Friday, 16 May 2008

what do YOU know about Burma?

Cyclone Nargis on its way to Burma (the Irrawaddy Delta is in the top right)

Tonight on a Dutch public TV news show a reporter who had disguised herself as backpacker talked about the time she spent in Myanmar, still better known as Burma after cyclone Nargis hit the Irrawaddy delta region of that country. She filmed secretly, with a regular tourist camera and it was interesting that as soon as she went out to an internet café on the first night, to let her editor know she had arrived, she was starting to get paranoid of everyone looking at her.

All I know is that the British used to own it, hence the line from Noel Coward's Mad Dogs and Englishmen:

In Rangoon the heat of noon
Is just what the natives shun.
They put their Scotch or Rye down
And lie down.

I know roughly where it is on the map (follow the coast, between India and Thailand), I know that Rangoon isn't called Rangoon anymore (but I had to cheat to find out it's now Yangon) and there is the tragic history of the Burma railway. Currently I know there's a military junta, who has kept Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest. Protest is suppressed with force, journalists are not welcome to expose the oppressive regime's effects on the country and for that reason they are wary of letting in aid workers who might comment on the junta's handling (or non-handling) of this humanitarian crisis.

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