Myanmar

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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 […]

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With the state once again targeting journalists, press freedom in post-dictatorship Myanmar remains elusive. But it’s not just the government that inhibits free expression: the country’s leading independent news daily routinely betrays the ideals of press freedom by promoting hatred against a persecuted minority. Two years ago, Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government officially lifted pre-censorship rules governing […]

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Burma main

  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, […]

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Gems - main

NAYPYIDAW—Ever since arriving in Myanmar back in September, I have harboured a nagging desire to visit the country’s new capital city. Naypyidaw, unveiled by former dictator Than Shwe in November 2005 (although not actually given its name until four months later), has become somewhat legendary for all the wrong reasons. Apparently it was so unattractive […]

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The Lady - main

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 […]

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Myanmar Literature’s Divided House

Photo 1 - Aung Myint and Jane Heyn

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 […]

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Learning to Cope in a ‘Trauma Society’

Saw Thet

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 […]

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The Best of Burma: A Reader’s List

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Since Lune and I arrived in Myanmar in September, a few people have asked me what they should read about this fascinating country. In no particular order, and with some comments included, I’ve compiled a selection from the books I’ve read. For a general historical view, one of my favourites is River of Lost Footsteps: […]

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A Pox on Both Their Houses

THAILAND-PROTEST_

YANGON—To borrow from a favourite line by Captain Willard in “Apocalypse Now,” sometimes the bullshit piles up so fast in Thailand that you need wings to stay above it. The “bullshit” in this case—as in the 2008 and 2010 rounds of political gridlock in the kingdom—is the braying and sloganeering of both “red shirt” and […]

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Yangon Diary: Bomb Blasts a Dark Omen

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YANGON—On Tuesday morning, I received a message from a friend in Vancouver I had just wished a happy birthday. “Thanks Dan,” she said, “I hope you’re having a blast in Yangon.” I winced at the unintended irony: my friend had no way of knowing that Yangon had just been shaken by a series of bomb […]

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