Archive for the ‘Burma’ tag
When considering the under-noticed anniversary of Burma’s 1988 uprising, The Economist’s Asia.view column hits a sensible point I’d never considered:
No, the reason the revolution failed was simple: the army was prepared to kill as many people as it took to thwart it.
So long as a state apparatus is strong and remains cohesive, it’s hard to imagine how any citizen uprising can end authoritarianism.
It’s a momentous date for number of reasons. The three most prominent:
- The Olympics begin. That’s a link to a Big Picture post.
- Russia and Georgia are in the midst of an “undeclared war” over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. This had been speculated about for a while — The Economist even ran an analysis piece on their website today about what trouble such a conflict would cause. Passport has a wrap-up.
- It’s the 20th anniversary of the biggest pro-democracy demonstration in Burmese history. That one, like the recent “Saffron Revolution”, was pretty handily suppressed. (Link goes to The Irradday’s special issue, via Passport.)
International Sports Videos
Combining the theme of the last two posts: a lot of pundits are saying it’s a good idea to invade Burma to provide humanitarian relief. (If you don’t believe me, sample the sources cited in this UN Dispatch post.) I think Mr. Yglesias offers an interesting explanation of the trend:
The thing you have to understand about the surge of pundits wanting to invade Burma is that it’s the very absurdity of the idea that makes it such an appealing op-ed thesis. It’s self-righteousness without responsibility. Advocate an invasion of a country you don’t know anything about and have it happen and, well, all kinds of things might go awry in a way that’s embarasing. But since everyone knows there’s not going to be an invasion of Burma, you can say there ought to be one and then make up a nice story about how well it hypothetically went. You can even show your thoughtful seriousness about matters of war and peace by chalking up the tragic failure to invade as yet another disastrous consequence of the war in Iraq.
The Atlantic — even as they wait many weeks to get their currently-in-print magazine online — has put online their 1958 feature on Burma. It at least worth a quick glance. I thought this bit, from the section on naming, was interesting:
One or more of a Burmese child’s names is almost certain to show the day on which he was born—a survival from our belief that human destiny is linked with the stars. Certain letters of the alphabet are ascribed to each day, so that a “Thursday’s child” would have one name beginning with our P, B, or M.
(via James Fallows)
This is a few days old, but it’s point is still valuable. Though many would like to see China as a country as backward as Burma’s present or it’s own past, Bridget Kendell points out that it’s treated it’s disaster much better than Burma has.
Whether because the eyes of the world are upon it in this Olympic year, or because the Chinese themselves, particularly the increasingly affluent and empowered urban middle class, demand more of their own government, these days in China - unlike in Burma - there seems to be a greater sense of the need to be accountable.
I thought I posted this yesterday… alas, Slate’s Explainer tackles the question of whether it’s Myanmar or Burma that’s refusing to let outside relief workers into the country.
Some err on the side of letting the country itself decide, while others don’t. On the Burma/Myanmar question, both newspapers and countries are divided over whether to recognize the switcheroo. Burma’s military leaders changed the English-language version of the country’s name to Myanmar in 1989, based on the short version of the country’s name in Burmese, “Myanma Naingngandaw.” While the United Nations adopted the new name in June of that year, the United States continues to call the country Burma because the change was never ratified by a legislative body in the country.
Sad but true: I willfully ignored this because the reported death toll yesterday was only around 350. Today reports are saying that more than 22,000 are confirmed dead and that the number may climb even higher. It also appears that the Red Cross and other aid agencies have been allowed in by the ruling junta.
I’ve been a little behind, but this week-old report on Burma from The Economist deserved sharing. A telling anecdote about the country’s problems:
Alarmingly, despite agricultural plenty, Myanmar has the classic conditions for a famine: acute poverty, poor or non-existent flows of information and crazy policies. In one cackhanded intervention in agriculture, the junta in 2006 ordered every farmer with an acre (0.4 hectares) of land to plant “physic nuts” (jatropha) around the edge of his plot. It was so keen on the crop that it also set up special plantations. The idea was to make biofuels to meet Myanmar’s energy shortage—even much of Yangon spends most evenings in darkness. But Myanmar lacks the refineries to turn the plants into fuel. The policy has been cited by many refugees pitching up at the Thai border as one reason for their flight: typically, the junta has been dragooning farmers into working for no pay in its jatropha plantations, so it becomes even harder to make a living.
It’s times like this that I dislike The Economist’s refusal to put bylines on its storied. Nonetheless, last week’s correspondents diary about traveling along the fringes of Burma is well worth reading.
The moment doesn’t last long, but for a few seconds I can picture what her life was probably like before all this. Perhaps she can too. Then her weariness consumes her again, and she is back to being a victim of all that is wrong with Myanmar.
Paul Watson offers a pathos-laden look into a music school in Burma. It’s interesting, even if not revelatory.
You can feel it walking up the front path, in the breeze of notes from four upright pianos, a baby grand, guitars and traditional instruments that drifts from the rehearsal rooms, where jazz legends such as Billie Holiday, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie look down from photocopied portraits taped to the walls.
When the school opened, neighbors told the students they wouldn’t last long. They were still going strong last year, and a few foreign visitors began dropping by, so intelligence agents started showing up. They reminded the students that Myanmar’s security laws hold them responsible for anything their foreign guests do, and if the outsiders strayed into politics, the locals would go to jail.
The Economist’s Asia.view column brings a necessary reminder about the strong-as-ever military junta ruling
The row over the timing of Mr Gambari’s visit shows the powerlessness of the UN against a regime determined not to mend its ways. It also shows that regime’s cunning: it has managed to turn a debate about the fundamental rights of its citizens into an administrative wrangle about a visa for a visiting diplomat.
As Britain’s ambassador, Mark Canning, has put it, “the name of the game” for the junta is staying off the front pages. The worldwide sympathy evoked by the “saffron revolution” made that seem a hard game to play. But these generals are past masters.