( 4.9 ) ( 34
Mar 25, 2004 21:08
Cons: poor country
We have to admit is was scary once again to leave our passports
with the Burmese authorities...then again, there is no arguing with
someone who can jail you indefinitely for no reason!
We have heard and read much about the release of Aung San Siu Kyi.
There is even talk that Great Britain and others will make her release
a stipulation of Myanmar's attendance at the ASEAN conference in
Hanoi in April. But they have been saying she'll be freed for years.
Our guide Jamal, who is a political dissident (working for the National
League for Democracy) thinks she will never be set free because
too many people have too much to lose financially.
We witnessed both fascinating and disturbing things in Burma. For
example, a ceremony where novice monks were being shaven in preparation
for Songkran (New Year), and a mother charging admission to see
their paralyzed and deathly ill infants.
Our guide even took us to his home...a very small apartment with
just one main room, a bedroom, a galley kitchen and outdoor latrine.
They have electricity only from 6:30 - 10:30 p.m. (and his family
is middle class!) His political activism is dangerous. He has been
blacklisted in Yangoon and his wife (obviously a very strong woman)
has already lived on her own for many years while he was in "exile".
He has only recently returned to Tachilek with a new identity card...where
they have an Indian food cart across the
border in Thailand. His wife says she understands that his dissidence
may cause him to go to jail at any time. They must register for
every move and paperwork can be checked at any point with no reason
The cultivation of opium both as a crop and in meth labs is evident.
We are not sure what to think about the internal oppression that
Jamal and his fellow Burmese experience. His position is that our
visiting helps to stop Myanmar from being sealed off from the rest
of the outside world, which is why the evil government restricts
tourism in the first place.
The people were exceptionally friendly despite their lot in life.
If there is any good news it is that it appears that Aung San Siu
Kyi's stature is as great as ever and wecan only hope that Jamal
and the NLD make a difference.