Ethnic identity is a social construct, and a very fluid one that at that. It’s by no means immutable, especially in multi-ethnic societies like Burma, where many assume multiple ethnic identities depending on context, as a means of conducting business, gaining social acceptance, and receiving education. For the Burmese community, there’s a also certain ambiguity attached to the term “Burmese,” and whether it’s a reference to the Burmese nationality, the Burman ethnicity, or both.
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.
In recent days, Burma has increased its prices of diesel fuel, compressed natural gas (CNG) and petroleum have risen substantially. In the case of CNG, which is touted as an alternative fuel source by the government and used in Rangoon buses, prices have tripled, affecting bus fares. The Irrawaddy, in a series of four articles (1, 2, 3, 4), concludes that the rising gas prices are because of economic mismanagement, stagnating stock markets in the Southeast Asian region, and government shortage of foreign currency. The Irrawaddy also notes that the black market foreign exchange rate has increased, from 1280 kyat per US dollar to 1325 kyat per US dollar. Also, the gold prices have increased in the country, probably the result of greater demand (in Burma, gold or foreign dollars are usually preferred for saving money, because Burmese kyat are not stable.