"You never know what will happen next."
June 10, 2013 12:34 PM   Subscribe

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. posted by seemoreglass (4 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Also, don't miss his articles in the Irrawaddy about dictators Ne Win & Than Shwe.
posted by ouke at 1:12 PM on June 10, 2013

Thanks for this excellent set of links; that BBC one is one of the best media accounts I've seen of the "Burma or Myanmar?" issue. (Minor gripe: "Burmah, as it was spelt in the 19th Century, is a local corruption of the word Myanmar" uses the silly word "corruption" for the result of normal linguistic change; it's like saying "England" is a corruption of "Englaland." Also, it would be nice if they made it clear that "Burma" represents /bama:/, with the usual misleading non-rhotic use of r.) Favorite pull-quote:

"But really it's not important. Who cares what people call the country? It's the human rights abuses that matter.
posted by languagehat at 2:06 PM on June 10, 2013

"But really it's not important. Who cares what people call the country? It's the human rights abuses that matter".

This article is from 2007. And it doesn't reflect the sensitivities of the use of Burma vs Myanmar in the current state of the country. The Burmese represent around 60/70% of the inhabitants and yes, in a conversation they don't mind if you use either of the names. But if you speak to a Shan, Kachin or one of the other minorities, they say that they do prefer Myanmar over Burma.

The Burmese have been fighting a civil war since 1948 against various ethnic groups, junta or no junta. And while the Burmese cabbies in Yangon have replaced the buddhas on their dashboards with pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi, she has a very hard time getting the trust of the other ethnicities. She is, after all, Burmese and thus one of the oppressors.

My own impression from a work visit last year is that the situation very much resembles that of Yugoslavia in the nineties. Once the killing grip of the military is gone, old sentiments can develop into new dramatic situations. And with more than 125 distinctly different ethnic groups, i'm afraid we haven't heard the last of it.
posted by ouke at 2:42 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

In the main link, Aung Zaw describes his meeting with a senior censorship official. NYT did a lovely little article on the censorship official last September.

I can't comment on how things used to be like, but online media is currently freely accessible (no Great Firewall here) and private newspapers are available all over town. AFAIK local newspapers are still censored but they're still a lot better than the government newspaper New Light of Myanmar. Irrawaddy's website, as well as individual blogs and twitter accounts, continue to be accessible from within the country, so there really isn't any effort (or effectiveness) in suppressing the public's access to outside information.

I should add that Parliament has, for months, been undertaking a bit of a witch hunt over an anonymous blogger who posted some criticism of the Parliament online. That's caused some concern over the future of online freedom in Myanmar. The recent rise in sectarian strife and the seeming ease at which tempers flare also hint at potential 'public order' grounds to control freedom of expression.

But for now - things seem pretty relaxed.
posted by hellopanda at 1:46 AM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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