Myanmar-logging

What the mass pardon of convicted Chinese loggers says about Burma’s ‘rule of law’

On July 30, the President Thein Sein issued a presidential pardon, releasing 6,966 prisoners throughout the country. The most controversial of the pardons were of 155 Chinese nationals convicted of illegal logging in Kachin State. And the lack of political prisoners pardoned was also striking. Of the 6,966 prisoners released, only 11 were political prisoners, a paltry 0.1% of the total.

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Union Solidarity and Development Party slogan

A sarcastic take on USDP campaign slogans

With the 2015 election campaign in full swing, Burmese Facebook users have spared no time in creating political memes in time for November.

The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), established by the military and its close associates in the lead-up to the 2011 election, has especially been hit hard, with a barrage of criticism online by users, in the form of GIFs, image memes and other comments. There’s no doubt that the USDP suffers from a tremendous image problem, because its leadership is largely composed of the same circles that ran the former military junta. Many liken it to a revolving door.

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Bringing the Burmese language up to speed

The Burmese language has a huge task at hand: modernizing itself. It’s amazing how stunted the language feels when one tries to describe business and technical jargon, making it difficult to lucidly articulate oneself in the professional realm, especially for those schooled in the West.

I, for one, work in health IT, which has specialized vocabulary that the average layman would find difficult to understand, let alone laymen speaking other languages. In the world of virtualized servers and system thin clients, I was hard pressed to explain these concepts in Burmese when I returned earlier last year, or even more generic project management concepts. Even my recent examination of Google’s Burmese Gmail translation effort reveals the usage of several unfiltered imports from English, including the word email itself.

Yesterday, I came across a newly published article, “Those Who Would Remake Myanmar Find That Words Fail Them,” which examines, if just scratching the surface, the challenges of the Burmese language in terms of its lexical capacity.

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Come July, Burma to begin rolling out health insurance

Working in the American health care sector has intensified my fascination with the health care landscape, the complex interplays between patient and provider, government and business sector, and the competing motivators of money versus care.

And the bottom line is that the wellbeing of individuals, communities, and populations is at stake. Yet most people overlook what underpins these medical transactions: insurance policies and legislation.

So the Finance Ministry’s announcement that health insurance is coming to Burma let me feeling like this was a bit premature.

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Burmese Americans

How big is Burmese America?

We Burmese Americans are an elusive bunch. We’re rather underrepresented among Asian Americans. But our exact numbers are unknown. The other day, my mom asked me how big the Burmese American community was, and to that I had no answer. So I turned to some numbers from the 2010 Census, which shed some light on the size of the Burmese American community.

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Will Burmese numerals ever fall out of fashion?

Throughout the rest of the world, local numeral systems are quickly being replaced with Hindu-Arabic numerals (i.e., 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). This holds true across Asia, where countries with native sets of numerals, like Thailand, Cambodia, and China, increasingly prefer the Hindu-Arabic forms in daily use, relegating the indigenous sets to ceremonial usage. In Europe, Hindu-Arabic numerals had replaced cumbersome Roman numerals by the 1400s.

Yet Burmese remains a curious outlier in Asia. Record-keeping is still largely done in Burmese numerals, even after nearly a century of British colonization. And although mathematics is taught using the Hindu-Arabic set, the traditional set of Burmese numerals is still widely used, in literature, newspapers, and handwriting. But why?

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