Saturday, September 29, 2007

Media People Killed on Job Increasing --

Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai -- killed in Rangoon, Thursday

At first, the Burmese junta said he was hit by a stray bullet, but video frames obtained by the Oslo based Democratic Voice of Burma showed a soldier throwing him to the ground and shooting him point blank. A loud shot was heard on the video tape as he was flung backwards and fell on his back.

A Japanese embassy physician ascertained that a bullet entered Nagai's chest, traveled through his heart and exited via his back.

Nagai is pronounced "Nar Gi Yee" -- Gi rhyming with "I"

Earlier reports said he "died later" and was still alive in first video frame which shows his right arm up still holding a camera. It was not certain where his remains were, or what happened to his camera.

Read more about his life, work and family:

For we are all human -- Please send Metta (Loving Kindness) for all who died in Burma and those still suffering.

Floral Tribute for Monks and People of Burma

Tripitaka Roses -- Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Tripitaka-- The Three Baskets of the Law-

Hpaya (The Buddha), Taya (The Dharma), Thanga (The Sangha or Clergy)

"The Three 'Thar' or Sons"

1. Students
2. Monks
3. Soldiers

Burmese Comedians Zarganar and Metta

From September 26th, 2007 -- on Burma and China

Guardian Unlimited podcast:

The best Burmese language radio station based overseas.

I always knew this from having worked both sides of the mike --

but now it is confirmed:

Thank you DVB and your brave Citizen Journalists -- take care and be safe.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Worser and Worser in Burma -- Sept. 27, 2007.

The latest news is the military junta's forces are showing no mercy and using live ammo.

A Japanese photo-journalist was reported shot in chest and killed and photos are circulating on the Burmese dissident and blog sites.

Here is link to my article on The Wild River Review Blog -- on the cultural and historical context of it all --

written on the 24th -- before the crackdown on the 26th.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My article (post Burma crackdown) on Monks vs the Military in FPIF

It's happened, dreaded crackdown on monks in Burma

Wed, 26 Sep 2007

Very sad to find out I was right after all when I said on air yesterday "Crackdown will come in 24 hours."

I bought red roses yesterday on my way back from Canadian Broadcasting Corporation office, and prayed and painted for the monks and the people of Burma.

This morning as I opened my eyes, I imagined the ghosts of protestors crowded into my shrine room.

Two different articles I wrote about recent events in Burma will be on line in a few hours.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Burma: Message from Moethee Zun -- 1988 Student Leader

Moethee Zun's Speech

Burma: From Shadow International Development Secretary

See statement below which went out today from Andrew Mitchell MP, Shadow International Development Secretary

Mitchell: Key moment for Burma
Commenting on the protests in Burma, Conservative International Development spokesman Andrew Mitchell MP, who earlier this year became the first senior elected British politician in over a decade to hold a face-to-face meeting with the country's military regime, said:
"This is a key moment for Burma. There must be meaningful negotiation between the vile, illegitimate military regime which has stolen Burma's democracy and members of the democratic movement. There must be no repeat of the bloody crackdowns of 1988 and 1996.
Clearly arrangements must be agreed for the military to transition to a proper place in Burmese society. As I saw in Rangoon earlier this year, there are elements within the regime that, however grudgingly, understand that the present position is untenable. These less intransigent elements of the regime must ensure that this opportunity to bring peace and an end to ethnic cleansing to Burma is seized.
I call for the immediate release, unconditionally, of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi as the first move in this process.
The British Government should now use every lever at its disposal to help promote a peaceful transition to democracy.
We look to the international community and especially China and India (the world's largest democracy) to ensure that at last some meaningful progress can be made.
The world should present the regime with a common, clear set of benchmarks and deadlines for real progress towards peace and meaningful dialogue with the legitimate representatives of the Burmese people.
We look to the British Foreign Secretary to pursue vigorously this agenda in New York next week."
Notes to Editors
In March 2007 Andrew Mitchell visited Burma and held the first face-to-face meeting in a decade between a senior member of the brutal military junta and an elected British politician.
He told U Kyaw Thu, the Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister and a former brigadier general, that the regime running Burma is wicked and illegitimate. He said: "People in the West regard your Government as a pariah state. You spend only a dollar a year per head on health and education and people are suffering terribly up and down the land."
He also held meetings with senior members of the National League for Democracy and other opposition figures including the leaders of the 1988 student revolt.
After leaving Rangoon he travelled to Karen State on the Thai-Burma border. He visited the Ei Tu Hta camp for internally displaced people, where he heard fresh evidence of renewed ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese Army as part of their 50-year-old war against rebel groups. He heard shocking first-hand accounts of the torture and violence used by the Burmese army in their attempts to suppress the uprising.
Video diary
During his visit Andrew Mitchell made a video diary, which can be seen here: com/watch? v=kqnK4ta1Xgo&mode=related&search=
The film contains rare footage from inside the closed and oppressive regime and shocking first-hand accounts of torture and ethnic cleansing in the conflict-stricken Karen state on the Thai/Burma border.
Andrew visited Burma between 1st-3rd March 2007.

Jonathon Head of BBC on Burmese Monks' Protest

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Beautiful Monolog

Dead Bird in Bangkok -- photograph copyright Kyi May Kaung

On PBS -- Bill Moyers' Journal, actress Kiaulani Lee -- recreating Rachel Carson talking about her book Silent Spring --

also interview of Lee by Moyers and documentary material --

If you watch it, note how well Lee understands Carson and how clearly she articulates her words, how she uses silences and body language to bring Carson and her thoughts back to life --

Truly beautiful monolog and a great tribute to Rachel Carson.

Copyright Kyi May Kaung

Haiku from Basho care of DC Poets Against the War

Summer Grasses - Photograph -copyright Kyi May Kaung

Summer grasses: all that remains of great soldiers' imperial dreams


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Great interview of Orhan Pamuk

by Charlie Rose on PBS --

Some quotes, not from verbatim notes: “I don’t want to interpret (Turkish) culture, I just want to write a decent novel –

My job is to explain the character (in my novel) not to explain the culture or my country –

That is too big.”

“I may use the analogy of the bridge. From my window I see the Bosporus”

Charlie Rose: The bridge is neutral.
Pamuk: From the bridge I can see both sides.

Pamuk: Now I am working on my next book -- most of it is cut and paste. I may edit. There is craft -- but there also needs to be the creative fire. . . I come from the tradition of looking to the west -- but there is also tremendous anxiety, about authenticity --

It all started when Harold Pinter and Arthur Miller came to Turkey and I was their guide.

Reading used to be more important to me, but now I read (to see what others are doing) -- to steal ideas.

I write for a certain sect of people who read literary fiction all over the world. I don't write for people who watch TV -- I can say I don't even write for the Turk who doesn't read books. After TV, books have become high brow."

Monday, September 17, 2007

For those still not free --

"Japanese anemone" Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung
Today is the anniversary of the 18th September 1988 clampdown by the Burmese military government of the pro-democracy demonstrations 19 years ago.

An estimated 3000 people died a year before Tienanmen.

Hundreds more were arrested and continue to be arrested.

Here is a music video made by the Art Institute of Illinois:

As Aung San Suu Kyi said: Use your freedom to promote ours.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Look at Bangladesh, see Burma --

Contents of Trash Can in Singapore -- Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung


What Burma could become with military’s “guided democracy.”

Plane Crash in Phuket, Thailand.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Robin Hood coming to my Dr. Kaung's Salon

Friday, Sept 14th, 7.10 PM to 8.30 PM -- Space 710, Kefa Cafe, 963 Bonifant St., Silver Spring, MD.

"You May Believe in Stones, but Don't Throw Them at Me!"

From a friend of a friend by email

"This lady is very outspoken.

Be prepared to wait a bit for the download, it's well worth it! Must read the caption in English... audio is Arabic. Here is a powerful and amazing statement on Al Jazeera television. The woman is Wafa Sultan, an Arab-American psychologist from Los Angeles. I would suggest watching it ASAP because I don't know how long the link will be active. This film clip should be shown around the world repeatedly!!! "

Friday, September 07, 2007

My Granddog --

Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

My grand dog was euthanized by the vet this afternoon.

He was the equivalent of a human about 100 years old.
I want to memorialize his lovely stubborn nature on my blog.
Animals do not judge you, they do no evil, they don't gossip or form coalitions against you.
---- had trouble walking at the end and could not go more than a few steps, he was breathless all the time.
I house sat with him one summer and baby sat when he was young and afraid of stairs.
Copyright KMK

Joseph Stiglitz: The World is Getting Less Flat

2001 Economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz says “the world is getting less flat,” a reference to Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat, about globalization.

Inequality is increasing not just between rich and poor countries but also within countries. China has managed globalization reasonably well, but other countries have not.

Stiglitz talks of de-development in Moldovia (which just like Burma is sliding backwards) and about global warming and intellectual property agreements.

This talk was given at Google when Stiglitz was doing his book tour for his book Making Globalization Work.

Highly recommended.

20,000 year old mastadon bone found in Ohio.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Video of Su Su Nway Demonstration in Rangoon.

All Burmese outside Burma are likely to have seen this already, but it is still worth posting here.

The pale woman behind the men with linked arms is Su Su Nway. She is shouting "We're doing this for everyone!" and the attackers are saying --

"Pull! Pull!" (swair, swair) -- "swair" can also mean "(pull to) arrest."

It looks confusing because everyone is in civilian clothes.

Singing like a God: Tenor Luciano Pavarotti --

White and green caladiums -- photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Famed opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti died of pancreatic cancer in his hometown of Modena, Italy at 5 AM today.

So many memorable performances, especially as Rudolfo opposite Mirella Freni as Mimi in Puccini's La Boheme.

Mentoring younger singers in competitions he set up, in cameo performances on TV.

In Verdi's I Lombardi, playing an Arab ruler who falls for a Christian girl.

Singing Santa Lucia.

Singing Nessun Dorma (None Shall Sleep) from Turandot.

Arriving in America in 1982 on a Fulbright, my entire opera education was based on CDs and TV, and Pavarotti singing handkerchief in hand formed a lage part of it. He reminded me of my writer cousin who died of drinking related problems.

Singers have a great love of life, of food. Pavarotti was as large a personality as he was in his physical being, and he had an expansive heart to match.

Coincidentally, in clearing out my paper clutter yesterday, I just found an 8-2000 interview of Pavarotti in the New York Times Magazine, by David Rakoff, in which he told Rakoff,

"If someone comes out who is chubby like me, he must sing like a god."

[blog text copyright Kyi May Kaung]

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The recent fuel price crisis in Burma: The Structural Bones

"Burmese Scene" Acryllic painting and photo copyright Kyi May Kaung
Private collection.

For the past three weeks, demonstrations on the streets of Rangoon protesting fuel price hikes of 500% have been rocking Yangon (as the regime calls its former capital city) and spreading to other towns and cities. As one prominent Burma watcher says, “Poor Burma, where are these crooks (the State Peace and Development Council) going to go?”

Dr. Alfred Oehlers, a security analyst based in Hawaii, asked these crucial questions in an article Behind Burma’s Fuel Price Rise, on Augest 22 in The Irrawaddy Online Edition.

He asks the disturbing questions:

"How can a country so rich in gas and oil be unable to provide its own citizens with affordable supplies? How can government raise prices (to) such a huge extent, especially when it must be selling gas for what must be an incredible profit?

So far, various explanations have been put forward by analysts. Some have suggested the economic mismanagement of the regime is largely to blame, while others have pointed to an emerging foreign exchange and budgetary crisis as reasons behind the move."

Just about ten days ago, dissident newsletters on line reported the discovery of “huge gas (reserves)” in Burma.

As an explanation, the “economic mismanagement” explanation is too glib and has been overused since the late Dr. Mya Maung happened to talk about it, but not in detail, in the mid-90s. As I remember it, he did not define it precisely, nor say what he meant, before it was picked up by many journalists, who batted it about like the proverbial volley ball. We need to go much deeper than that, as Dr. Oehlers is doing. The by now clich├ęd phrase, “economic mismanagement” begs the question – is any complex economy manageable or micro-manageable at all? Clearly not, not even a relatively simply structured one such as the Burmese economy.

Burma has a few major exports, largely natural resources. In management structure too it is “simple” but in this case “simple” does not mean it is either efficient economically, nor good for its citizens, who deserve the right to better their lives and live in security and creating better lives for themselves and their children. Right now, they don’t even have the right to survive.

The mass outflows of refugees and economic migrants from Burma over decades already attests to this. There are one million internally displaced people. There is high infant mortality and low life expectancy, not to mention the AIDs pandemic and avian flu etc. Just over a month ago, The Fund for Peace rated Burma as the 14th most failed state in the world, after Iraq and Afghanistan. That means the government that does the least for its people.

More than that the Burmese government treats its people as cannon fodder, slave labor and its arch enemies. At a Burma Studies Conference in Gottenberg, Sweden in 2002, the late Dr. Chao Tzang Yawngwe described how the Burmese military junta treats all strata of society and all ethnic groups as its enemies.

When I speak of the Burmese economy or the Burmese polity or administrative system (and in large measure they coincide), as “simple,” I mean, the simple structures as Henry Minzberg classified in his book, The Structuring of Organizations. This is a pyramidal structure with all decision making done at the top. There is a "log jam” of information, that does not flow well along the single channel running between the top and bottom layers. This structural design was also the one the traditional Burmese kings used. They were heads of their own army as well as heads of the country, they were all powerful - “Lords of Head and Hair” as we say in Burmese.

It is not surprising that the present military regime in Burma has chosen traditional Burmese kingship as its model, even naming its new capital Pyinmana – Naypyidaw (The King’s Royal Capital). Megalomaniac ideas aside, slavery, apart from being inhumane, is not an economically efficient way to organize things. In the slave plantations in the South, in the United States before the Civil War, everything had to be chained down so as not to be stolen. Anyone who is laboring under slave-like conditions thinks only of escape, if things cannot be made better within the system.

We have to pay the highest tribute to the Burmese people, who, led by a few committed leaders, are trying so hard to make things better. In a disturbing video that was smuggled out and can now be seen on My Space, dissident Daw Su Su Nway is “protected” behind a “body guard” of a few men with linked arms. They all look shockingly vulnerable. She keeps shouting “(We’re) doing it for everyone!” Then there are close ups of demonstrators being pulled away. She is now reported to be in hiding. Her heart medication has run out.

Watching this video brought back disturbing memories of 1988. Then they were shooting people on the street, using phalanxes of armed soldiers, with real weapons and real bullets, not rubber ones. In 1992, they used fire hoses. In 2003, in the May 30th attack on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, which is now known as the Depayin Massacre, they started using hired thugs in civilian clothes, wielding clubs. In this latest incident, a cartoon in the Irrawaddy, which I assume is accurate, depicts the clubs as “armed” with nails, pointed sides out. VOA broadcasts and witness interviews state that drifters on the street were given a square meal of dhanbauk rice (North Indian rice with spices and chicken) and liquor and ordered to rough up the peaceful demonstrators. They may also have been given drugs in a country notorious for being a major producer of drugs. A woman interviewed by VOA correspondent Thar Nyunt Oo, described how un-Burmese the thugs were in literally man-handling the demonstrators, who were mostly women. As in Depayin and the earlier White Bridge incident in 1988, women had their clothes torn from their bodies and lost their sarongs. This is deplorable, brutal behavior in the minions of a government that is always paying lip service to “Burmese culture,” as they define it, of course.

In his purely economic analysis, Alfred Oehlers points out that Burma is a diesel powered country, and as the demand for diesel oil has grown, the amount spent on subsidies to keep the diesel prices artificially low has also increased. He reasons that SPDC’s gas sales were probably negotiated some time ago and are probably locked in at low levels, while it has to import diesel at prevailing spot prices. He also says that some gas “revenues” are in fact not cash sales, but were barter arrangements without any money being exchanged. Burma is having to buy diesel, in spite of having “huge natural gas reserves” because it has inadequate refining capacity. Oehlers also points to “at least one nefarious motive.” It is rumored that the tycoon (Burmese oligarch) Tay Za and his Htoo Group of companies would be major beneficiaries of privatizing fuel products. Revenues would spill into their own back pocket (ko aik htair ko hpaik te) as the Burmese proverb goes, from state ownership to the hands of “pariah capitalists” as they are often termed.

Dr. Oehlers does assume though, that subsidies for diesel must come only from the energy sector. The junta is getting revenues illegal and legal from many different sources, and no one even knows how much has been leaking into the generals’ private bank accounts since the time of the arch kleptomaniac, Gen., later U Ne Win, the father of them all. Now of course he is the late U Ne Win.

The current price hike of 500% shows how large the subsidies were in the past. How far the fixed, that is, subsidized price was below the real price or the price set by demand and supply. The authorities clearly thought this new price would clear the market, that is, it was about what the market could bear, in economic terms, but they did not count on it creating political unrest. When it did, their only “solution” was to clamp down, as they have been doing repeatedly since 1962.

This does not solve any of Burma’s problems which by now are dyed into its structural, systemic bones. The price hike shows that the policy the World Bank favored, especially in Indonesia, of allowing prices to float to their real market level, will inevitably lead to political unrest unless accompanied by widespread political and economic reforms of a structural nature.

We can’t expect the junta to comprehend this, or try to do something about it even if they did understand the mechanics of the thing. In Zaire, years ago, an IMF report suggested that the government could not reduce its money supply because it had to pay off its cronies and buy loyalty from its supporters. Present day Burma is in a similar bind of the junta’s own making.

In conclusion, all this shows that micro-economic “solutions” will not work. It will only make the Burmese economy more contorted and bizarre, with reflected, reactive contortions in people’s lives. Micro-economic measures are like trying to do major surgery for a serious cancer with nail clippers and band aid.

What is needed in Burma are widespread economic and political reforms of a structural nature. On that front, there is a dim ray of hope on the horizon. While all our attentions were deflected by the troubles on the streets of Rangoon and other cities inside Burma, the Canadian Friends of Burma, a group which in the mid 90s started Burma activism, hosted a seminar on how India and China might pressure Burma to reform.

Kyi May Kaung (Ph.D.) is an analyst based in Washington, DC.

Copyright Kyi May Kaung

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Yikes! First Tourist Photos from Naypyidaw -- New Burmese Capital City

Boing Boing says the pics are "strikingly beautiful."

Maybe so, but what of the people forced to live and work there, forced to help build it, the totally unnecessary cost vs. Burma's current fuel price hike and countrywide demonstrations and clampdown???

Burma has been known as a photographer's paradise -- also known as a "Fascist Disneyland" -- term first used by travel writer Ian Buruma in early 90s.

One blogger wrote he was glad the tourists could go in and come out again with their cameras.

Ha Ha (Very Black Humor)

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Non-existent "mentoring" in USA --

Shadows of My Clothes - Copyright Kyi May Kaung

  • Here is my reply to an organization which was querying me about mentoring experiences in play writing.

  • Read: Mentoring in Creative Writing.

  • I have never been mentored in play writing and taught myself to write a play by writing it. Shaman was a Pew finalist script and praised by Edward Albee. I have considered taking a play writing course but it was withdrawn at the time it was convenient for me to take it. Not enough people registered.

    I don't mind answering your questionaire.

    In general I think the writing community, if there is such a thing in America, is very closed and only "interested in its own thing." We all get to thinking we may do better striking out alone. Often it is necessary to focus (on ourselves) to survive.

    As someone who is mainly interested in writing in different genres, I think the current trend towards specialization is very damaging, creating in-groups which an outsider cannot easily enter. One must be a card carrying something or the other, or one can't "enter."

    As Peters and Waterman said in In Search of Excellence, "groups are groupy."

    Therefore I don't wish to say I envision a career in play writing -- one cannot envision anything unless a small measure of encouragement comes from somewhere, like it came for me via a small note from Albee.

    The only place I can say where I was mentored was in a few writing classes, but most effectively, when I was a teenager in Burma by Burmese writer "K" -- U Khin Zaw, who was a musician and a writer and wrote in English.

    I am very sorry to sound negative, but American competitiveness, and may I say "essential selfishness," (everything is in classes and for money,) breeds neither good mentors nor good mentored persons.

    "K", my father U Kaung, my father's mentor Gordon H. Luce (a member of the Bloomsbury Group,) my cousin Min Shin all mentored me better than anything I received in America, with the exception of a few friends, a few classes, of intellectual freedom and safety to write what I wish, and of course, bookstores and museums.

    People just don't have time to mentor or be friends; a first reader for a novel etc. I've had people lose my scripts (twice), lose my tapes, act cavalier about my intellectual property.

    Some actively tried to sabotage my writing.

    They outweigh the few who helped or tried to help, but could only do so to a certain extent.

    So I wish your organization the greatest luck in your endeavor.

Might I also say the minorities need mentoring the most, especially the most minor of the minorities, where there is no critical mass that might make numbers count.

Copyright Kyi May Kaung

Build me a (used) container house

Just love this:

My archive at IISH, Amsterdam--