maroon vs. saffron burmese monk robes

Why do Burmese monks wear maroon colored robes?

Here’s a question. What’s the easiest way to distinguish Burmese monks from their counterparts in other countries? Typically, it’s from the color of the robes. Burma is unique among Theravada Buddhist countries in one respect: the color of monk robes. While Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Sri Lankan monks don robes dyed in bright saffron hues, Burmese monks typically dress in drab maroon or burgundy-colored robes (aside from a few outliers).

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Burma's generosity in comparison with the rest of Asia.

Misguided generosity: should the Burmese donate differently?

Recent headlines have crowned Burma the world’s most generous country, a ranking shared with the United States. According to the Charitable Aid Foundation America’s 2014 World Giving Index, the world’s biggest economy and one of Asia’s most undeveloped countries have something positive in common for once. And a point of pride is that this is unsurprising, Just a validation, if anything. Continue reading

Obama and Suu Kyi

Is democracy what Burma really needs?

Just Google “broken congress” (or “dysfunctional congress”) and you’ll be greeted by hundreds upon hundreds of articles heralding the demise of American democracy. It’s no surprise–Americans have a lower rating of Congress than of any other branch in government. And the average American, myself included, feel more and more powerless, more and more disenfranchised, to change a system where the odds are stacked against our favor.

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Drinking trends in the Theravada Buddhist world

This is the third installment on Alcohol and the Theravada Buddhist World.

I decided to take a closer look against the ring of countries that constitute the Theravada Buddhist world, in the context of alcohol consumption. Theravada Buddhism takes a relatively hard stance on drinking alcohol (or any mind-altering substances, for that matter) so it was quite interesting to see great variation in consumption patterns among these countries. At one end of the spectrum was Laos, whose citizens, both male and female, embrace alcohol. At the other end of the spectrum was Burma, the least likely to drink of the bunch.

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Header of Membership of the Pyithu Hluttaw: A Demographic Profile

Membership of the Pyithu Hluttaw: A Demographic Profile

Since the election of the 330 odd Pyithu Hluttaw (People’s Assembly) representatives (MP’s) two years ago, I haven’t seen much in the actual composition of Burma’s lower house, a look at the members’ demographic data, aside from their party affiliation. Fortunately, the Pyithu Hluttaw website (pyithuhluttaw.gov.mm) now has biodata for all 314 of the sitting Pyithu Hluttaw MP’s.

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Upcoming trip to Thailand and Burma

Heading to Northern Thailand and Burma in 8 weeks

Ever since I started working full time, I’ve tried to make a habit of traveling outside the U.S. at least once a year. I am completely infected with wanderlust. If I had the luxury of choice and money, I would not be spending my 20s working full time. And I really don’t want to end up like my older colleagues and acquaintances–filled with regret over not having traveled more. Last winter, I spent about 2 and a half weeks in Taipei and Hong Kong.

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ASEAN Timeline

Where does Burma stand in ASEAN? – education and health edition

More infographics from ASEAN DNA. This time, a look at education, health and social matters. Burma’s position in a lot of these metrics shouldn’t come as a surprise… It lags behind its neighbors in terms of health care infrastructure and education. And in other instances, the data used to draw up these infographics is questionable (e.g., average IQ rankings).

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ASEAN Timeline

Where does Burma stand in ASEAN? – economy edition

As ASEAN presses forward with economic integration, targeted for 2015, there’s been a surge of interest, especially among the younger generation, to establish a pan-ethnic, pan-national identity. Just the other day, I watched a Thai music video with Thai artists singing in all of the ASEAN national languages (the Burmese was incomprehensible). My misgivings about the ASEAN Economic Community aside, I found a series of interesting glossy infographics (full report here) comparing different metrics, both social and economic, (everything from milk consumption to effective tax rates) among the ASEAN countries.

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