Xenophobic nationalism: Myanmar’s curse

    With the corpses piling up in Rakhine State and the number of Rohingya refugees fleeing into Bangladesh eclipsing the 400,000 mark, international good will toward Aung San Suu Kyi appears to be hemorrhaging by the minute. The whole world, it seems, is piling on Myanmar’s former beacon of democracy, blaming her for a crisis the UN describes as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. And with good reason. Once celebrated for her steadfast courage, dignity, and…

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So Long, Myanmar—and Au Revoir, Burma

  Back in February, while sitting down for lunch in Mandalay with Karen Connelly, I reminded the award-winning author of The Lizard Cage of something she had said while promoting her 2009 memoir, Burmese Lessons. Connelly had told an interviewer that, after finishing her epic novel, she thought she was “done with Burma”—meaning as a destination, as place to live, and as a subject for writing. However, having found that she had much more to say…

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The Lady, the Cult, and the Dented Halo

  YANGON—Last month, while I was up in Mandalay for the Irrawaddy LitFest, I attended my first public event in the presence of Aung San Suu Kyi. Yes, “The Lady”: Burma’s democracy icon, Nobel laureate, and living legend. Scion of legendary independence hero/martyr Aung San. Exemplar of peaceful, non-violent resistance who spent the better part of two decades under house arrest. Heroine who left behind her family and comfortable life in the West to pursue…

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Myanmar Literature’s Divided House

  MANDALAY—I was all set to headline this blog entry “The Barefoot Lit Fest”: a reference to the unusual decision to hold an international authors gathering in the halls of an ancient Buddhist pagoda, where shoes and socks must be left at the door. But then the Myanmar government got in the way and—in a style typical of the military junta preceding it—pulled the rug out from under everyone. This morning I arrived at the…

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Learning to Cope in a ‘Trauma Society’

  Meet Saw Thet Tun. As a student in 1988, he was involved in the pro-democracy movement. A few years later, the authorities caught up with him. Now, look at his right eye. Looks normal, right? But it's useless. He lost all its vision during the nineteen years he spent as a political prisoner of the dreaded SLORC/SPDC military regimes. Saw Thet Tun didn’t explain exactly how he lost the eye when he spoke recently to…

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