagement has not worked either."
I was on the peer review committee of this book by my mentors, which remains highly relevant today.
We are about to launch the Burmese edition.
I have not read this, but it sounds hopeful.
2. Paul Scott, The Raj Quartet.
3. Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children.
4. Salman Rushdie, Shame.
I have read 2, 3 and 4.
The Raj Quartet was made into an excellent Masterpiece Theatre series in early 1980s.
On Sat. Oct 18, within the first 8 hours after she returned from her long exile, a bomb went off killing over a hundred people as she and her supporters made their way through crowds to the tomb of Pakistan's founder, Jinnah.
By popular request, we are going to talk about current events in Pakistan in my book group, but don't have an exact date yet.
We don't have a Pakistan book yet either -- though I suggested Salman Rushdie's Shame, which features cameo roles of Benazir, her father and her mother and Rushdie's Midnight's Children, which is about the formation of India.
We could also watch the film Gandhi again. It includes unforgetable images of the Partition.
This book discussion on Udozinma Iweala's book, Beasts of No Nation, was scheduled months ago. Some people who came had read it, and one called it a "tour de force" which it is. As it's a book discussion, not an author appearance, and I had been so busy with the Burma thing, I had not made an attempt to find or invite the author. Maybe I should have, maybe not. Anyway, C. was so kind as to remember the first book discussion I did there about two years ago, on Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red and his other super novel, Snow. And that was scheduled right at the time when Pamuk was undergoing his trial for "insulting Turkishness." Two people from the Turkish Embassy showed up and were very vocal, and hotly denied the Armenian genocide, but I gave the last word to a librarian who had read all of Pamuk's books. That seemed only fair. Pamuk went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature a year later.
This time, C. said "Did you see the article about this guy's father in The Washington Post this morning? A nurse that his father had an affair with extorted money from his father," but has now lost the case.
I don't believe "the sins of others" father, mother etc. have anything to do with the children, and moreover I don't believe even the life of authors has anything much to do with a fictional novel.
So I said, "It will sell more books." L. said, "They are selling well already."
Good, because it's a mighty good book and it draws attention to the problem of child soldiers in Africa and elsewhere. A few days ago Human Rights Watch published another report on child soldiers in Burma.
Iweala's Beasts of No Nation is written in an invented English that is charming and lyrical, all in the present continuous tense. M. said as she was reading the book, she got so absorbed she started talking the same kind of English herself.
That happens to me every time I read a good book, by a writer with a distinctive voice. I don't speak "the new language" aloud but I start to sound like the book I am currently reading when I write or talk to myself in my head, which I think everyone does all the time.
That's why it is so important to read appropriately while writing something. Some read only 16th century literature when writing a novel set in the 16th century.
I hope the Iweala family can put this all behind them, they truly sound very gifted, and that Uzodinma keeps writing.
Something I did not know before, the novel was developed from his Harvard Masters capstone. I did notice he thanked Jamaica Kincaid.
I did not know Kincaid taught at Harvard.
What do the rest of us who aren't in our twenties and not in an MFA program with a mentor willing and able to help us do?
I guess the answer is just keep on writing and sending out work.
A good book is the best revenge.
Copyright Kyi May Kaung
Saturday, November 03, 2007
U Gambira is one of the leaders of the Saffron Revolution. He uses this pseudonym and is in hiding inside Burma.
Friday, November 02, 2007
They marched for days, braving the wrath of the regime. The Burmese demonstrators caught the attention of the world with their demands for democracy, freedom and dignity. Their weapons were mobile phones, and their leaders Buddhist monks who have reminded the world how religion can sometimes contain a unique energy. Now, however, those sacrifices and those deaths, demand that the lights do not go out on Burma. More than two months after the start of the protests, what has become of the “saffron revolution”? Much lies in the hands of China and India, the two main allies of the military junta. But the West, too, can still play its part.
“The opposition has no chance right now, but this is only the beginning” Maureen Aung-Thwin, of the Open Society Institute, interviewed by Daniele Castellani Perelli
“I saw them fighting. They have lost a battle, but they haven’t lost the war” Tony Birtley, Al Jazeera journalist, in conversation with Alessandra Cardinale
“Religion has been the true force” Father Bernardo Cervellera, editor of AsiaNews.it, interviewed by Elisabetta Ambrosi
A god-given opportunity for Beijing, by Dave Wang
India has nothing to lose, by Subir Bhaumik BOOKSSuad Amiry: “Irony will free us from the war”.
ResetDoC is a creation of Dialogues on Civilizations with the support of Intesa Sanpaolo e Telecom Progetto Italia
A brilliant artist with a refined social conscience.
Concerning the Citizen Journalists and Photographers who sent out such important footage during the recent and continuing Burma crisis, we received word that they are either on the run or being harrassed by the junta.
Other Burma bloggers and I are working on trying to find a way to guarantee Copyrights for the photos etc that they risked their lives to get.
I suggested calling this campaign Give Us Our Images Back.
We don't want them to suffer the double, triple or quadruple whammy of being harrassed, imprisoned or killed and also of having their intellectual property stolen.
We are looking for a pro-bono lawyer well versed in Intellectual Property and Human Rights Law.
If you can help us, or know anyone who can, please leave a message on this blog as a comment.
Kyi May Kaung
Thursday, November 01, 2007
This will most likely include Burmese victims -- find out more at Department of Homeland Security and at U.S. Embassies in your home country or country of first refuge.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
This site says it has a "clean list" but I think the posting is truncated and goes on to other blog posts unconnected with Burma.
Burma Campaign UK is a well known activist site.
I bet the photos were all taken by foreign tourists or journalists.
As an exile who can't go home, can you imagine how that makes me feel?
Truly a beautiful photograph and a young girl.
The site says proceeds for Katrina hurricane relief.
But how much is this young girl and her country getting?
I bet she gets zero.
Correct me if I am wrong.
There used to be a single tree of this beside the Convocation Hall near Inya Lake on Rangoon University campus. It's the only one I ever saw in Burma or have ever seen, other than the Amhearstia trees in the Singapore botanical gardens. Alas, visited before I had a digital camera.
Convocation means "commencement," as in "commencement exercises," in American English. That is, a graduation ceremony.