Monday, July 06, 2015

Burmese junta and money by KMKaung

The Burmese junta and the money supply.

As far back as 1964, I went to the Journalists School in Rangoon, on Boundary Road, via a little lane that went inside and a big stagnant pond.

I was assigned to go there and "talk to them about some basic economics."

The Burmese journalists were happy to see me.

I talked to them about IMF and the World Bank and the historic gold standard and the problems of too much money chasing too few goods and services.

I think one man was the father of the young lady who worked as the office asst of the lady who controlled the funds at the very rich and influential foundation in NY.

They remembered me and in 2008, mentioned it often at a Confce, and the daughter told her father, "Father, she does not remember you.  It is no use."

I could not remember 50 people I met once in a class so many years ago.  I did not even remember someone for whom I had tailored independent study courses at the Inst of Ecos at the MA level.  (All of course, job assignments).

Another one was I think, the father of another young woman, now teaching Burmese language at the State Dept.  In this case too, they mentioned me and my father often, but I could not remember.

What I did remember was I said at that class for journalists, "Well, what it amounts to is the government can print as much banknotes as it wants."

(because there is no set reserve ratio)--

One of the students, also a man, said, "Does that mean they can do what they want?"  His eyes lighted up like gimlets.

I said, "Yes, but they have to bear the consequences."

--In 2007, August, there was another delegation, which went there and advised liberalizing prices, including of fuel.  (petrol/gasoline)

It reminded me at once of the case under Suharto in Indonesia, where the same advice was given, with the same results.

I remember the Indonesian case well as I was then writing, voicing and producing a weekly radio program on SE Asian Pol. Economy.

--well, as we all know, it resulted in riots in Burma too, with the monks marching in the rain (later the journalists loved calling it the Saffron Revolution).

I was more in the loop then.

My colleagues and I were invited to a session at NED, and it just happened to be the day, 27 Sept. when the clampdown on the monks took place.

The session was supposed to be the Team debriefing in DC on their report.

But already events on the ground had outrun the official report.

I told CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) that the clampdown would happen soon (tomorrow)--I only had 3 minutes so I made sure to make that the first point I made.  They had an asst talk to me ahead, which was a good thing.
The morning of the NED meeting, I had to go and be interviewed by BBC Hardtalk.
I had to go, it was not something that I could decline, bc it came at the request of the Exile Govt.  They said BBC on M St would send a limo for me.

It was supposed to be about "sanctions"--

The other person being interviewed, Brit diplomat Derek Tonkin had the advantages of the ingrained smooth talk of a career diplomat, and never losing his temper.

I found the Hardtalk "in your face" manner very trying and rude.  Besides, who the hell were they to talk to democracy advocates like that?

Why didn't they try hard talking the junta, which in 1/2 a century has accepted how many interviews??

I told the woman my name and how to pronounce it.  She mispronounced it.

I told her I was a member of TAN (The Technical Advisory Network) and that we sometimes gave policy advice to the Exile Govt (the delegates that were elected in the 1990 election, who had to flee the country), but they were not obligated to accept our advice, and I was only one of about 15-20 specialists.

She announced me as THE adviser.

By then I was already boiling mad.

But the real thing was she did not know anything about sanctions, and had not done her homework.

I guess she just thought she would verbally slap around a middle-aged woman with a strange name.

Lots of people make that mistake.

So I told her right then, using my hands to gesture, "What you need to know is that sanctions are not on and off like a switch.  They are a spectrum of finely calibrated policy choices or mixes."

She was so surprised that  her mouth fell open and the camera caught it.

To make matters worse, I did not know she was in London.

I thought she was in the same studio on M St in another room.

Before the interview, while I was sitting alone at the oval table (you can see it all the time on Katty Kay's broadcasts on BBC news),

I saw on a small screen inside the glass topped table

a long haired blonde woman combing her hair, and I thought the woman who interviewed me was the same.

But she was extremely rude.

At the end of the interview she said harshly, "You can go now.  The limo will take you home."

I thought, What a rude arsehole.  She isn't even coming out to shake my hand and walk me to the elevator.

So I went downstairs, and as soon as I sat down in the limo, which was really a black SUV van, driven by a young brown skinned man, I told the driver how rude and awful the Hardtalk woman was.

Initially, I had planned to ask him to drop me off at the NED office,

but I was so pissed I thought  I had better go home.

Know what  the driver said?

He said, "I have been driving this limo for some time, and every single person I took in was just as mad as you.  One was from Virginia and he/she was really angry."

I thought then that one day this "journalist" would end up being shot by a terrorist.

She could learn a thing or two from Barbara Walters, who always charms and cajoles her celebrity interviewees to spill all their "innermost secrets" as the woman who sat next to me at work, with a colostomy bag, smelling faintly of poop combined with perfume, loved to say.

"I know your innermost secrets.  You know how?  I listen to your radio program."

But brains are not onions or cabbages.

There are  just secrets and other  stuff in the public domain.

How does she know that like most writers, I am not bullshitting her?

As soon  as I got home I got online, and sent BBC a complaint letter.  They corrected the spelling of my name on the website and the person in charge sent a letter of apology.

He said XYZ had been very busy, and had not had time to prepare! and he hoped that I would talk to them in the future.

The calls for interviews have dropped off, but that is just because they don't wish to hear anything from Cassandra.

They want to hear that all is hunky dory in Burma and it is a full fledged democracy already.

But it does not bother me.

I am not the only one in the while planet with a brain and eyes and a mouth.

Anyone  can speak the truth.

It's like my mother used to say--ah thay khan that hlyin,bair thu ko ma so thatt hnaing te.

"If you dare to die, you can assassinate anybody."
She's even quoted somewhat differently in Norma  Bixler's book.

(to be continued)

Copyright KMKaung

From Portfolios of Hot Air.