Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Renowned Burmese monastery in Lumpun, Thailand since 1962


Especially famous for instruction in Pali grammar.

defective grenades, bombs from Burmese army factories - probably good news -


unofficial summary -

bombs and grenades have uneven walls and defective gunpowder due to theft and corruption -

fell short of target, killing 400 "friendly" Wa forces around 2002 when Wa were forced to march in front.

This was before the border guard force disputes between Wa and Burma forces, starting abt 2008.

If you don't have Zawgyi font, you will get alphabet soup on VOA page, but you can click on MP3 player icon and hear in Burmese.


Cancer fighting vegetables


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi's computer paintings - which she will sell for her Cause -

Winter - computer painting copyright Aung San Suu Kyi

Flowers, computer painting copyright Aung San Suu Kyi

Summer, computer painting copyright Aung San Suu Kyi -

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has announced she will be selling these - please get in touch with her through US Embassy Rangoon, of through her Burmese and US based lawyers.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kyi May Kaung's X'mas short story, No Crib for a Bed, in anthology Gravity Dancers -


Burmese uranium sales validated by Wikileaks -

Date: Thursday, December 16, 2010, 4:00 PM


Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


December 16, 2010

Please forward.

Wikileaks is in the process of releasing over 250,000 United States
diplomatic cables. The less than 1% published so far have already changing
the way we think about the world. Hitherto secret information has been
revealed about one country after another. The cables have also made
evident that the U.S. regularly lies in its public statements about
international issues. The government isn’t even close to being open with
American citizens and the people of the world.

For Burma, the Obama Administration is obliged under the Tom Lantos JADE
Act to disclose publicly what it knows about the SPDC’s nuclear program.
The State Department has refused to publish the Act’s Report on Military
and Intelligence Aid, even in the face of our Freedom of Information
filing, which was made eight months ago.

Wikileaks has provided an extraordinary opportunity to circumvent this
blackout. The organization has 1,864 cables from the United States Embassy
in Rangoon, and additional cables from other locations mention Burma as

As of the time this statement was posted, at least nineteen of the
released cables involve Burma, and eight of these deal with nuclear and
related issues:

- The possible construction of a nuclear reactor - 04Rangoon88

- A large underground site in Magway, with North Korean workers -

- How the SPDC’s growing nuclear program is a barrier to U.S. engagement,
with reference to the detection of increasing military purchases from
North Korea and an “alarming increase” in the number of nuclear science
students studying in Russia (which number Dictator Watch first disclosed)
- 09Beijing2868

- The possible shipment of uranium ore to China - 07Rangoon105

- China revealing that Burma’s North Korea relationship includes a nuclear
component and that the North is providing hardware and Russia software and
training - 09Rangoon502

- China promoting the idea that Burma-North Korea
cooperation is acceptable - 09Rangoon732

- An offer to sell uranium to the Embassy in Rangoon - 08Rangoon749

- Burma named as a WMD proliferation risk - 09State80163

The uranium sale cable is from September 23, 2008. It reports that a
Burmese national gave the embassy a vial that purportedly contained U-238.
The seller claimed to have 50kg of uranium-bearing rock in Rangoon, and
access to at least 2,000 kg more in Karenni State. However, it is not
clear when the offer took place. The cable header refers to another
communication from 2007 - State162091.

This cable validates intelligence about the availability of Burmese
uranium that Dictator Watch has previously published, albeit with some

At the end of 2006, we learned that a Burmese broker was offering to sell
yellowcake (low refined uranium). Our initial response was to inform the
U.S. We don’t want a dirty bomb with Burmese uranium to go off someday in
New York, London or Bangkok. We were told to stay away from it - we had
offered to help arrange a sting - from which we concluded that the U.S.
already knew about it.

In July 2007 we mentioned the situation for the first time in an article,
Burma: A Threat to International Security and Peace. There was no
response, official or press, to our information. We subsequently described
the case in more detail in a 2009 article, Elements of a Nuclear Weapons
Program, Threat Assessment for Burma. In this piece we disclosed that the
broker had referred to a 60kg supply of yellowcake that was stored at an
industrial center near Bangkok, and that the material was under the
control of a Wa general. We also revealed that we had learned of a second
broker. There was no response to this information either.

While there are differences, U-238 versus yellowcake, and 50 versus 60
kilograms, we think it is likely that the broker that approached the
Rangoon Embassy was the same as the first that we heard about. We would
like to know the result of the U.S. testing on the sample that the Embassy
received, and why America didn’t work to stop the broker. As far as we are
concerned, the threat of terrorism using Burmese uranium remains critical.

If the U.S. is interested, we can provide additional information on the
broker, from a document that mentions the yellowcake.

We have no doubt that as the bulk of the Burma cables are published, more
about the SPDC’s role in weapons of mass destruction proliferation will
become known. We would also comment that these are State Department cables
- the CIA, of course, knows more than State - and that the latest cable is
from early 2010. Unquestionably, the U.S. has substantial and more recent
intelligence about the SPDC’s proliferation, which in the interests of
openness it should reveal, without the need for a Wikileaks.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One of the weekly broadcasts (on music and politics of famed Burmese singer Daw Mar Mar Aye -

"There is so much I still need to tell you."


The incomparable, wonderful, brave and talented Daw Mar Mar Aye.

Daw Mar Mar Aye started singing professionally at the ripe old age of 4. Her parents were troopers, her father played the Burmese hnge or horn.

In 1998, while I was working at rfa as a sr. research analyst and international broadcaster, I heard that she was in the DC office looking for work. I hurried towards the section head's glass cubicle,from which he pulled all the strings that kept us bound hand and foot.

As I went around the corner fast,I almost bumped into Daw Mar Mar Aye, coming from the opposite direction. This particular corner was not transparent.

I recognized her at once from the photograph on the cover of her CD of Burmese classical songs. To my surprise, she recognized me too. "Oh, of course I know you Nyi Ma (Younger Sister) - I worked with your cousin Ko Win Maung (the writer Min Shin) and I saw Uncle (my father, U Kaung) at the BBS."

Mar Mar Aye worked at the Burma Broadcasting Service on Prome Road in Rangoon for many years, over 20 I think.

She was wearing a scruffy looking, dirty white, old faux fur coat and looked like she was struggling to make ends meet.

I asked if her business or interview with the notorious section head was over. She said it was, so I begged to take her to lunch and we went to the Indian Buffet downstairs on M St.

I had the hunch that Mr. - had offered her something so small that she would have had to refuse. It turned out to be so. He had offered her a column to write, and that would only have given her a piece rate of $200 per pop or per week, not enough for her to stay alive in DC. She would not even get two hundred a week if they re-broadcast old pieces.

I tried to find her a recording stint with the Smithsonian, but they too declined after listening to her CD, on the grounds that it had reverb and so was maybe "not authentic." As if she could not sing the classical songs with old instruments accompanying her or a capella.

At lunch we each called the other "elder sister" and she laughingly told me how she didn't know her exact age. That's because her parents had not taken note of the date.

She said at age four, she wanted to go to school so much she enrolled herself in kindergarten. I was amazed.

She had sung for all the big shots, including army officers, spanning the democracy period of U Nu to after Ne Win's 1962 coup.

She said in 1988 her husband told her that if she "stepped out of that door" to join the pro-democracy demonstrators, she should never come back.

So she said, "OK, I'm going," and left, eventually arriving in the USA.

I was more than amazed, knowing the peak her career had been at in Rangoon.

She said her ambition was to sing in New York's Central Park and to be on American TV.

It wasn't as if she was that young any more when she had to migrate to America, but she was as spirited as ever, falling into that category of excellent Burmese women such as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

She went to live in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where these are a lot of Burmese refugees.

I am happy that she has this weekly column at BBC based in London. I heard that the jerk section head at radio free asia had gone around saying he had not offered her a job as "she could not do translation."

As if one should employ a top singer to be a "broadcaster" who ripped and translated and read the news.

My point was everybody would tune in as soon as they heard Mar Mar Aye was broadcasting. The jerk had apparently not offered that she should sing or talk about music on air.

A few years ago, Mar Mar Aye had a heart operation. I saw her in DeKalb, IL at a Burma Studies Conference in 2008.

As soon as she saw me, she wanted me to share her room, "so we can talk at night" but I had already arranged to share with another woman scholar, and I didn't think it right to move.

Daw Mar Mar Aye said her doctor said she should not hit high C when she sang. At the concert at the closing dinner, she said she did sing high notes.

As you can probably tell, I love strong women like Mar Mar Aye, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Su Su Nway and others.

In comparison, some of the men, brought up as little princes by their mothers, are like "strutting peacocks" as Margaret Meade's friend Geoffrey Gorer(later her husband) wrote.

Notes copyright Kyi May Kaung.

This week's ludu (the people) and Aung San Suu Kyi - rfa

Shadows cast on my portrait of Su Su Nway - Like 2203 other political prisoners, Su Su Nway remains in a remote prison in Burma, even though she has heart ailments. Daw Suu and NLD etc have pushed repeatedly for the release of all political prisoners.

Oil on canvas portrait and photo-copyright Kyi May Kaung.


Notes from Independent Scholar:

As in inaugural broadcast last week, all Qs were posed and recorded overseas, by exiled Burmese - some well known or very well known.

This week famous singer Daw Mar Mar Aye and others expressed their wishes for Daw Suu's good health and the security of her life, and asked her to take care -

Daw Suu's reply included that she is being guarded "one 100 %"

Two famous singers sent good wishes, there were Qs abt Panlaung or Pinlon Conference II, as advocated by Daw Suu.

Program ended with a tribute song.

Notes copyright Kyi May Kaung.

I have no affiliation whatsoever with radio free asia.

Wikileaks: Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew says Burma's generals dense and stupid -

"like talking to dead people."


Aung San Suu Kyi talks to US high school students via cell phone -


Kati Marton - Mrs. Holbrooke, formerly Mrs. Peter Jennings -



Richard Holbroke - dead at 69



So disconcerting and sad to tune into the Charlie Rose program at night, and hear Leslie Gelb and all, looking very old themselves, talking about Holbrooke in the past tense.

The only sure thing is then the name of the deceased comes on screen at the end, against a black background and the birth year has a corresponding death year, neatly enclosed in parentheses.

It makes one revert to Buddhism.

Note: Kyi May Kaung

Sunday, December 12, 2010

hmm - tourism article on Burma


Maybe there's a metaphor in how she got the cat to jump through the flaming hoop by imitating its master -

Note by Kyi May Kaung

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Flowers for late Carla Cohen of Politics and Prose Bookstore

Photo copyright Kyi May Kaung

Just co-incidentally, a few days ago, CSpan Books broadcast a very moving Memorial, held at the bookstore, for Carla Cohen - It was so good to see it.

Kyi May Kaung

Excellent article about Modigliani and Akhmatova -


Newswire - more detail on Wikileaks ref. Burma -


Not much different from what we knew already, but those who were confused by the US's "engagement line" in 08-09 need to get this cold dose of reality.

They've been very quiet lately, the regime apologists.

Notes - by Kyi May Kaung

Thursday, December 09, 2010

To see at Univ of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia and at Ban Chiang, Thailand -


Authorities burn down explosive laden house -


People and Aung San Suu Kyi Q and A program -


click on mike icon on right -- Daw Suu's answers are very knowledgeable and dignified, well-considered.

however, I don't like the flippant style affected by the 2 clown presenters, and should she really waste her time answering Qs like these --

the Q and A in English in the PR release are different from these --


1998 interview follows:


Daw Suu Kyi donates to monks -- dedicating merit to the political prisoners of Burma -


Danger in lifting economic sanctions on Burma -


Friday, December 03, 2010

Ronald Davis' artist's statement -

"A Painting's Just Gotta Look Better Than the Wallpaper" by Ronald Davis

This statement was originally printed in the catalog that accompanied the forty work retrospective;
"Ronald Davis: Abstractions: 1962 – 2002" exhibited at the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio in October 2002.

My work is comprised of aggressively decorative, meaningless, unidentified floating objects that pretend to be rational. Illusion is my vehicle. Opticality is paramount.

I really had no aspirations to be an artist. It was my third choice. I wanted to be a racer, or possibly a writer or a musician. Mostly a sports car race driver. I blew up an engine and went into a ditch in my twin-cam MG-A once in La Junta, Colorado, and narrowly escaped being creamed by two guys in Porsche 550s going around me at 180 while I was going just 120. I realized I might get killed doing this. That would have been OK at the time, but racing is a rich man's sport, and I couldn't afford it. So I switched to painting.

Later I found out that being an artist is much more dangerous – and just as expensive.The first painting I painted, a couple of years before I had thoughts of becoming a real painter, was a bleeding half of a cantaloupe on a checkerboard tablecloth with a fork looming overhead. As Yogi Bera says, "When you come to the fork in the road, take it."

Needing therapy, I enrolled in the San Francisco Art Institute. My father paid my tuition and $150 a month for four years to keep me off the street, and to keep me from embarrassing him. Originally, I just wanted to go to Mexico and live on the beach, eat fish heads and rice, and paint; but my father wouldn't let me. I had this big ball of something in my gut, and I needed desperately to vomit it out. At the same time, I was about to be drafted into the army, and I was terrified, although willing to go. I somehow made them understand that I was incapable of military duty. I told them I would go, but that I couldn't be responsible for my actions under the stress of regimented duty. They deferred me.

In art school I discovered I had to try harder to compensate for the deficiencies of growing up knowing nothing of art in the cultural desert of Cheyenne, Wyoming. I mean, there was a watercolor society there, and some cowboy and Indian paintings, but nothing more. I saw some paintings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC in my teens once, on a one-day whirlwind tour: the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the National Gallery. It didn't occur to me then that making those pictures that were hanging there could be something one could actually DO in life.

In painting, I had discovered a "profession" that suited my dependencies. That is to say, if I became an artist, it was partly because it fitted my lifestyle. Life is funny that way: I haven't had a drink in 18 years, but I am still an artist. Because now I know I really qualified, whereas when I went to the Art Institute for "therapy," I only suspected it. I agreed with Camus – that I was a rebel, a criminal; but one who wanted to change the world to a more beautiful place, rather than deface it. The director of the Art Institute, Fred Martin, said that I was "a pain in the ass, but a worthwhile one." In later years, the visionary art dealer who launched and nurtured my career, Nicholas Wilder, said, "You can say what you want about Ron Davis, but he sure can paint."

In the early 1960s at the Art Institute, the pervasive influence of both Clyfford Still's legacy and the prevailing Bay Area expressionistic figurative style presented a truly insurmountable hurdle, one I couldn't even go around, much less go over. I couldn't paint man's aspirations as opposed to his physical limitations! But I discovered I could paint a stripe. And later, checker-boards. Abstract geometric objects.

Thus, I was led to do the opposite, not to be intentionally contrary, but out of desperation. During my first months in San Francisco I attended an exhibition of the Ben Heller Collection of Abstract Expressionism in the Palace of the Legion of Honor, the memorial building to the veterans of World War I. Out in front was one of the many casts of Rodin's Thinker, squatting on a pedestal. Inside was Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles. I looked at it a long time, and the poles began to churn viscerally, literally, in my gut. I had to go outside and throw up on the lawn. And, I didn't know what it was, but there was a Joseph Cornell Box that transported me to the starry heavens. The pictures by Clyfford Still presented to me the stratified canyon walls of the mind and soul. My despair was that I could not, would not ever be able to make a picture like that. Having been "churned up," I struggled to learn and eclectically emulate the space and power of these great paintings. But it had already been done. The buzz word at the time was "commitment," or "existential commitment." And, as a young artist, I had to admit I didn't yet have anything to express, let alone a commitment to do so.

These were issues of personal artistic development, abstract content, and style, problems that to me were overwhelming. But my concern was how to make a picture, not how to look at one. Rather than just emulate the great works of my predecessors was not enough. My strategy became to do a Mondrian in the style of Jackson Pollock, and a Pollock in the style of Mondrian. And down in Studio 15 at the San Francisco Art Institute, an instructor of mine, Frank Lobdell, emphasized the importance of what you leave out of a painting, not what you put in.

I drove east in 1962, having been invited to the Yale-Norfolk School of Music and Art as a grantee. The crits I got there were incomprehensible. After a while I figured out they were analyzing my paintings in terms of Cubism, and Cubism was something I was not looking for. I didn't want to look at the world and then abstract it. I said I wanted to approach it more directly, just make abstract paintings – which resulted in a couple of heated discussions. Phillip Guston came up to Norfolk and sat on the lawn and talked about himself for five hours. He said, "You have to paint flat footed, not looking at your painting while you're painting it." Good advice indeed!

While I was back east I expected to be able to view the works of Pollock, Still, De Kooning, Rothko, et al. But what I did find in the museums and New York galleries were some gray boxes and some blown-up versions of panels from comic books. I was taken aback because these were not the serious, even elitist pictures I had been seeking to emulate and learn how to make. They amused me, particularly a Lichtenstein, where the viewer is looking through a keyhole at a couple, with the bubble caption: "I just looked, Brad, and there's nobody out there." It was reassuring to find out that I was the "nobody," and interesting to find in these formative years that art had become entertainment rather than a means of expression. It was liberating to discover that art didn't have to express anything or mean anything. That it didn't matter what a painting looked like.

Struggling to gain a finger hold in the formidable tradition of abstract painting, I attempted synthesis between "the Minimal Object," Pop and Op fashion, and traditional, emotion-driven expressionist painting. For instance, even though I, like DuChamp, reintroduced perspective illusion – and the illusions of objects – into my painting, the objects themselves remained abstract and non-referential, although that's usually up to the surrealist viewer. This struggle between object and the pictorial remains central to my work after forty years. I did not bring ironic non-art objects or concepts into the context of art at a time when trendy non-art was being redefined as "art." It's my belief that art as art has become devalued.

It was never my intention to deconstruct art as I found it. I strove to expand the boundaries of painting, not the boundaries of what was then becoming art: gray or glass boxes, conceptual art, installation art, performance art, minimalist art, or political art. My choice was to do the opposite, yet remain on the playing field of twentieth-century abstract painting. In my case, doing the opposite did not mean doing something completely different; I embraced the traditions of twentieth-century abstract painting. In fact, I have always remained in the Clement Greenberg "dialogue of post-painterly abstraction," although in the studio – in the moment – I haven't always followed his theoretical suggestions. Also, I can't say that I haven't been influenced by minimalism; but the emptiness of classical minimalism was not enough. I had to include beauty. By straddling the fence (not without risk), I was successful in forging a style I could call my own.

For the first of many times, I had painted myself into a corner. I was left with making an object: a container for the activity and intensity of the stoop labor. The deal is, this activity is not fun, not romantic, not expressive – it is a mindless activity that requires an empty mind, beginner's mind in the Buddhist sense. The hard work of making an object without thought or effort. "Having fun" and "feeling good," I have found out, are two different things. As it works out, the art world – the length and breadth of it – is an artist, in the studio, doing stoop labor, making things – making objects. I am envious of the craftsman, because he at least makes things that are useful.

My paintings present no narrative. What you see is not what you get. They are self-didactic, teaching me about form, and color, and perception itself. They are concave and convex, to serve either sex. But then, I am not really trying to be of service to the "art world." The paintings are often the opposite of what they seem. People think they're "happy," because I use bright colors. Conversely, some think the paintings are aloof and cerebral; rather, they are defensive, protecting my fragility. I don't know what they mean; I just know how to make them. A painting's just gotta look better than the wallpaper.

I'm hardly ever confronted with the blank canvas syndrome. It starts prior to that – I have to reinvent the concept of a blank canvas. I know a painting is finished, at least for me, when I get bored with it. Or, if it's any good, it pushes me outside of it, and I just become another viewer.

Between 1964 and 1988 I painted about a thousand paintings, bouncing between painterliness and hard-edge, or combinations. A "Pollock in a box" comes to mind. I don't always equate expressionism with gooey paint on canvas. Apollonian can be just as "expressive" as Dionysian; it's a matter of what is being expressed.

In 1965, I moved to LA. I showed a lot, sold a lot, built a big studio in Malibu, and consumed a lot. I had a very successful career. By the late 80s, I'd had enough. I'd accomplished what I'd been sent back from the future to do. (Emphatically, I think I was reincarnated. I'm from the future.) Fifty-five one-man shows had left me with the taste of ashes.

In 1990 I left the freeways of LA behind, and disengaged for the most part. I moved to New Mexico, where I built a group of domed polygonal buildings I designed with architect Dennis Holloway, based on the Navajo hogan dwelling.

I stopped painting for a while because I couldn't see any reason to make objects in the context of the 1980s, for the sake of "show biz." The self-indulgent self-promotional 80s: I didn't fit into that. So I disengaged for 10 years. This exhibition at the Butler Institute of American Art is my first major exhibition in 10 years – with the exception of a small show of the 1996 Wax Series in January 1998 at a gallery in Taos, New Mexico. I did attempt to do some sculpture, enough to know I am not very good at it.

Now, I can reflect that my aspiration was to be an abstract expressionist, to walk in the footsteps of Still and Pollock but, characteristically, I was unsuited to do so. I can only construct things, something like the old European constructivists. Yet, like Clyfford Still and Jackson Pollock, I am an American Westerner, and an unsophisticated one at that, though I've learned a lot in my more than 40 years of painting. I am not a "cultured" man. I can only make objects, but "paintings as objects" was not enough, either. I was able to make it a bit more complicated by attempting to make pictures of illusions of objects. One thing I can say is that the subject of my paintings is not the unconscious.

A lot of people think I make my paintings – these objects – for them. They're wrong about that. The activity is selfish. On bad days, I feel that it's just a vehicle to confirm that I will be misunderstood once again.

Ultimately, my success was really my personal failure, my original goal being to be a starving artist. Dealing with success has been so much harder than making paintings. If I've made any contribution at all, it is that counter to the glacial movement of serious twentieth century painting since Cézanne towards flatness, I reintroduced the theorems of three-dimensional Renaissance mathematical perspective into my made objects – my constructions. This is my legacy, my contribution to the art history books. With this, I stumbled into a style of painting that can excavate walls, shift the point of view of a Looker in a post-Einsteinian relativity within the context of a terrifying, existential, overpopulated nuclear world, where the observed is – only perhaps – relative to the Looker.

Even though paintings are not intrinsically useful, it was my thought that my paintings never wore out, no matter how much people looked at them, nor how many people looked at them. But I found out that when the paintings are moved or shipped, they are physically easily damaged. Of course that doesn't happen out of maliciousness, but from lack of common sense. People will carefully put a plate in the cupboard, but will hang a big fragile painting with a little picture hook – and it falls off the wall!

People don't understand that as an artist, I some-times feel like the world wants to hang me on the wall by the scruff of my neck. I am not my paintings. (Sometimes I catch myself talking about them in the third person.) People often don't understand that an artist is someone who has to fill out a credit card application, who has to put the word "artist" in the space after "occupation."

I think "Artist" has become a devalued word. Somebody told me once that the Greeks didn't even have a word for "artist." Their word was "artisan." That word fits me better, I believe, because I make things – I'm more of an object-maker than a picture-painter.

I did make a few gallery-museum sales and connections during the time I wasn't working on actual painting. Actually, I have been working all along, the whole time. The wood sculptures, the encaustics. The watercolors I painted with my son. The computer drawings – hundreds of them. I am always in the process of learning three dimensional drawing and technical modeling techniques with new computer programs. The exploration of and experimentation with new modes of visualization. And I spend a lot of time building and maintaining the web site www.abstract-art.com.

When I stopped serious painting, I didn't go dormant. There has been an alchemical process at work, a trans-formation I can't explain except to say that these new paintings are an "inside job." I am making them from a sense of personal obligation, which means a lot of things to me. On September 11, 2001, I watched the second airplane fly into the World Trade Center on television. After I cried, lit candles, and hung up my American flag on the front door of my kitchen hogan, a grave sense of my own mortality struck me. A week later, I drove to Albuquerque and bought seven hundred dollars worth of materials, something I haven't done for a very long time. I know that for me, the only way to make a difference – which really will make no difference whatsoever – is to go into the studio for the rest of my life, and vent my emotional responses to the events that have changed all our lives forever. The new paintings are neither expressions nor representations of that event. My generalship in the world against existential terror-at-large is to just do the work in my studio.

I am not a connoisseur. I have not intentionally been to a museum in 15 years. I have no gallery affiliations. I have no subscriptions to art magazines. I read paperback novels and military history. I socialize little, and I watch a lot of TV. I abhor travel.

As I near my 65th birthday, I have come to know that the whole of the art world and of art history itself, is contained in the isolation of this artisan, making an object, a picture, in the dark of the night.

I'm just trying to figure out how to pay the $186 light bill.

— Ronald Davis
February 2002
Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico

Mrs. O in India etc - style -


And Bob Dylan himself --



Kim Aris, son of Aung San Suu Kyi sings Blowing in the Wind, with guitar accompaniment - at an AIDS benefit -


Susan Landauer - wiki


Asian Human Rights - Burmese prisoner attacked due to his complaints of inhuman conditions


Financial Times - Why Thailand invests in Burma -


Thursday, December 02, 2010

The late Thai Princess Mother and her home on Doi Tung -


Ancient Khmer roads Angkor in Cambodia to Phimai in Thailand - GPS based maps -


New Zealand signals it does not believe in new Myanmar government -

Myanmar to be known as Burma for Government(of New Zealand)
Home » News » Political
Thu, 2 Dec 2010
News: Politics | Burma | Murray McCully | Myanmar

The Government is to change its position on Myanmar and return to calling it Burma.

The Asian nation was known as Burma until 1989 when the military government officially changed it to Myanmar.

The Government has accepted a recommendation from Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully to use Burma, Radio New Zealand reported.

Mr McCully said the change signalled that New Zealand refused to recognise the legitimacy of the ruling military regime.

The Government's position allows for the use of Myanmar where the country is recognised as such, including at the United Nations.

Australia, France and the United Kingdom prefer to use Burma while the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Burma is a member, use Myanmar.

( Online edition of Otago Daily Times, NZ )

Bangkok Post - Thai timber company prevented from bringing Burmese teak through Salawin National Forest -


Friday, November 26, 2010

Russia admits Stalin ordered massacre of 22,000 Polish officers in 1940 -


review of Ranard's enclyclopedic Burmese Painting - by Wendy Law Yone -


How wrong can you be? by Dr. Zarni in The Irrawaddy-

--- On Fri, 11/26/10, franz fanon wrote:

Subject: How Wrong Can You Be?, Irrawaddy, 26 Nov 2010
Date: Friday, November 26, 2010, 12:20 PM


How Wrong Can You Be?


When Queen Elizabeth made a public appearance at the London School of
Economics shortly after the start of the 2008 global financial crisis,
she famously asked her influential academic audience why they didn't
see it—the world's worst economic meltdown in decades—coming.

This is a question that one is now tempted to ask the legions of Burma
experts, seasoned Burma watchers and Rangoon-based Burmese elites who
boldly proclaimed the death of the National League for Democracy
(NLD), questioned the relevance of Aung San Suu Kyi, extolled the
virtues of the donor-driven “civil society” and quietly promoted the
generals' election as “the only game in town,” to borrow the words of
Bangkok-based European Union Ambassador David Lipman.

Perhaps the categorical failure on the part of experts and diplomats
to understand Burma's ruling class—its psyche, its mode of operation,
the level to which it will sink in pursuit of its self-serving and
nation-destroying politics and its approach to politics as a zero-sum
game—should humble these foreign diplomats and experts.

The generals' election has laid bare any policy-driven evidence
packaged in faulty explanations about how dictatorships morph into
representative forms of government and why the new structures and
parliamentary space would open up new opportunities for democratic

A great many experts, from Chatham House and the Brookings Institution
to the International Crisis Group and the University of London, have
sinned by constructing political analyses which resonated with the
impatiently pro-business policies of some European Union governments.

Two patently false analyses spring to mind.

British Burma expert and former International Labour Organization
liaison officer in Rangoon, Richard Horsey, created waves among
soundbite-seeking journalists and analytical amateurs among Western
diplomats by circulating his “Myanmar: A Pre-election Primer” (dated
Oct. 18) (http://irrawaddy.org/pdf/14.%20SSRC%20Myanmar%20-%20A%20Pre-election%20Primer.pdf
). Dr Horsey boldly predicted: “[W]hile there will undoubtedly be some
irregularities, a fraudulent vote count is on balance unlikely.”

As late as Nov. 3—four days prior to Burma's polls—another British
expert, Dr Marie Lall of Chatham House, who is also a lecturer with
the Institute of Education at the University of London, was extolling
the virtues of the politics of “collaboration” advanced by EU-funded
local NGOs such as Myanmar Egress.

In her own words
(http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/media/comment/mlall1110/-/1172/) , the
National Unity Party, made up of Ne Win-era anti-democratic dinosaurs,
“is not only set to beat the [junta-backed Union Solidarity and
Development Party] in many constituencies, giving it real power at a
national level, it is also likely to take a different stand to the
current regime on many issues, starting with land-owning rights for
the peasants.”

She concluded: “The elections are the first step out of the impasse
between the military and the wider population. The democratic
hardliners are today fewer in number and are more likely to meet
popular indifference than to lead any popular protest movement, even
should Aung San Suu Kyi be released soon.”

Five days later, Lall's favorite party suffered a resounding defeat in
the clearly rigged election, winning only 5.6 percent of the total
seats contested vis-à-vis the regime's proxy party, which won 76.8
percent of all contested seats.

The election also stripped many Burma experts of any respectability
and undermined the validity of their empirically false projections in
terms of social change via the regime's “election.”

Up until the time when the generals leaked the story of its party
winning a landslide, in the Burma expert world, resistance was
proclaimed futile, dissidents were framed as “idealistic” at best and
“obstacles” to democratization and development at worst, and “civil
society” was spun as the sole path towards Burma's liberation,
development and democracy through electoral evolutionism.

Development, the middle class and modernization were in vogue again,
and dissidents were deemed to be party poopers who are not really
welcome in these circles of influence, grant money and connections.

In these expert discourses, Burma experts were not alone in
romanticizing the emancipatory power of the “free market,”
humanitarian aid, and (farcical) elections in authoritarian contexts,
à la Suharto's Indonesia.

With mind-numbing frequency, diplomats on their Burma “missions”
parroted this self-interested spin manufactured in Burma expert
circles during exclusive luncheons and dinners in places like Rangoon,
Bangkok, Brussels and Berlin, all the while dismissing any argument
that Burma's neo-fascist regime, in its pursuit of a military
apartheid, has no interest in economic reforms, democratic change,
public welfare or human rights.

To top this off, these foreign “civil society promoters” dismissed as
“activists' spin” any alternative analysis which argued that election
or no election, the generals had absolutely no interest in making any
space for anyone who is not part of their inner circle. The natives'
realistic conclusion that the election contained no democratic
potential whatsoever was written off as simply an expression of
“contempt towards the generals devoid of rational discourse, which can
be regarded as one basic element of (Western) democratic culture,” as
Dr Hans-Berd Zoellner, the Christian priest cum Burma expert from
Hamburg University, put it, in reference to my essay “The Generals'
Election.” ( http://www.himalmag.com/The-generals-election_nw4778.html

Since the “election,” it has become abundantly clear that as far as
the regime is concerned, foreign Burma experts and donor-patrons of
Burma's “civil society” were good for pro-election propaganda. For the
regime masterfully used these voices to drive an effective strategic
wedge between the NLD leadership (for instance, Aung San Suu Kyi, Win
Tin, Tin Oo, etc) and the party's gullible elements, who went on to
establish a new party—the National Democratic Force—which won only 1.5
percent of all contested seats.

This whole disturbing multifaceted symbiosis among certain diplomats
from some European countries and the European Commission, which are in
effect pushing to normalize Burma's dictatorship, and Burma experts,
as well as select local NGOs propped up with Western donors' money and
political support, represents one of the newest challenges to Aung San
Suu Kyi, the ethnic resistance and the entire pro-democracy

Copyright © 2008 Irrawaddy Publishing Group | www.irrawaddy.org

Dr Zarni (m.zarni@lse.ac.uk) is research fellow on Burma at the LSE
Global Governance, the London School of Economics and visiting senior
fellow at the Institute of Security and International Studies,
Chulalongkorn University.


Compiler's remark: I'll add 'double-agent' to my title for the next
article (see the second comment below)>

Comments: (More to come).

Aung Ba Wrote: 27/11/2010

Very good compilation on the latest developments of Burma. But no
apparent solution is suggested in the article to the ongoing problem
the country is facing politically. Criticizing is easy but suggestion
on more pragmatic approach to the dilemma Burmese people face as a
nation is in urgent need at this time.

Erik Wrote: 27/11/2010

Well, if Mr. Zarni talks about organizations propped up with Western
money he might as well add to that that he himself is propped up by
Western money and that this income will diminish greatly if he has to
stop beating the anti-regime drum, for instance if some change comes
from all of this in the end. Without the regime this guy is out of

I don't know what kind of role Zarni is playing, and what his aim is
by portraying himself as the staunchest critic of the regime and
people from the third force. What I do know is that somebody who is in
the know recently told me that exposing yourself to Mr. Zarni is the
easiest ticket to deportation if you're in Burma.

The guy seems to play some kind of double role...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Nobel economics laureate - A. K. Sen - New pressure can remove Burmese generals --

November 21, Financial Times
New pressure can oust Burma’s generals - Amartya Sen

It is difficult for me to talk about Burma without a deep sense of
nostalgia. My earliest memories are all there; I grew up in Mandalay,
between the ages of three and six. But the magically beautiful country I
remember from my early years has now been in the grip of a supremely
despotic military rule for almost half a century, with collapsing
institutions, arbitrary imprisonment, widespread torture, and terrorised
minority communities. The situation has remained terrible for so long that
there is now a kind of defeatism that makes frustrated well-wishers eager
to be thrilled by little mercies. So while Aung San Suu Kyi’s release from
unjust confinement is a great moment for celebration, it is also a time to
think clearly about what the world can do to help her cause.

What can the world do? Many analysts of Burmese affairs have called for an
international commission of enquiry, possibly led by the United Nations.
The case for this is strong, especially after the manipulated elections.
There are, however, immediate measures that can also be taken to put
pressure on the regime.

First, the existing framework of sanctions and embargoes has to be
reshaped. General sanctions that hurt the Burmese people, such as
restrictions on garment exports, can be replaced by those that isolate the
rulers by targeting their own favourite activities. At the top of the list
must clearly be an embargo on arms and armaments of all kinds. There is
also a strong case for sanctions on the commodities – from minerals and
gems to oil and gas – that yield huge profits to the regime. Travel bans
on the personnel running the regime, or those closely associated with it,
can be effectively pursued. Financial restrictions on large transactions
that come from businesses in which the military rulers are directly or
indirectly involved would help too.

Neighbouring countries have a special responsibility. The Chinese
government is the regime’s most important supporter, providing extensive
business connections (not just in oil and gas) and political patronage.
Visitors tell me Mandalay is now largely a Chinese-run city, with most of
the good premises and new constructions being occupied by Chinese
businessmen. But China is not alone: criticisms can be made of the
supportive policies of both India and Thailand. These countries should
realise a change of course is not only morally important, but also in
their long-term interests. The tyrants will, sooner or later, fall.
However, the memory of betrayal of the Burmese people will last much
longer. The intensity of anti-Americanism that is one of the most potent
forces in Latin America today – related to past US support of brutal
dictators – points to something that Burma’s neighbours should want to

Yet a global strategy that goes beyond the neighbourhood is also needed.
Several western countries have strong business relations with Burma, for
example in oil. But as yet neither the European Union, nor the US, nor
indeed Switzerland, Australia or Canada, has used the power of financial
sanctions against the regime. Western countries are sharp on rhetoric in
denouncing Burma’s rulers. But given they do not do what is entirely
within their power to do, it is harder to persuade China, India and
Thailand to do the right thing as well.

Finally, we have to start thinking about how a post-military government
should deal with the culprits of the past, both because that will be an
important issue in a non-defeatist scenario, and because it is part of the
considerations that make the present-day rulers decide what they can
reasonably expect if they yield. Here there is something to learn from the
intellectual leadership of Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, about not
threatening bloody revenge but opting for the sagacity of offering safety
in exchange for remorse. Even butchers have to find a “way out” if they
are not to go on fighting – and tyrannising – to the bitter end.

Towards the end of March 1999, I received a phone call from an old friend:
Michael Aris, the husband of Aung San Suu Kyi. I knew then that he was
extremely ill with prostate cancer. Michael told me, as he had done many
times earlier, that the one focus of his life was to help Ms Suu Kyi, and
to work for Burma’s freedom. He did not want to die, but he hoped others
would continue to focus on what can be done. I received a call only a few
days later that Michael had died; it was also his birthday. So Michael
Aris is no longer with us, but the need for the focus he championed is now
particularly strong. In Burma’s recent election we witnessed what Vaclav
Havel has described as “a mockery of free expression in which people vote
in fear and without hope.” But with determination and wisdom, the tyrants
can be made to withdraw, and Burma’s people may be free once more.

The writer, who received the 1998 Nobel Prize in economics, teaches
economics and philosophy at Harvard University.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

VOA exclusive interview with Aung San Suu Kyi


She stressed need for national reconciliation "reconciliation is reconciliation" and "a road map, is a road map" apparently referring to the junta's road map which is said to be at stage 6.

She called on VOA audience to help the NLD's AIDS clinic/home obtain anti-viral drugs and she said although her NLD youth who protected her are not an army and do not hold arms, they have always protected her, and she has confidence they will continue to do so.

She also attributed her strength to her supporters, including her sons.

informal translation and summary kmk

see also International Campaign for Freedom dot blogspot dot com.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi talks about her days and years under house arrest --

Freed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi tells of her years under house arrest in Burma

* From: NewsCore
* November 18, 2010 6:27PM

NEWLY freed democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi gave an insight Wednesday into the daily routine and inner strength that enabled her to endure years under house arrest in Burma.

"It wasn't all that difficult," she told London's The Times.

"I was in my own home. What was I going through? I was simply sitting in my house. I've never been one for going out a lot. I listened to music. I like sketching a bit and so on. I'm a very indoors sort of person, if you like, so it was no great hardship."

She expressed surprise at any perception that she had gone through great hardship, comparing her treatment with those of the estimated 2100 other political prisoners in Burma.

"What do you think it would be like for those who have been imprisoned for years and years and years?" she asked.

"I had regular meditation sessions. I had a lot to do. Really. People seem to be surprised. You want to keep your house clean and tidy - you have to spend some time doing that. And then, of course, reading takes up time and listening to the radio took up a lot of hours every day because I didn't want to miss any of the news about Burma.
"I listened to the Burmese service on the BBC, VOA [Voice of America], RFA [Radio Free Asia], that was about five or six hours every day. It was a big chunk out of my day but I couldn't afford to miss it. Because any news I missed, I missed - no one was going to come in and fill the gaps for me. So that was a duty."

The 65-year-old said she had produced no prison memoir or volume of political writing, explaining: "I didn't write a lot at all because I don't like to -- how shall I put it? -- I don't like to keep writing which might fall into other people's hands."

Suu Kyi has already called for a "non-violent revolution" in Burma as she knuckles down to the task of rebuilding her weakened opposition movement and attempting to open a dialog with the ruling junta.

"I have to confess that I have not really thought that they [the military government] want to talk to me very much but that does not mean that we have to stop trying," she says.

"For me revolution means change, either physical or spiritual or intellectual. It starts in the mind ... and it has to come from the people first. I am immensely touched and honored by the trust that they have in me. But they have to understand that I am not the one who is going to bring about change. They are the ones who are going to help me bring about change."

Suu Kyi was freed from house arrest Saturday, less than a week after a controversial election cemented the junta's decades-long grip on power.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner had been locked up by the regime for 15 of the past 21 years.

Comment left on Irrawaddy webste ref. Daw Suu's recent interview with Irrawaddy --

Tom Tun et al,

It is wrong of you to put the onus for change onto Aung San Suu Kyi's head alone.

This is part of what the military wanted by releasing her and allowing her to give interviews like this days after their sham election.

CHANGE is up to the power holders, mainly.

She has done her part.

If she outlines a "national plan" they will say who does she think she is.

I've said this before and will say this again, don't blame the victim/s.

Change won't come and won't be meaningful until the military realizes it is part of the problem, a big part, and it admits its wrong path and changes it.

Why do you think the millions of Burmese are overseas? Because of spdc or because of Suu Kyi?

Daw Suu is right to be careful what she says.

The junta will always put the blame on her, as you are stupidly doing.

James O'Brien.

Friday, November 19, 2010

US millionaires to Obama -- tax us!


Please sign this petition for Daw Suu's security --

Dear all,
Please sign in this petition


for Daw Suu's security and please forward it.
Ye Htut

Prayer for a bamboo flowering famine -- from Poetry Foundation


Burma has just had one of these in the Chin State -- not to mention famine caused by the junta's policies, forced relocation, war and land grabbing.

Heroic Coldness --


I was one of those who thought that when Dr. Aris was dying, it was a good point for Aung San Suu Kyi to leave and work from exile, and a good point for the junta to show its magnanimity by letting her go. But it did not happen that way.

Another strong supporter of Suu Kyi has said, "If she left she would not be Aung San Suu Kyi."

She does have a martyr complex and a willingness to die and suffer for her country that is deeply troubling to ordinary mortals like me. We want to see her alive and happy, not dead.

Still, there is only one Aung San Suu Kyi, and where would we be without her?

Kyi May Kaung

US House condemns sham election

Subject: House passed resolution denouncing regime's sham election
Date: Thursday, November 18, 2010, 5:00 PM

US House denounces Myanmar elections

(AFP) – 1 hour ago

WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives on Thursday condemned Myanmar's recent elections and said no government there can be legitimate without the participation of Democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

By voice vote, lawmakers approved a symbolic resolution that "denounces the one-sided, undemocratic, and illegitimate actions" of the country's ruling junta and accused them of consolidating their power with a "flawed election."

"No government in Burma can be considered democratic or legitimate without the participation of Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy, and ethnic nationalities," the measure states.

The resolution also demands "the full restoration of democracy, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and internationally recognized human rights for all Burmese citizens."

The November 7 vote has been widely panned by international observers, and US President Barack Obama said the "bankrupt regime" in the country, generally referred to in Washington as Burma, had stolen the election.

The resolution also called on the junta to "begin an immediate transition" to democratic rule and the "immediate and unconditional release" of all those deemed political prisoners, and pressed the Obama administration "to not support or recognize the military regime's elections as legitimate."

And it pressed the administration to fully implement a 2008 US law aimed at stifling Myanmar's trade in precious stones, a key source of foreign currency.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Burma courts investors after freeing Suu Kyi --


Kavi Chongkittavorn interviews Dr Zarni about Burma --




Dr. Zarni's interview with BBC on sanctions and Burma --in Burmese


For English translation, contact BBC Burmese Service.

Bono - cautious joy over Suu Kyi -- CNN


More on Aung San Suu Kyi's release --


Aung San Suu Kyi's US lawyer Jared Genser interviewed by BBC on sham elections --


John Simpson of BBC interviews Aung San Suu Kyi shortly after her release Nov 13th -


Justin Wintle on a new role for Aung San Suu Kyi -- from CNN


"Victory is Yours, Than Shwe" from the Irrawaddy --


Open Democracy has re-posted my article on Aung San Suu Kyi's role in Burmese politics --


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Gap caves in to fan pressure and reverts to original logo


Novel She was a Queen -- by Maurice Collis finally cleared by Burmese junta censors --


It was translated into Burmese by the late Mya Than Tint --

still remains a beautiful story.

When NLD Daw San San came to DC to testify before Congress in c. 2003, she asked me for a copy.

It was also a favorite of my friend Burmese dissident the late Taw Myo Myint, who was herself from the last royal family of Burma.

Kyi May Kaung.

Burmese writer -- the late Mya Than Tint --


bit oldie but goldie -- A City in the (Burmese) junta's image --


Afghan Banks --


Deadly bombs in Bangkok --


Carla Cohen, owner of Politics and Prose, dies --


Sincere condolences --

I hope there is a memorial service at Politics and Prose.

Obama going to India in Nov.


China - Pulling the Dragon's Beard by Philip Bowring -


Pulling the Dragon's Beard
By Tuesday, October 12, 2010


The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo was very much an "own
goal" for Beijing. Quite likely he would not have won if China had not
made a crude and overt threat to the Norwegians that relations would
suffer if Liu did get it. The Norwegian committee was thus pushed into
showing that it was independent and could not be threatened.

The threat and the subsequent Beijing "outrage" is yet another
demonstration, following spats with Japan, India and its South China
Sea neighbors, of how China's global standing is being damaged by
outbursts of nationalism. It is not easy to tell to what extent these
reflect a new arrogance stemming from economic success and an excess
of foreign praise or reflect a struggle at the top of the Communist
Party between a liberal and internationalist group and a conservative,
nationalist one.

For sure something is going on. Liu's award coincided with a visit to
Europe by Premier Wen Jiabao during which he made a very
liberal-sounding speech about the need for democracy and free speech.
This has not been reported in China itself. It seems unlikely that Wen
is so disingenuous that he would make such a speech for foreign
consumption and deliberately suppress it at home. As Willy Lam noted
in Asia Sentinel on Aug. 30, it appears a rivalry is growing between
Wen and China's leader Hu Jintao. In Shenzhen on Aug. 20, Wen
surprised local cadres by appearing to criticize unnamed Chinese
Communist Party officials for dragging their feet on political reform,
saying that without it "it will be impossible for the goal of economic
reform and modernization to be realized." That has been perceived as a
shot at Hu.

The Nobel committee did have one foreign critic, self-styled Asian
Values guru Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School
of Public Policy. Former diplomat Mahbubani complained that the prize
reflected western views and that the Nobel committee awarded the prize
to Asians who were dissidents. This was just the sort of half-truth
that one expects from Singapore apologists for authoritarian regimes
similar to their own. It also reflects Singapore's attempts to appear
ultra-Asian while aligning its economic and strategic interests with
the west.

The actual list of Asian recipients of the prize since 1970 is:
Mohammad Yunus, Shirin Ebadi, Kim Dae Jung, Ramos Horta, Aung San Suu
Kyi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Eisake Sato, Le Duc Tho.

Only one of these—Iranian Shirin Ebadi—could be described as a
dissident at the time of the award. Kim Dae Jung was an elected
president, Aung San Suu Kyi had won an election—but then had the
result overthrown. (Imagine if the British had locked up "dissident"
Lee Kuan Yew after his election victory in 1959 and left him to rot in
jail for decades as Lee did to his Barisan Sosialis opponents).

Of the others, East Timor's Horta had made peace with Indonesia and Le
Duc Tho had made a sort of peace with the US. The Dalai Lama is no
dissident among his own Tibetan people, only to Beijing and its
lackeys. He has been the Tibetan peoples' leader for more than half a
century and is also revered by Mongols in neighboring countries.
Mother Teresa and Mohammad Yunus were apolitical, one a selfless
social worker, the other a great innovator of microcredit. Eisaku Sato
was a former Japanese prime minister.

Mahbubani claims that the prize should have gone to Asians like Deng
Xiaoping for bringing so many out of poverty. He apparently prefers to
forget the Tiananmen massacre and the fact that Deng is dead. Surely a
better choice would have been Zhao Ziyang, the man who initiated
China's economic reform when he was in charge of Sichuan, opposed the
Tiananmen violence—and paid the price of spending his remaining years
under house arrest.

One does not have to be a defender of all Nobel awards—Obama last year
is a case in point—or that some people, including Gandhi, who should
have won it never did. But Liu fits into good company, which includes
former non-Asian "dissidents" such as anti-apartheid leader Albert
Luthuli and Polish democracy Lech Walesa as well as the various
apolitical individuals and organizations who have also won. The
attempt to demean the award to Liu is all too typical of the official
Singapore mindset.

Criticism of the west today would be more usefully focused on
Afghanistan and Pakistan. The daily woes of the NATO forces are as
much due to the state of affairs in Pakistan as to the Taliban in
Afghanistan. The recent destruction of dozens of fuel supply tankers
is just the most visible evidence of Pakistan's inability to provide
security to NATO supply lines. The war crosses the border but Pakistan
gets angry when any of its own people get killed as a result as though
civilian deaths are avoidable in such a conflict.

NATO and its equivocal Afghan ally, Mohamed Karzai and his cronies,
cannot win in the face of a Pakistan majority which does not want the
Taliban but is unwilling to give full support to the US. India does
not help either. Its Afghan meddling merely makes Pakistan's ISI more
determined to keep influence over the Taliban.

The war could also only be won by the west if it is prepared to suffer
much bigger casualties – which it is not. Yet the US lacks the
political will to recognize reality. The Pakistanis created what has
become the Taliban monster. Let them deal with it. Instead of reducing
El Qaeda threats to western targets, the war is simply adding to the
ranks of western-born jihadists.

I am reminded that in 1880 the British Liberal leader William
Gladstone won an election partly on the platform that the war that
Britain was conducting in Afghanistan was immoral as well as futile.
Leading generals mostly supported his decision when he became prime
minister to get out and stay out of a country where they were not

Unfortunately Obama seems to lack the courage to cut knots. Perhaps a
landslide defeat in the coming mid-term elections will toughen him up,
make him stop listening to pollsters and political strategists with
ever changing targets and take some bold decisions – like that nasty
Mr Nixon once did.

An occasion presents itself at the G20 meeting scheduled for Seoul on
November 11 and 12, hardly more than a week after the US mid-term
polls. Between now and then China will allow some further small
appreciation of its currency. Host South Korea will pretend that it is
not manipulating the won and other countries from Brazil to Malaysia
may set up new barriers to reduce pressure for currency appreciation.

But all those measures simply underline how lopsided the international
system has become. A US insistence on reciprocity in access to the
Treasury bond market would force both China and the US to stop
avoiding the inter-related issues of China's rigged exchange rate and
the US low savings rate.

Such a measure would likely push up US bond yields and cause market
consternation – as did Nixon's abandonment of gold convertibility in
1971. But it would be a recognition that global imbalances have for
years been unsustainable and that the long they continue the worse the
eventual derailment of the system. The 2008 financial meltdown did
produce some international cooperation to improve banking regulation
and offset the sudden contraction of credit. But almost nothing has
been done to alter fundamental imbalances resulting from both rigged
exchange rates (particularly by China) and absurdly low interest rates
which are leading to the current rush into gold and commodities.

Frankly I am not hopeful of Obama. Not only is he a natural
compromiser but appears to lack advisers with either the sort of
intellectual muscle which Kissinger gave to the Nixon White House, or
the stomach for high-risk moves.

Philip Bowring is a contributing editor and founder of Asia Sentinel.
This article appears on Asia Sentinel on Monday.

Copyright © 2008 Irrawaddy Publishing Group | www.irrawaddy.org

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kyi May Kaung's review of William Dalrymple's The Last Moghul --

Book review:

William Dalrymple, The Last Mughal – The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi, 1857.
Alfred K. Knopf, New York, 2007.
ISBN 978-1-4000-4310-1

When the British annexed India in 1857 and Burma in 1886, they sent the Burmese King Thibaw and his family to Ratnagiri near Madras in India, and the Indian Emperor to Rangoon in Burma.
I lived in Rangoon almost 40 years before I came to the United States, but until 1988 I had never heard of Zafar Shah, the last Indian Emperor. In 1988, when my childhood friend, Yasmin and I were having high tea at the Hotel Atop the Bellevue in Philadelphia, Yasmin, who is Burmese-Muslim and can trace her origins to her grand aunts in Mandalay, the last capital city of the Burmese kings, happened to mention a Zafar Shah Road in Rangoon. Lost in a fugue state in one of the worst exile periods of my life, I asked Yasmin, “Who was he?” She then told me in one sentence about the British colonial power’s cunning prisoner exchange.
I had heard about the Sepoy Rebellion and the Indian Mutiny, in relation to the economic history of Burma and its annual budget, when it was a part of the Indian colonial empire until 1937. But I realize now, this 1857 event was a rebellion or a mutiny only if seen from the point of view of the British administration. From the Indian point of view, it is a national uprising and an attempt to regain native control of the Indian territories, which were being successively taken over by the East India Company.
I had read William Dalrymple’s other best-selling book, The White Mughals, 2002, a few years ago. This book was given to me by another childhood friend, this one the daughter of my father’s closest British, actually Scottish, friend. I loved The White Mughals, which was about the star-crossed marriage of a Mughal princess, Khair un-Nissa and the “gone native” British Resident at the court of the Nizam of Hyderabad. So it was easy for me to find The Last Mughal on the shelves at Politics and Prose in Washington, DC.
The author photo on the back book jacket flap of The Last Mughal shows William Dalrymple sitting on what must be an Indian veranda, holding his right hand to his forehead as if to keep all the historical facts he has researched together in his head. This book is indeed a tour de force of primary research and gripping historical narrative. It holds the reader’s rapt attention until the very last page – leaving you still yearning to learn more about Zafar’s family and his descendents.
To write this book, Dalrymple and his colleague Mahmood Farooqui translated the Mutiny Papers from the Urdu in the Indian National Archives, and there were also primary sources in Persian. In Rangoon, then UK Ambassador to Myanmar Vicky Bowman, he says, helped him “get into the Rangoon Archives.” Again, until I read this book I had no idea the Zafar Shah papers still existed in Rangoon, though I come from a well known bookish Rangoon family myself.
Because of this wealth of new primary material, Dalrymple’s book presents an amazing “I was there, and this is how it was” view of Indians from various walks of life before, during and after this earth-shaking uprising of 1857. At the same time as we obtain the views of the ruling British Resident family, the Metcalfes, we also get the views of members of Zafar’s family and court.
One of the most lucid and effective contemporary commentators was the court poet Ghalib, who was, by a fluke of luck, one of the only survivors of the mass killings and rapes that accompanied the re-taking of Dehli from the rebels. At the same time, Dalrymple has marshaled his facts so well, telling us only what we need to know at the right moment and no earlier, that the narrative reads like an historical novel.
As in the best fiction, the main characters change over time. Gradually, Zafar loses hope. He was after all in his mid-eighties. But he always conducted himself with dignity and humanity and quite a degree of political astuteness even in the face of overwhelming odds, in contrast to the outright brutality of the British officers and soldiers.
On the other hand, driven by thoughts of revenge, Theo Metcalfe, the scion of the Metcalfe family, metamorphoses into a frightening monster with his own gallows in his own back garden. In The Last Mughul, the facts themselves read somewhat like the quotes in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, and I mean this of course as the highest of compliments.
The Last Mughal is also just plain well-written. Some of the most affecting and lyrical chapters are the ones depicting what a day in the life of the capital city was like before the troubles. Contrasted with the carnage after, The Last Mughal is a must read as an accurate depiction of what happens when wars of colonization take place.
Kyi May Kaung holds a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in Political Economy and is an expert on totalitarian systems and Burma.

Kyi May Kaung's review of JoAnne Growney's Red Has No Reason -- poetry

Kyi May Kaung – Review of JoAnne Growney’s poetry chapbook, Red Has no Reason:
• Paperback: 82 pages
• Publisher: Plain View Press (May 15, 2010)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1935514520
• ISBN-13: 978-1935514527
This amazing little volume of poems, meticulously made and carefully sequenced, is like picking up a precise multifaceted jewel, seeing now and then flashes of red, and sometimes just feeling the sense of red, without overt showy splashes.

Featured are Growney's signature square poems, which always confound a non-able-to-count intuitive poet and painter like me. How can she stick to these exact rules and still produce a sentence with astounding truth value?

The poems look simple, but they aren't.
Somewhere in there is a mother, like mine, who withheld praise.

The counting poem of the farmer's daughter is spectacular and clear-eyed.

The hammer poem shows a sound sense of rhythm and a great ear for sounds.

Kyi May Kaung.
Burmese-American poet.
August 2010

Burl Ives-Ave Maria