Global Witness has published a report on the jade industry in Myanmar, a trade "worth far more than previously thought - up to US$31 billion in 2014 alone. That is equivalent to nearly half the GDP of the whole country, which badly needs it. But hardly any of the money is reaching ordinary people or state coffers." [more inside]
Richard Cooke visits Rohingya refugees in Malaysia and looks at Australia's history of collaborating with human-rights abusers: "There’s a strange feeling in the room. An unusual aspect of being subjected to a 21st-century genocide-in-progress is that there are templates, blueprints, precedents. They know the fate of the Bosnian Muslims, of the Vietnamese boat people, of the Tutsis. They know this will take a long time, that their fate is uncertain. There is patience, and much more humour than I anticipated." [more inside]
Burma's Lucky Bibliophile
When the Ministry of Information’s director general visited Ye Htet Oo’s library in 2010, it could have been disastrous. Ye Htet Oo, then a recent college graduate, was running his new library in downtown Rangoon on the sly, without approval from the former military regime, and was told he could face three months in jail for every book he lent without permission from the censorship board. Unable to get a library license from the government, which saw libraries as a way to spread subversive ideas, he fronted his operation as a bookshop but kept a collection of unapproved library books hidden in a back room. Then one day, unknown to the young bibliophile, the ministry’s director general—who has since become the deputy minister of information and President Thein Sein’s spokesman—entered the “bookshop” and walked straight into the secret room.[more inside]
As the plane descended into Rangoon's international airport, I noticed a slight change in my heartbeat. I felt calm, but also excited, knowing that I was about to return to Burma for the first time in 24 years. Former student dissident and exiled journalist Aung Zaw spends Five Days in Burma. [more inside]
The Rohingya have lived in Burma for generations, as a Muslim minority in a predominantly Buddhist country. The government does not recognize them as citizens. Burmese Buddhists have referred to them as "illegal Bengalis", "viruses", and terrorists. In 2012, over 100,000 Rohingya were forced out of their homes during a violent conflict with Buddhists of the Rakhine ethnic group. The displaced Rohingya now live in refugee camps that they're not allowed to leave. With insufficient food provided, refugees resort to scavenging for grass and plants to survive. [more inside]
Three years ago, Phil Jablon (aka The Projectionist) started a concerted effort to start documenting the rapidly-vanishing stand-alone movie theaters and former theaters in Southeast Asia. Today his website, The Southeast Asia Movie Theater Project is a historian and movie-theater lover's dream. Jablon has captured the faded, the lost, the torched, the almost lost, the repurposed, the reborn, and the unbounded. [more inside]
21 Years Later, Aung San Suu Kyi Receives Her Nobel Peace Prize. After two decades spent mostly under house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi has finally delivered her acceptance speech in Oslo for the Nobel peace prize she was awarded in 1991.
Happy World: Burma, the Dictatorship of the Absurd. A surprisingly funny "hypervideo" web documentary about life in
Myanmar Burma. [Via]
A Burmese general has defected from the country to tell the world about the military junta's top secret nuclear weapons program. Sai Thein Win reveals that Singapore and Germany have been selling SLORC technology used to convert uranium into weapons-grade fuel. The end goal of the program is not to defend Burma from other countries but to protect the military elite from the underground democratic opposition. In response, US Senator Jim Webb cancels his trip to Burma. A full report will air on Al Jazeera starting at 6AM GMT.
Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese (Myanmar) activist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, was arrested after her home was invaded by Vietnam War veteran and Mormon evangelist. John William Yettaw swam to her compound May 3 and was arrested two days later on his way back. Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the last 20 years under house arrest, and she was supposed to finally be freed May 27. She will go on trial for the illegal visitor on Monday; if convicted, she could face up to five years in prison.
Explosive art; "weapons" paintings by San Minn are not shown in his native Burma where Rappers, journalists and comedians have discovered a new crime – helping people devastated by cyclone Nargis. [more inside]
Can the Burmese people rescue themselves? A powerful piece by George Packer in the New Yorker on the recent history and current conditions in Burma.
Monks Succeed in Cyclone Relief as Junta Falters. In Burma (Myanmar) the Buddhist monks are doing more than anyone to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis. At the same time, Burmese officials are trying to stem the influence of the monks by forcing survivors who have sought refuge in monasteries to return to their shattered homes. [Via Barbara's Buddhism Blog.]
A week in Burma after the storm is the second of two anonymous eyewitness reports at danwei.org of the impact and aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. It is the most gripping and tremendously sad report I have read yet on the human tragedy that is Nargis and the Myanmar Junta's non-response. [more inside]
On Flooded Burmese Coast, the Smell of Rot and Death The situation in Burma (Myanmar) is deteriorating rapidly. Six days after Cyclone Nargis ripped through Burma, leaving untold devestation in its wake and flooding vast stretches of delta, it is estimated the death toll may climb to 100,000. Now, a Second catastrophe looms in Burma as the regime blocks aid shipments. Time is of the essence. The U.N. has launched an appeal to the Burmese government, who have thus far been slow to act. The news is truly grim: 'I stopped counting bodies on journey down river of death'.
Small 'Panty' Demonstration Held in Rangoon. It seems the Panties for Peace movement (discussed previously) is gaining momentum. And now you too can throw panties at junta leader General Than Shwe at Ready Aim Vote. [Via Lanna Action for Burma.]
Monks march again in Burma. Approximately one hundred Buddhist monks marched in protest oif government policies in the central city of Pakokku yesterday. One monk who spoke to journalists claims more marches will be organized. Will we see a resurgence of the mass marches--and crackdowns--of August and September?
Risking all: the Burmese jokers who laugh in the face of danger. In Burma (Myanmar), comedians are targets in the junta's war on words. [Via BB.] [more inside]
...On account of the unavoidable circumstances, the members of the security forces fired some shots employing the least force to disperse the mob.... Meet the New Light of Myanmar, official mouthpiece of the catchily-named SLORC
Some amazing photos of the ongoing anti-government protests by Buddhist monks in Burma. Things are getting tense.
The fight to free Burma has been making noise lately. Protests are picking up in Burma, international activists are putting pressure on the UN to step in, and Jim Carrey has joined as yet another celebrity to try to bring public attention to the effort. Burma is an amazing place and the Burmese people are some of the warmest, most hospitable, beautiful, and silliest people I have ever encountered. The people of Burma deserve a better world. Is the tide shifting? Will this be a turning point for Burma? I hope so.
From Hunter to Hunted "In his quest to free slaves around the world, Aaron Cohen thought he’d seen it all. Then he went to Myanmar."
On the heal of her husbands fairly recent op-ed in WSJ, Laura Bush writes her own op-ed (subscription possibly required) about the whole Burma situation (or Myanmar) of all topics. Why did she do it? The Huffington Post speculates.
Burmese Daze: In which the author submits to the pleasures of a transgender spirit possession festival in Burma. [Via Disinformation.]
3000 feet up in the mountains of Eastern Myanmar (Burma) lies Inle Lake^, a giant freshwater lake that is populated by 70,000 people living in four separate cities on top of the lake. They dwell, fish, farm, worship and celebrate upon the surface of Lake Inle, living a unique lifestyle that seems wholly unto itself, untouched by the world outside. All pictures found using the amazing FlickrStorm tool.
Burma's military overseers, possibly in fear of a US invasion or internal strife, are moving the country's capital. At 6:37 a.m. on November 6th, (a time selected by one of the country’s leading astrologists), Myanmar's government began relocating its ministries to a 100 square-km complex in Pyinmana, a remote forest-bound location about 390 km north of Rangoon. Some analysts said the move is being driven by fears of a US invasion, while many in Myanmar believe it is due to worries about a possible internal uprising. (This despite a commitment to a "discipline-flourishing democracy".) The country's neighbors were put-off because they hadn't been informed of the move. Fortunately, the government is sure the relocation won't affect the country's tourism industry.
The country formerly known as Burma officially denies reports of a coup. Rumors circulated last week that Senior General Than Shwe had been deposed by his military regime's number-two, General Maung Aye. Burma-watchers discounted the reports, with some suggesting that the junta concocted the story as a trick. The country's "ossified leaders" blamed the BBC for the rumors, while astrologers in Rangoon believe that Than Shwe's wife spread the story. The general's wife, it seems, is worried about Mars.
Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest has been extended. The leader of Burma's democracy movement and a Nobel laureate, Suu Kyi was arrested a year and a half ago after her motorcade was attacked. Many prisoners in Burma (a.k.a. Myanmar) were recently released, but this is widely seen as a political ploy. [More inside]
The great firewall of Burma. "Burma's military regime has reluctantly dipped a toe in the cyber sea, but for most of the country's population owning a modem without permission means 15 years in jail." I guess I should stop complaining about my dial-up connection.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected and rightful leader of Burma (Myanmar,) and the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was arrested by Burma's military government 9 days ago after a premeditated attack on her motorcade. The U.N. representative visiting Burma has not been allowed to see her. There has been a crackdown on the democracy movement, and Suu Kyi's arrest may signal a split within the military government. [More inside.]
My Gun was as Tall as Me is a new report by Human Rights Watch about children forced to become soldiers in Burma (Myanmar). They estimate as many as 70,000 soldiers are under 18, some as young as 11. (Previous posts about Burma and modern slavery.)
Aung San Suu Kyi released. "My release should not be looked at as a major breakthrough for democracy. For all people in Burma to enjoy basic freedom - that would be the major breakthrough," she said. I know, but it's a start.
Is Aung San Suu Kyi going to be released? Speculation's mounting that the military government of Myanmar is going to end opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's 18-month house arrest, after a U.N. envoy's trip to the country. Think that'll help, or even happen? (Suu Kyi's a bit of a cause celebre at the moment -- Bono's had her face on a t-shirt and he wrote "Walk On" about her, so you know something's going on...)
Bulletproof teenage twins surrender! Johnny and Luther Htoo, leaders of a Myanmar rebel militia called God's Army, have surrendered to Thai authorities (who apparently coaxed the boys out of the jungle with crackers). Are today's teens leading rebel armies too soon?