Monday, April 28, 2008

Eco-Lodge in Amazon --

as seen in New York Times -- Odd Couple of the Jungle by Nicholas Kristof

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The White Chair -- Copyright Kyi May Kaung.

I had never known Pado Mahn Sha well, and had seen him only once or twice at international meetings about Burma. He was in the KNU or Karen National Union, a group that has been in armed rebellion against the central Burmese government since 1947. They are known as the longest running armed insurrection in the world, and their leader/founder General Saw Bo Mya died recently of complications from diabetes. He was big and obese, though apparently very strong. An art curator I spoke to thought that Bo Mya had died due to poison that the Burmese military junta had put in his shoes, when he went for ceasefire talks to Rangoon in 2004. But it wasn’t anything that exotic. It was just because Bo Mya had diabetes, and diabetics often lose their feet or toes. I wondered if Bo Mya had been careful about pedicures and manicures as I had read so long ago in an informational packet about diabetes. But maybe he had not been. After all he lived in a war zone, though he was hospitalized in Bangkok. The 2004 ceasefire talks failed because the Burmese junta violated the agreements within a few months, causing the KNU to take up arms again in self defense.

The Karen are an ethnic group called Kayin by the Burmese. The British during the colonial period from 1886 to the beginning of World War II and the Japanese Occupation, called them “the Karen.” The British declined to have the majority group, the Burmans, in their army, but had special troops composed of some of the supposed other “warlike races” such as the Karen, the Chin and the Kachin. It was the British policy of divide and rule.

Among the famous Karen leaders that my family knew was Saw Kya Doe, a former neighbor on Inya Road, who my mother always said, had been trained at Sandhurst, the famous military academy in England. Eventually, everyone became a dissident or an armed rebel, but Saw Kya Doe himself, after years in the jungle on the Thai-Burma border with former Prime Minister U Nu’s group, eventually came in from the cold in the late eighties and helped the military government proctor its 1990 elections, that it never honored.

Pado Mahn Sha was a generation younger than Saw Kya Doe. He was a straight-faced man whose demeanor and soft-spoken, modest nature, revealed him to be a man of few words but great intelligence and sincerity. I always thought of him as a man of peace.

I was shocked in early February of 2008, to see email notices start to come into my inbox from dissident Burmese groups, talking of him in the past tense. Those weeks were full of reported deaths, some of which were revealed in a few days as being perhaps part of the junta’s disinformation campaigns. Veteran journalist U Thaung was reported dead. So were famed writer Ludu Daw Ah Mar and pop singer May Sweet, who was reported by “AP?” to have died in a car accident in London. It turned out all three were pieces of junta disinformation, maybe to demoralize Burmese dissidents overseas. May Sweet is alive and well, and continuing with her overseas concert tours, but Ludu Daw Ah Mar and U Thaung succumbed to old age in a couple of weeks. I suppose the junta was just trying to “pop them off sooner” out of spite and hatred. They had both been outspoken in their courageous and outspoken criticism of the junta; U Thaung from his home in Florida, Ludu Da Ah Mar, amazingly, from her home in Mandalay, Burma. She once famously threw away a pen given to her by Lt. General Khin Nyunt, at that time the most powerful man in Burma.

The assassination of KNU leader Pado Mahn Sha at his home in Mae Sod, on the Thai-Burma border, was only too real. Why, here on the Internet was a photograph of Mahn Sha lying in state, with a striped red Karen blanket covering him from the chest down, looking as simple in death as he had been in life! He looked calm, as if he were sleeping. Here was the last known photograph of him, a few days before he was gunned down by two men, who are reported to have greeted him in the Karen language. “Uncle, how are you?” So they would have said, “Hpar htee, how are you?” And then shot him point blank.

He died on the spot.

And here is a photograph taken from inside the front door of his home, through large teak doors that stand open, onto a patch of impossibly bright green grass in Mae Sod. Places in that latitude in Burma such as Myawaddy (on the opposite bank of the Moei River from Mae Sod) and Moulmein have a high annual rainfall. On my very first visit to Moulmein from Rangoon in the fifties, I noticed from the window of the World War II Dakota that we flew in, how green the grass was – greener than I had ever seen before.

And here is a photograph of the narrow upstairs veranda where Mahn Sha fell, a large pool of red blood still there beside the white plastic chair on which he had been sitting.


Though “teak doors” may signal wealth to western readers, teak is quite common and used en bloc in the Border Areas and in Thailand. True, it is used in a most haphazard and wasteful way. In all the bed and breakfast places and three star hotels I stayed in, in Bangkok and Chiangmai between 2002 and 2008, I saw teak, teak, teak used in veneer form and in solid form everywhere. It virtually broke my heart. I had been married into a family which had worked in forest conservation, the teak trade and in the teak milling and export business since the pre-World War II days, and even against my will, it was not difficult for me to recognize expensive teak grain patterns such as “cathedrals” and stripes everywhere. The patterns depend on how the teak log is sliced or peeled off in wafer thin veneers, like unwrapping a spring roll of many layers.

The white plastic chair was like hundreds of cheap lawn furniture chairs I have seen in S.E. Asia and in America. I’ve seen them with their matching stools in street side food stalls in Bangkok and Chiangmai, in Angkor and Siem Reap in Cambodia and quite a few houses in the United States. They are stackable and obviously made from the same mold. I usually see them in the red version in Asia and in the white version in America.

Pado Mahn Sha was by no means rich. After his death, his son and daughter wrote a touching eulogy, in which his daughter wrote that their father “had not been able to give them wealth, but had given them an education.” I thought the eulogy was written in the most beautiful English, something a bit rare among Burmese dissidents. After Mahn Sha died, the poetry he had written, I think in Burmese, started to appear. A radio broadcaster who read them praised them highly as “So sensitive. Unbelievable!” Of course, there is no reason to suppose that someone is illiterate or insensitive, just because they have decided that there is no other recourse left but armed struggle. A case in point is the Black radical depicted in E. L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime.

But I think, in his later years, Mahn Sha was focused mainly on forging links with the other ethnic groups of Burma and with the Burman dissident groups. The last photograph showed him returning from yet another political meeting, an expression of exhaustion and even exasperation on his face, a strand of grey hair falling on his cheek, dressed in a simple but beautiful hand woven cotton blanket robe of beige stripes on a cream colored background.

I heard of Mahn Sha’s death a few days before I set out for a trip to Chiangmai, and it alarmed my children greatly.

Chiangmai is the second biggest city in Thailand and is full of Burmese dissidents, migrant workers, foreign expatriates and long time residents, big Thai universities and hospitals and the non-profits that do work along the Burma-Thai border. Historically, Chiangmai was called Zinmè by the Burmese. It was a city state that was now part of Burma, now part of Siam. Now it is in Thailand, but feels, for us Burmese who can never go home, like Little Burma. Everything from the bright brick red soil, the orchids, including the famous blue vanda, to the Shan-Thai style food, reminds one of the Shan States in Burma, with which I and my family has had many connections over two generations.

I promised my children I would not go to the Border, and in fact I have never been. The Thai authorities control access to the refugee camps closely, and Mae Sod is said to be full of security cameras. Some non-profits don’t want their employees or course attendees to visit there, on the grounds that they will be seen as “doing politics” and this will violate the “won’t do any politics” memoranda of understanding that they have signed with the Thai government or organizations.

In Burma in the seventies before I left on a Fulbright scholarship, one had to send in written reports every time one went to a foreign embassy, for any reason. Usually, it was to see a movie. I never went to the U.S. Embassy except on the one occasion I went there to take an English test in connection with the scholarship. I didn’t understand the films that were shown at the Australian Embassy, partly because the pavilion had such poor acoustics, with all the sound pouring out of the four open sides. In the end I decided not going was the easiest thing to do, as permissions and then writing and submitting “He said, she said, I said” reports were so grueling and would just result in an unwelcome limelight focused on me.

My never going to Mae Sod was the result of a similar logic.

However, that did not mean I could not talk to people who did go.

In Chiangmai in February, I met again a woman who had worked for Amnesty International. She had been in Mae Sod when the assassination took place and was there until the day of the funeral service. Ellen (not her real name) told me that at first the entire Karen and Mae Sod dissident community was in shock. “But it did nothing except increase the traffic fines that the Thai Mae Sod police levy on the Burmese dissidents.” Apparently, the Mae Sod police had the habit of stopping cars and vans “for traffic violations” whenever they needed extra pocket money, and there was even a going rate for the “fine.” Now the police could cite “security reasons” for stopping cars more often and for being “more strict” so that the going bribe rate went up, and then did not come down again. “I’m sure the killers are in Burma by now,” Ellen told me.

Another Burma-born analyst I talked to (I will call him Min Saw) told me that he went to the funeral service, the very day Ellen came back to Chiangmai. I asked him to tell me about the funeral.

“Oh, it was so sad. Lots of crying. The immediate family was not there, due to fear. I did not get to see Hsé Hsé (Mahn Sha’s son).” Pado Mahn Sha was a Buddhist. The KNU is predominantly Baptist, hewing to the almost fundamentalist doctrines of one of the first Christian missionaries to come to Burma, in the 18th century, Adoniram Judson. He was an American and prepared and published the first Burmese-English dictionary. His own name he transliterated as Yuda Than – so we now have Y instead of J in the Burmese language transliterations. John is Johan, Jonathan is Yaw Da Than – as in Jonathan Livingston Seagull (Yaw Da Than Zin Yaw – in Burmese).

I think it’s a sign of Pado Mahn Sha’s greatness, even in death, as photographs of the funeral in the Bangkok newspapers showed a simple wooden cross being carried in front of the coffin. Min Saw told me that because Mahn Sha had been the primary bridge builder between the minority ethnic groups and the Burma groups, “For the SPDC (the Burmese junta) killing Mahn Sha was a big coup. He was the brains of the KNU.” SPDC (State Peace and Development Council) is the Orwellian name of the present junta. Min Saw said sadly that Mahn Sha probably lived too long in one place, was too open and accepting in his literal open door policy, and had no armed guards in Mae Sod. “That just made it easier for the assassins.” Min Saw told me.

The two killers came to the house in a black car with a bunch of flowers. They asked for Mahn Sha and went upstairs and killed him. The only witness was a neighbor woman who was still hysterical when the foreign reporters came.

Min Saw said that the KNU leaders had now moved back to the Liberated Areas – the no man’s lands along the Burma-Thai border, because there they could have a regular military camp and armed guards. The KNU had not had a border outpost since the fall of their headquarters, Manerplaw, in January 1995. I see it as a hardening of tensions.

About two weeks after Mahn Sha’s funeral, a Bangkok Newspaper published an editorial that the authorities should look into Mahn Sha’s death in more detail. The black van was found beside the river at the border, but the killers, of course, had fled.

This editorial stated that a few weeks before Mahn Sha’s death, he had been under extreme pressure from Thai business interests to allow logging and a dam in the Karen State regions controlled by the KNU. He had been adamantly saying “No.” But the dam was going ahead anyway. The KNU and many commentators in February thought that the DKBA (Democratic Karen Buddhist Association), a splinter group from the KNU, supported by the SPDC abd supposedly “Buddhist”, was behind the killing. Now, the well known Burmese dissident magazine Irrawaddy, based in Chiangmai, says that an infamous DKBA man named Sun Byoke (“Boiled Rice”) drove the car and was seen near Mahn Sha’s home at the time of the assassination. The Irrawaddy correspondent also wrote that the SPDC has already rewarded Boiled Rice.

At the same time we are seeing video on You Tube from September 2007 of Mahn Sha’s daughter, Zoya Phan, giving an eloquent and moving speech to the Conservative Party in the UK, at a Burma Campaign UK event. She is dressed in a hand woven white robe, that unmarried Karen women wear, and looks very like her father. She does not speak for the Karen alone but for everyone. Towards the end of her short presentation, she leaves the podium briefly and picks up a big clanking iron chain, that was smuggled out of Burma and describes the torture in Burma’s prisons in excruciating detail.

Mahn Sha’s simple chair is standing empty, but there are many people, including his daughter Zoya Phan, who can fill that chair and continue to speak for us.


April 25, 2008.

Dr. Kaung's Bookshelf -- Ngugi Wa Thiong'o's The Wizard of the Crow --

May 9, 2008, 7.10PM to 8 PM,

at Kefa Cafe's Space 710

963 Bonifant St., Silver Spring, MD,

a few blocks from Silver Spring metro station,

free parking on Wayne Av. and Bonifant Streets.

Twitter blog from cell phone gets student out of prison in Egypt --

Burmese dissident Su Su Nway -- painting and photograph -- copyright Kyi May Kaung

But it was his American network -- his Egyptian translator is still in prison, whereabouts unknown.


Nazi bunker in Berlin transformed into a private museum --

Say "No" poem -- "Cross (it out) poem"

Language for a New Century: The Poetry of the Middle East, Asia and Beyond -- contains dissident poetry and two poems from Burma.

Fighting Peacock -- Image copyright Myint Myint San

Cross (it out) Poem.

By Yan Naing Htun, Liberated Areas, Korea.

Translation copyright Kyi May Kaung.

Cross it out!

Cut the roots

of the authoritarian government.


military rule.

Our countrymen and women

remember this always

on your voting card --

Cross it out!

Say NO[1] or else

There’ll be no more of us

As a race.[2]

[1] “Noh” in Burmese also stands for “Noh kyar tè” or being alert.

[2] Will read this at Rubin Museum in New York on 4-25-08 – for book launch of Language for a New Century, An Anthology of Poetry of the Middle East, Asia and Beyond, April 2008.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Burma's Sham Elections by Benedict Rogers in Far Eastern Economic Review

http://www.feer. com/features/ 2008/april/ burmas-sham- elections

April 2008

Burma's Sham Elections

by Benedict Rogers

Last September, as the demonstrations in Burma were growing, I was on the India-Burma border visiting Burmese refugees. The stories I heard illustrate the horror occurring on a daily basis inside Burma. I met a man who had been arrested by the Burma Army, and hung upside down for an entire night, with soldiers beating him and banging his body against a pillar continuously. Another man was beaten so badly he is now paralyzed. Yet another described how in Burma’s prison camps, prisoners are shackled and chained, yoked like oxen and forced to plough fields. One refugee who'd been to the prison camps told how a group of prisoners who had attempted to escape were bound and hung above a fire, repeatedly stabbed, and then placed in a tub of salt water.

These are the barbarities faced by the people of Burma who go to the polls next month for the first time in 18 years. They will vote in a referendum on a new constitution proposed by Burma’s illegal military regime. The last time it held a vote, in 1990, the regime was shocked that despite all its efforts to undermine the opposition and intimidate the voters, it still lost the elections. This time, it has learned from experience—and has introduced every possible means of rigging the ballot in advance.

It is difficult to imagine a more farcical charade. When the regime rejected the United Nation’s request for international monitors during the referendum, it lost any last semblance of credibility. What kind of referendum is it where those who campaign against the proposed constitution are subject to a jail sentence of at least three years?

Millions of Burmese are disenfranchised. Buddhist monks and nuns, who number 500,000, are denied the vote—a price for their courageous demonstrations last September which were brutally crushed. Religious leaders from other faiths are also excluded. Over 500,000 internally displaced people on the run in the jungles of eastern Burma, as well as the 700,000 Muslim Rohingyas, treated as non-citizens and therefore stateless, are banned from participating. Millions living in conflict zones in the ethnic states, as well as refugees who have fled to neighboring countries and exiles further afield, will also be excluded.

The junta’s game plan is not subtle. It plans to rubber-stamp its new constitution which, in turn, will enshrine military rule. The constitution drafting process completely excluded Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, as well as the major representatives of the ethnic groups. Most of the members of parliament elected in 1990 are in prison or exile, and Ms. Suu Kyi is in her 12th year of house arrest. The National Convention, which drafted the guidelines for the constitution, involved no debate among the handpicked delegates, and none of the proposals made by the few ethnic representatives who did participate were adopted. Law 5/96 imposed prison terms of up to 20 years for discussing the constitution process.

The end product is a constitution which offers no improvement in human rights and democracy—and simply enshrines military rule. The commander-in- chief of the Burma Army will appoint 25% of the national legislators. He will also appoint the minister of defense, who will report to him. The army chief can seize power at any point, if he happens to believe that national security is threatened. There will be no independent judiciary, and the constitution cannot be amended for 10 years.

Political prisoners will be barred from contesting elections, and the president must be a person with military experience who has not married a foreigner. Ms. Suu Kyi is by definition ruled out.

The junta hopes that this sham will fool the international community into a belief that it is changing, so that pressure will ease. The international community, especially Burma’s neighbors, must not fall for this trick. If the regime proceeds with this plan, and continues to ignore calls from the U.N. for dialogue with the democracy movement, tough action should follow. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should take charge of Burma policy. Burma’s best friends—China, India, Russia, Thailand and Singapore—should end their policies of appeasement. Other Asian nations, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan, must speak out more forcefully. A universal arms embargo should be imposed, with their support. And the U.N. Security Council should refer Burma’s military leaders to the International Court for investigation into crimes against humanity.

This is a regime guilty of every possible human rights violation, including a campaign of ethnic cleansing involving the widespread, systematic use of rape as a weapon of war, forced labor, the use of human minesweepers and the destruction of over 3,200 villages in eastern Burma since 1996. There is arguably a case of genocide to be examined. Over 70,000 children have been taken off the streets and forced to join the Burma Army—the highest proportion of child soldiers in the world. More than 1,800 political prisoners are in jail, subjected to horrific torture. Burma’s neighbors, and the rest of the world, should not be prepared to tolerate this any longer.

Mr. Rogers works for the human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and serves as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission. He has made over 20 visits to Burma and its borders, and is the author of A Land without Evil: Stopping the Genocide of Burma’s Karen People (2004, Monarch Books). The REVIEW will publish a longer article on Burma by the author in our upcoming May issue.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Power and Plenty -- by Ronald Findlay and Kevin O'Rourke

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Norton anthology of poetry of Middle East, Asia and Beyond -- Language for a New Century --

Statue of Alexander Pushkin, who was proud of his mixed African and Russian ancestry, at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung.

Includes two poems from Burma:

Eskimo Paradise by Kyi May Kaung


Desert Years, by the late Tin Moe, translated by Kyi May Kaung

Book launch -- free and open to the public -

Rubin Museum, New York, Friday 25th April, 7-10 PM

Land of Prisons -- by Kim

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The late KNU leader Pado Mahn Sha's daughter Zoya Phan --

Pado Mahn Sha was assassinated in early Feb, 2008 in Mae Sot on Burma-Thai border.

Kunming - Bangkok Highway

A highway that binds China and its neighbors
Sunday, March 30, 2008
LUANG NAMTHA, Laos: The newly refurbished Route 3 that cuts through this remote town is an ordinary strip of pavement, the type of two-lane road you might find winding through the backwoods of Vermont or sunflower fields in the French provinces.
On Leusa, 70, who lives near the road, calls it "deluxe." As a young woman, she traded opium and tiger bones along the road, which was then nothing more than a horse trail.
On Monday, the prime ministers of Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam will officially inaugurate the former opium smuggling route as the final link of what they call the "north-south economic corridor," a network of roads linking the southern Chinese city of Kunming to Bangkok spanning 1,800 kilometers, or 1,100 miles.
The network, several sections of which were still unpaved as late as December, is a major milestone for China and its southern neighbors. The low-lying mountains here, the foothills of the Himalayas, served for centuries as a natural defensive boundary between Southeast Asian civilizations and the giant empire to the north. The road rarely follows a straight line as it meanders through terraced rice fields and tea plantations.
Today, those same Southeast Asian civilizations alternatively crave closer integration with that empire and fear its sway as an emerging economic giant. China, in turn, covets the land, markets and natural resources of one of Asia's least developed and most pristine regions.
With trade across these borders increasing by double digits every year, China has helped build a series of roads inside the territory of its southern neighbors. The Chinese government is paying half the cost of a bridge over the Mekong River between Laos and Thailand, due for completion in 2011. It financed parts of Route 3 in Laos and refurbished roads in northern Myanmar, including the storied Burma Road used by the Allies in World War II to supply troops fighting the Japanese. China is also building an oil and gas pipeline from the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar to Kunming.
Taken together, these roads are breaking the isolation of the thinly inhabited upper reaches of Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, areas that in recent decades languished because of wars, ethnic rivalries and heroin trafficking. The roads run through the heart of the Golden Triangle, the region that once produced 70 percent of the world's opium crop.
The new roads, as well as upgraded ports along the Mekong River, are changing the diets and spending habits of people on both sides of the border. China is selling fruit and green vegetables that favor temperate climates to its southern neighbors and buying tropical fruit, rubber, sugar cane, palm oil and seafood.
"You never used to see apples in the traditional markets," said Ruth Banomyong, an expert in logistics who teaches at Thammasat University in Bangkok.
China has blasted shallow sections of the Mekong to make it more easily navigable for cargo barges, allowing traders to ship apples, pears and lettuce downriver. The price of apples in Thailand has fallen to the equivalent of about 20 cents apiece from more than $1 a decade ago. Roses and other cut flowers from China have displaced flowers flown in from Holland, making Valentine's Day easier on the wallet for Thais. Traders now have the choice of shipping by barge, truck or both.
Over all, even before the completion of the road, trade between China and upland Southeast Asian countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam) had risen impressively to $53 billion in 2007 from $5.7 billion a decade ago.
People are on the move as well. Wang Suqin, director of express services at the Kunming bus terminal, said Chinese tourists were eager to travel overland to Thailand.
"Every day we receive calls about this," Wang said.
Bus service to Bangkok, which has not started, will take at least 24 hours, but that is not a deterrent, Wang said; it's part of the fun. "We don't want to miss the scenery along the way," she said.
During a weeklong journey through the cities and villages along the route from Kunming to Bangkok, rice farmers, tea pickers, entrepreneurs, traders and government officials expressed satisfaction and some excitement that a project decades in the making was nearly completed.
Chen Jinqiang, a Chinese government official from Xishuangbanna, in Yunnan Province, said the road would help ensure that farmers got their vegetables and flowers to market, avoiding the problem he witnessed in the 1980s when poor transportation left watermelons rotting in the fields. "Even the pigs refused to eat them," he said.
But the road also excites old fears of the monolith to the north. Preecha Kamolbutr, governor of Chiang Rai Province, in northern Thailand, said it may further exacerbate what he calls a "Chinese invasion." He is particularly concerned for Laos, he said, an impoverished country the size of Britain with a population of just 6.5 million.
"Chinese businessmen come in with their own capital, their own workers and their own construction materials," the governor said. "I fear that in the future the Lao people might feel that they've been exploited. They will feel they've been invaded."
For now, those fears do not appear to be shared by many Laotians. Residents of the sparsely populated Luang Namtha Province interviewed for this article said they welcomed visitors and were counting on an influx of Chinese, Thais and others to help raise their incomes. Alinda Phengsawat, head of tourism planning in the province, said the road would bring visitors to what has been a very remote part of the country.
"Maybe they will stay overnight," she said. "That would be better than just driving through."
Since paving was completed late last year, people who live deep inside the jungle have come to the edge of Route 3 to sell vegetables and forest products, residents say.
"You have a huge hinterland that's pretty badly served at the moment, from Kunming down through Laos and northern Thailand," said John Cooney, director of the Southeast Asia infrastructure division at the Asian Development Bank, which financed one section of the road in Laos. "That suddenly is becoming a market."
Cash-strapped Laos is encouraging Chinese investment by handing out what it has plenty of: land. Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad has said the government will trade "land for capital."
The government recently gave a Chinese company a 50-year renewable lease for a large swath of prime land outside of the capital, Vientiane, in exchange for the building of a sports stadium. Here in Luang Namtha, a Chinese company has been given 30-year rights to build and operate what is being called, perhaps euphemistically, the Bo Ten Economic Development Zone.
The main draw so far is not the factories or warehouses typically associated with these zones but a casino, which is off limits to Laotian gamblers, according to Alinda.
"I went up there and everyone was speaking Chinese," said Pansak Gardhan, a Thai engineer who is helping rebuild the small airport in Luang Namtha. "All the signs were in Chinese."
Chinese coming here to gamble will drive through what is probably the most beautiful section of the Kunming-Bangkok road, a four-lane highway that soars over valleys and clings to hillsides striated with rubber-tree and tea plantations.
Li Hui, an official in the foreign affairs office of Yunnan Province, which borders Laos, says one segment of the journey from Kunming to the border used to take three days. "Half of the people were throwing up," Li said. On the new highway the same segment takes only a few hours.
The Chinese spent $4 billion building the highway from Kunming to the border. One particularly difficult stretch of road required the construction of 430 bridges and 15 tunnels. That portion of the road is also monitored by 168 cameras centrally controlled by highway officials who watch for elephants - there are an estimated 275 in the area - and other stray animals. The cameras also assist the police in catching criminal suspects.
"We've helped solve 130 cases of drug smuggling, robberies and murder," boasted Zhang Zhulin, director of the Chinese segment of the expressway, which opened in April 2006.
In a large room with a "Keep Out!" sign posted at the entrance, Zhang toggled a joystick to demonstrate how he could scan different segments of the road as well zoom in on the faces of passengers as cars passed through toll booths.
The Kunming-Bangkok road is not a seamless experience. There are sections on the Chinese side that have yet to be upgraded. With the bridge over the Mekong still in planning stages, passengers must take ferries across the Thai-Laos border. And formalities at border checkpoints, especially for freight, can sometimes take hours.
But the road is an obvious improvement from the one that On knew as a child. Her son drives her around in his Toyota pickup truck, but she's not interested in going very far. "I get carsick," she said.

Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune |


Baan Dada Children's Home in Sangkhlaburi -- Burma-Thai Border

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rowling sues fan over "Potter encyclopedia."

World food crisis --

Thailand must improve its immigration policy -- by Marwaan Macan-Marker in Pattaya Daily News

The recent death of the 54 Burmese migrants in a container in Ranong, on April 10 represents, but the tip of the iceberg. Human rights lawyers and labour rights activists in Thailand say that violence against Burmese migrant workers is on the increase. They accuse Thai authorities of doing too little to protect Burmese working in Thailand.

The Migrant Worker Group, a coalition of NGOs, cited at least documented 10 cases in which more than 100 people had died being transported to Thailand in the past year. Since the beginning of 2008, scores of Rohingya Muslims from Burma have drowned in the Andaman Sea in an attempt to reach Southern Thailand, However, rather than help, Thai PM Samak Sundaravej has recently announced he will detain them on a deserted island to deter more arrivals.

"These preventable deaths are the tragic result of people fleeing repression and poverty in Burma, only to find abuse and exploitation in Thailand. Thai policies denying migrants basic rights contribute to such tragedies and urgently need to be revised or scrapped. These deaths put Thai authorities squarely on notice that reform cannot wait," said Elaine Pearson, Deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Over 2 million Burmese migrants are estimated to be working in Thailand, less than 500,000 of them legally. Yet the numbers rise steadily—the lure of jobs and the hope of a better life outweighs all the uncertainty and threat of physical danger, murder and exploitation that these people suffer.

Nearly 20,000 registered Burmese migrant workers work in the Mae Sot area of Thailand's Tak border province with Myanmar, where cases of abuse are particularly high. Moe Swe, head of the Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association in Mae Sot, said because migrant workers were reluctant to get involved with the police, many incidents go unreported. Unregistered migrants fear deportation if they complain to the authorities

800 cases of abuse, including murder and rape, were reported to the Seafarers Union of Burma from mid-2006 to November 2007. Union member Ko Ko Aung maintained 30% of the reported cases involved murder. It appears some Thai employers resort to murder, rather than pay their migrant workers.

Adults are not the only victims of Burma's instability, children are also represented. Here estimates are vague, there being no official statistics, but NGOs cite 20,000 as a generally accepted figure. The economic crisis and instability in Burma is driving hordes of Burmese children into hard labour, begging and the sex trade, claims exiled Burmese rights groups. Paw Ray, the chairperson of the BMWEC, which operates nearly 50 schools for children of Burmese migrant workers in Mae Sot maintains "there's no security and no protection for migrant workers or their children. Neither the authorities nor employers can give them security."

With many Thais avoiding mundane, dirty and dangerous work in agriculture, fishing and construction, and Myanmar's generals refusing to improve their crippled economy, Thai officials say the influx of cheap, migrant labour will continue.

However, most Thais are unaware of the positive contributions that migrant workers make for Thailand. Estimates of their contributions amount to Bt370 billion, or about 6.2 per cent of Thailand's GDP and the average unskilled migrant earns between 50 and 80% of the average unskilled Thai. Yet it appears as if the Thai political leaders, captains of industry and ordinary citizens - who most benefit directly or indirectly from migrant labour - have conspired to suppress such information. Those who benefit most in the absence of any genuine attempt to regulate the inflow of migrants from Burma, Cambodia and Laos are unscrupulous Thai employers bent on exploiting labour to maximise profits.

And Thailand continues to treat these people with utter contempt and prejudice. In fact, it appears the more Thailand comes to depend on migrant workers for its economic and social well-being, the worse the Thai people treat them.

Successive governments, including the outgoing Surayud government, have been complicit in the systematic exploitation of migrants, for failure to secure borders, and lax enforcement of laws relating to immigrants and their employers.

Human Rights Watch maintains "If Thailand's labour laws were followed across the board, fewer migrants would resort to illegal crossings or be susceptible to trafficking, and could travel and work with basic rights under law." They continue

"It's time for the Thai and Burmese governments to implement transparent measures that protect the lives and basic rights of migrant workers." News Type : World news

Sunday, April 13, 2008

How Pete Seeger came to write Turn Turn Turn -- based on Ecclesiastes

Lotus Leaf and Raindrop -- In Memory of Aunty A. Photograph copyright Kyi May Kaung.

All rights reserved.

Please scroll around these You Tube addresses. Seeger interview is the first one --

To Every Thing There is a Season

Ecclesiastes 3
To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

The Words of Christ as recorded in the New Testament of the Bible.
[King James version]. Distribute them freely.
Enjoy the scriptures -courtesy of ComPortOne
ComPortOne Home Page

Lonely Planet travel writer says he plagiarized, dealt drugs to compensate for poor pay --

To reader who left a comment --

Life Extender for Kenji -- art work and photo -- copyright Kyi May Kaung

I am planning what you call a "post-hum" -- an obituary, on Kenji Nagaii, though there were many around the time he died.

I made a nyaung htauk or branched limb (tree branch) (to prop up a banyan tree) that people make in Burma and Thailand -- when they are sick,

as a "life extender" for Kenji --

Sadly, so many people have died, that I am unable to keep up with the Obits -- but I will try.

Kyi May Kaung

On Burmese sham constitution and faux referendum -- Benedict Rogers: Every Trick in the Book."

Every trick in the book

Benedict Rogers

April 13, 2008 2:00 PM

Next month, the people of Burma will vote in a referendum on a new constitution - the first opportunity to go to the polls since Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy overwhelmingly won elections 18 years ago. But in 1990 Burma's military regime was shocked that despite all its efforts to undermine the opposition and intimidate the voters, it still lost the election. This time, the junta is determined to get its way - and is using every trick in the book and more.

A more blatant sham is hard to imagine. When the regime rejected the UN's request for international monitors during the referendum, it abandoned any iota of credibility. What kind of referendum is it where those who campaign against the process can be jailed for at least three years?

Millions of Burmese are disfranchised. Buddhist monks and nuns, who number 500,000, are denied the vote - a price for their courageous demonstrations last September which were brutally crushed. Religious leaders from other faiths are also excluded. More than 500,000 internally-displaced people on the run in the jungles of eastern Burma, as well as the 700,000 Muslim Rohingyas, treated as non-citizens and therefore stateless, are banned from participating. Millions living in conflict zones in the ethnic states, as well as refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries and exiles further afield, will also be excluded.

The junta's game-plan is clearly to rubber-stamp its new constitution which, in turn, will enshrine military rule. The constitution drafting process completely excluded Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD and major representatives of the ethnic groups. Most of the members of parliament elected in 1990 are in prison or exile, and Suu Kyi is in her 12th year of house arrest. The National Convention, which drafted the guidelines for the constitution, involved no debate among the handpicked delegates, and none of the proposals made by the few ethnic representatives who did participate were adopted. Law 5/96 imposed prison terms of up to 20 years for discussing the constitution process.

The end product is a constitution which offers no improvement in human rights and democracy - and simply enshrines military rule. The commander-in-chief of the army will appoint 25% of the national legislators. He will also appoint the defence minister, who will report to him. The army chief can seize power at any point if he happens to believe that national security is threatened. There will be no independent judiciary, and the constitution cannot be amended for 10 years.

Political prisoners will be barred from contesting elections, and the president must be a person with military experience who has not married a foreigner. Suu Kyi, therefore, is by definition ruled out.

The junta hopes this charade will lull the international community into a false sense that it is reforming, and so pressure for change will ease. The international community, including Burma's neighbours, must not fall for this. If the regime continues to ignore calls from the UN for dialogue with the democracy movement, tough action should follow. The UN secretary-general himself should take charge of Burma policy. Burma's best friends - China, India, Russia, Thailand and Singapore - should end their policies of appeasement. A universal arms embargo should be imposed. And the UN security council should refer the generals to the International Court for investigation into crimes against humanity.

This is a regime guilty of every possible human rights violation, including a campaign of ethnic cleansing involving the widespread, systematic use of rape as a weapon of war, forced labour, the use of human minesweepers and the destruction of more than 3,200 villages in eastern Burma since 1996. More than 70,000 children have been taken off the streets and forced to join the Burma Army - the highest proportion of child soldiers in the world. More than 1,800 political prisoners are in jail, subjected to horrific torture. It is time to bring this catalogue of horrors - under-reported and overlooked for too long - to an end.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Monks march on Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco in solidarity with Burmese monks and Tibet -- ABC 7 News

Ogo Ogo and Asian womens's bios that my book group is reading now:

Comic Ogo Ogo in Bali -- Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung -- Ogo Ogo are made of foam and papier mache by the extremely artistic Balinese and paraded on bamboo rafts the day before Nyepi (New Year) to drive out all the bad demons. There are competitions and different organizations vie with each other, and spy on each other, to produce the most distinctive figures. Afterwards they are burned.

Woman selling "Ogo Ogo hair" in Bali, Indonesia -- Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung --

She wanted me to take her to America, where she said her son worked for Intercontinental Hotels. I tried to explain to her that life in America is hard and there's no room for extra people, but I don't think she or my interpreter heard me. Ogo Ogo hair is made from padanas fibre and is quite a laborious process. The hair dyed black was really spooky.

Copyright Kyi May Kaung

Women's bio reading group discussions:

April 14 -- "Climbing the Mango Trees" by
Madhur Jaffrey.
Future selections are:
May 12 - "Feather in the Storm" by Emily Wu
June 9 - "Stealing Buddha's Dinner" by Bich Minh Nguyen

This group only reads women's bios, nothing else.

Further info: Politics and Prose Bookstore

Friday, April 11, 2008

Burma savvy Scott Marciel named as top US diplomat to Asean --

Burma Savvy Diplomat Named US Envoy to Asean

By WAI MOE Friday, April 11, 2008

The US government has named a top diplomat who is familiar with Burma as its first envoy to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Scot Marciel, currently deputy assistant secretary to the East Asia and Pacific Bureau, said on Wednesday one of his first tasks will be to work with Asean to establish a more effective Burma policy, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

Scot Marciel at the Washington Foreign Press Center Briefing
“One of my highest priorities, if confirmed, will be to work with Asean and its member nations—to convince Burma’s rulers to end their brutal repression and begin a genuine dialogue leading to a democratic transition,” Marciel said.

Surin Pitsuwan, the Asean secretary-general, said in a press release that Asean welcomed the appointment of Marciel “as a significant gesture of the US in recognizing the importance of Asean.”

He added, “We will be ready to work with the United States on a broad list of issues of mutual interest for the well-being, stability and security of the region.”

The US State Department Web site says Marciel, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, joined the State Department in 1985. His most recent assignments were director of the Office of Maritime Southeast Asia, director of the Office of
Mainland Southeast Asia and director of the Office of Southeastern Europe.

He has also served in Vietnam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Brazil and Turkey, as well as in the Economic Bureau’s Office of Monetary Affairs. He grew up in Fremont, California. He graduated from the University of California at Davis and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

After the Burma junta’s crackdown on the 2007 mass demonstrations, Marciel gave a briefing to the US Senate and House foreign affairs committees on the civil uprising.

He was also one of main speakers for a seminar “The Crisis in Burma: In Search of a Unified International Response,” which was organized by the Open Society Institute in New York on March 25.
____________ _________ _________ _________ _

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Failure of (the) Gambari Mission in Burma By: Ahmedur Rahman Farooq

Asian Tribune - Fri, 2008-04-11 01:31

Turning a deaf ear to international outcries, Burma's military rulers are going to perpetuate military domination in running the state forever through unilaterally holding a referendum on May 10.2008 on a pro-military constitution which will not be possible to amend without the consent of the military representatives in the parliament, while the UN especial (sic) envoy Ibrahim Gambari who was appointed on a mission to restore peace, democracy and human rights in Burma through a meaningful participation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic and ethnic minority leaders in the process of drafting a national constitution, has virtually reached a position where the people of Burma cannot see any ray of hope from his mission.
In the draft constitution, the constitutional power has been given to the commander in chief to run the country, instead of vesting it in the people under the basic tenets of a democratic system. The commander in chief has been given the power to appoint 25 percent of the seats in both the upper and lower houses of parliament, with hand picked military officials who will not be accountable to the people, but fully loyal to the commander in chief. It also stipulates that no amendments to the charter can be made without the consent of more than 75 percent of lawmakers, making changes impossible without the support of the military representatives in Parliament who occupy 110 seats out of the 440-seat lower house which is called Pyithu Hluttaw (House of Representatives) and 56 seats out of the 224-seat upper house which is called Amyotha Hluttaw (House of Nationalities) .
Moreover, in the event of a "state of emergency," which the tatmadaw (armed forces) is given the authority to declare at any time, the commander in chief would assume full legislative, executive and judicial powers.
However, after returning from his third visit to Burma on March 6-10.2008, Ibrahim Gambari has briefed on Burma with the 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC) on March 18.2008 where he admitted his efforts had yielded "no immediate tangible outcome." But he could not ask the Council to do something effective or to strengthen the mandate of the Secretary General in pressuring the military regime for an all party-inclusive national reconciliation process in Burma. Of course, he said that he had reason to believe that the Burmese government attaches importance to his mission and "continues to value the Secretary-General’ s good offices as the best prospect for further cooperation through mutual trust and confidence, and constructive suggestions. " But the people of Burma cannot find grounds for such optimism of the UN envoy.
Most unfortunately, Gambari failed even to persuade the UN Security Council members to release a Presidential Statement after his briefing. The draft Security Council presidential statement which was prepared by three Security Council members—the United States, Britain and France, on the Burmese constitutional referendum reflecting the views of the people of Burma, was opposed by the Russian ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin. The draft UN statement called on the military regime to allow full participation of all political actors, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in the referendum process in order for it "to be inclusive and credible" through the guarantee of freedom of expression, association and assembly in the political process leading to the referendum, as well as independent monitoring of the referendum.
Opposing the draft statement, the Russian ambassador said, "Responding off the top of my head, I said to the members of the Council that the way I heard this idea, to me it is somewhat improper for the Security Council to go into describing modalities for a referendum or an election because we are not an election board." He also said, "We are the Security Council; we are dealing with issues of threats to international peace and security." Sadly, the lack of peace of 57.6 million people of Burma who have been groaning under the military for the last 46 years and now (are) going to be enslaved generation after generation through the sham referendum, is not a matter to dealt with by the UN Security Council according to the Russian ambassador.
Despite being purely rebuffed by the Burmese regime during his last visit, which was widely reported by the official media and which made it clear to Gambari that his approach of accommodating the generals in an effort to engage them in a dialogue has not worked, the UN envoy failed to give a frank assessment of the current situation in Burma to the UN Security Council as well as the international community. All his proposals to the regime to amend the draft constitution, to allow a UN role in the May referendum and to include input from the country's pro-democracy movement and other political parties, were rejected outright by the junta. He failed to make minimum visible progress towards achieving the goals set by the UN Security Council through its presidential statement in October 2007.
Mr Gambari is a veteran diplomat who holds the record of being the longest serving Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN and has served as President of the Security Council on two occasions and chaired the UN Special Committee Against Apartheid, which has successfully seen the demise of the long-standing social injustice in South Africa and the establishment of democratic rule there.
He also chaired the UN Special Committee on Peace Keeping Operations from 1990-1999. But despite his several rounds of discussions with the junta leaders during his three visits to Burma and also his countless trips to the capitals around the world over the past few months, he has been unable to accomplish any of the goals set by himself, by the UN Secretary-General, or by the Security Council towards a meaningful national reconciliation in Burma, even though there are reasons to consider broader factors for his ineffectiveness.
In fact, time is running out as the farcical referendum which is aimed at trampling the people of Burma for generations under the military boot, is going to take place on May 10 on the junta-drafted constitution. And in an effort to show some level of "eye-wash success," the local authorities have already started ordering the people to support the constitutional referendum, with threats on those who may say "No" to the draft. People of pro-military organs like (the) Township Peace and Development Council(TPDC), the Union Solidarity and Development Association(USDA) and the National Unity Party(NUP), are holding meetings at the village level, making known to the people of the consequences of voting "No" in the referendum.
They are explaining to the villagers how to vote in the referendum and how the local authorities will observe the people -saying that the local authorities will check the ballots after the polling station is closed and if they find out who is against the draft constitution they will detain him/ her to be interrogated immediately (as regards)why he/she is opposing it. Now, many people have started to think that at least for the sake of one's own safety, it will not be wise to vote "No" in the referendum, as it will be like inviting the wolf by a lamb to attack him.
The pro-military people are also cautioning that the situation will be disastrous in the States or Townships where the ethnic minorities live. If the authority finds poor turnout or (a) no-vote majority, the minorities who are purely defenseless and powerless, will have to be ready to face the worst. At the same time, in order to spread panic among the common people, the pro-military gangs are attacking the pro-democracy and human rights activists as the authorities tighten control on opposition groups ahead of the referendum.
There is no denying the fact that the Burmese military rulers are pushing the country to a dangerous road for the future. They are also trying to deceive the international community through the referendum in order to divert international attention away from last September's brutal crackdown.
Now it is time for Gambari to frankly concede that he was unable to get things moving in his approach of "dialogue and accommodation" in Burma, so that the international community can re-evaluate its approach to Burma's ruling generals and also the UN can review its Burma policy.
It is also the expectation of the international community from Ibrahim Gambari to clearly outline what his mission or the international community can do to ensure that the junta addresses the demands of the international community.
Nevertheless, in the wake of the failure and frustration of Ibrahim Gambari, now it is important to strengthen the direct involvement of the UN Secretary General through a separate mandate of the UN Security Council in order to help maximize the international efforts to resolve the political impasse in Burma

Ahmedur Rahman Farooq (is) Chairman of the Rohingya Human Rights Council (RHRC).

Burmese activist Nyunt Than of BADA makes an impact at San Francisco Olympic Torch Demonstrations --

U Nyunt Than and I were interviewed by Rose Aguiler in Sept. 2007.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My Dearest Aunt passed away in Bangkok --

Lotus I photographed on my way to see Aunty -- photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Mrs. Aimee Shwe Shane --

She was the loveliest person imaginable, able to related to people of all ages and nationalities.

She lived in Bangkok, Thailand for the last 40 years, and spoke Thai fluently.

Uncle worked at Escap and before that worked for the Burma Railways. Uncle's dream was that Burma be linked up with the trans-Asian railway lines, but it has never happened.

I saw Aunty last on March 10 and she seemed more quiet and lost in thought than she usually is.

I shall miss her sorely.

Kyi May Kaung

Monday, April 07, 2008

Pulitzers in Journalism --

Japanese photo journalist Kenji Nagai as he lay dying -- Sept 25, 2007.

"The prize for breaking news photography went to Adrees Latif of Reuters for his photograph of a Japanese videographer who was fatally wounded in a street protest in Myanmar."

from -- Washington Post wins 6 Pulitzers, by Deepti Hajela.

How about a Pulitzer and other prizes for the monks of Burma and the citizen journalists?

Kyi May Kaung

Fabulous blog -- Nuns buying bras and other fun things from Thai-Burma Border

India and Burma and --- Former Defence Minister George Fernandez about only friend we have left in India --

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Asian American -- wikipedia article --

Eating road kill raccoon -- with Monica Eng

of Chicago Tribune --

who was just at the NEIU Asian American Heritage Festival in Chicago.

Didn't seem extra chewy.

Cherry blossom in DC

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Booming Indonesian art --

Malayalam Poetry -- if you have the guts, have your poetry slam streetside !

Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) gives me a Distinguished Service Award, by Kyi May Kaung

Dean Murrell Duster -- announcing the award.
A session on the Philippines --
Nobel Prize winning economist -- A.K. Sen's Development as Freedom -- BTW, A. K. Sen was born and brought up in Mandalay, Burma.


For two years now, I have been going to NEIU in Chicago for conferences and seminars related to Burma, sponsored by the Mohammad Mossadegh Fund.

Mohammad Mossadegh was the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran until 1953 when he was deposed in a CIA engineered plot, which placed the Shah back into power. Before Aug. 1953, the Shah was briefly overseas. Mossadegh had worked for a constitutional monarchy and for Iran to receive more of its oil revenues. The CIA role in the plot was eventually revealed publicly.

Last year, I was on a panel with Barbara Victor, keynote speaker, author of The Lady, a biography of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Other panelists last year were Prof. Emeritus Clark Neher and Burma activist Maura Stevens.

This year, I was at NEIU April 2-3 as part of their 13th Annual Asian American Heritage Conference. The events spanned a broad range of topics including Asian Values and Globalization, Contemporary Asian Cinema, Two Decades Since Dictatorship in the Philippines and The Role of the Ethnic Media in the Asian Community. There was also a broad range of cultural and artistic events, but I was not able to catch them all. The one I most regret having missed was Now Ruz – A Celebration of the Iranian New Year.

I was on two panels this year, one on National Autonomy: Examining the 60th Anniversary of India’s and Burma’s Independence, with the Honorable Ashok Kumar Attri, Consul General of India in Chicago, and chaired by Dr. Hamid Akbari, Chair and Assoc. Professor, Management and Marketing, NEIU. Dr. Akbari and his wife Azar are of Iranian descent, and I find many things in common between all of us at the Conference and at NEIU, in our foreign-born backgrounds and American shared values and abiding belief in democracy.

The India and Burma panel caused me to look more closely at the last 60 years in Burma and India. I also added my interest in Chinese economic reforms. My Ph.D. field exams at the University of Pennsylvania were in the Russian, Chinese, Indian and hopefully Burmese economic reforms and problems of communism and transitions to market economies. I have kept up my interests since.

Also on April 2, Girish Rishi, VP and General Manager, Motorola Corporation, Chicago, spoke about market reforms and miracle economic growth in India in the last 15 years. According to Rishi, China is ten years ahead of India, economically speaking.

I concluded my session on India, Burma and China by saying that though spliced between two of the fastest growing economies in the world, India and China, Burma is a basket case. India to our west is not only the world’s 12th largest economy, but also the third largest in purchasing power and the world’s largest democracy, -- but I described how troubled I felt by the present Indian government’s seemingly purely commercial and trade approach towards Burma. Even as the monks were marching in Burma last September, Indian companies were busy buying natural gas from Burma and now there is a dispute, with Bangladesh saying that Burma is claiming the offshore plots that belong to it, belong to them.

For Indian economic reforms, see Arvind Panagariya, India’s Economic Reforms: What has been accomplished? What remains to be done? On

The Chinese government already has a “natural gas from western to eastern provinces program” in its 16th Five Year Plan and my fear is that, this combined with the Indian and Thai hungers also for (Burmese) natural gas will cause the pipelines to flow out of Burma or through Burma, leaving the Burmese people in the dark.

The other panel I was on at NEIU, was Peace and Democracy in Burma. My co-panelists were -- medical doctor, Dr. Nora Rowley who has worked with Doctors without Borders in the Rohingya (Burmese Muslim) areas in western Burma, and Stacie Freudenberg, Photo Journalist, and was also chaired by Dr. Akbari.

After lunch Stacie gave a “personal tour” of her photographs of Burmese refugees in the Mae Hla camp and migrant workers in Mae Hong Son, near the Burma border in western Thailand. I was struck by Nora Rowley’s deep commitment to Rohingya and human rights in Burma, and by Stacie Freudenberg’s artistic eye as well as her human heart. In a few minutes, she was able to describe for us the fear that the Burmese migrant workers feel. Nora spoke about the Rohingya requiring special permission to marry. A woman who married without permission was stripped naked and paraded in her village. Stacie showed us the thin bar of light below a door in the daytime. The migrant family whose life she documented, lock themselves in, in the daytime, for fear of forced deportation back to Burma. Children are sometimes deported back without their parents and not heard from again.

At the luncheon on the 3rd, I also met Ernest from Burma, who is the son of a famous Burmese movie director. His health has been affected by the struggle, but he is planning a demonstration with Burmese monks soon.

The award came as a complete surprise for me as I have been doing this sort of literary activism for at least a decade now, and few places are as welcoming and supportive as NEIU. It reminds me of a smaller scale Conference on World Affairs, which is also going on right now, and is based at the University of Colorado, Boulder, CO.

The Distinguished Service Award I received was inscribed “In recognition of your Outstanding Dedication and Work in promoting Peace and Democracy in Burma” and was signed by Dean Murrell J.H. Duster, Dean, Academic Development, Diversity and Multicultural Programs, NEIU.

I would like to thank Dean Duster, Asst. Dean Yasmin Ranney, Dr. and Mrs. Hamid Akbari and all the staff at NEIU and the students and Burma activist community, especially Nora Rowley and Stacie Freudenberg and Ernest, for this chance to share ideas and concerns in a supportive environment.

Kyi May Kaung

April 5, 2008

My archive at IISH, Amsterdam--