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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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 ( now has biodata for all 314 of the sitting Pyithu Hluttaw MP’s.

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Aung San Suu Kyi 2012 by-election campaign speech

English translation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s official campaign speech

I took the liberty of adding English subtitles (and Burmese, for the curious) to Aung San Suu Kyi’s 15 minute official campaign speech for the 2012 by-elections, run on Burmese state television and radio. It’s now uploaded onto my Youtube channel.

(The English translations are adapted from the English edition of the New Light of Myanmar, although modified for clarity and conciseness. There was some awkward language and word choice that I changed.)

Aung San Suu Kyi 2012 by-election campaign speech

Burmese subtitles of the speech

To get the Burmese language subtitles working, you MUST have a Burmese Unicode-compliant font (e.g. Myanmar3, Parabaik, WinUniInwwaPadauk) installed on your computer, not Zawgyi (which is not Unicode). More info here. First, select the Burmese captions on Youtube’s captions on the bottom right hand corner:

CC > Burmese

Then, change the Burmese language font settings :

CC > Settings… > Font > Select a [Burmese Unicode font]

Enjoy! I’m all for increasing accessibility of knowledge and information.

Please do not re-upload without proper attribution/credit.

Why I disagree with America’s Burma policy

‘National Tribes of Burma’

Is the Burma of yesterday bound to become the Burma of tomorrow?

The United States, in the past few years, has developed a bad habit of failing to consider all the avenues when it comes to troubled countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Burma. One of the primary reasons I disagree with pro-democracy organizations like US Campaign for Burma and Burma Campaign UK are their strong pro-sanctions stance. I remember reading a paper somewhere about how sanctions let a nation not put its hands in another country’s affairs while allowing it to take the moral high road, essentially that in this case, the U.S. can ignore theproblem of Burma but act like it’s doing beneficial for the country.

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Burmese propaganda, now replete in color

The headline “VOA and BBC, sky-full of liars” says it all.

Sorry I’ve been unable to update this blog for the past few weeks. I’ve been overloaded with school.

Today, I noticed a new addition to the website, the official Burmese government portal. Titled “Photo @,” the page contains a series of images that attack the recent Burmese marches, the American government, Western media (particularly BBC, Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, three major radio broadcasters in Burma) and the War in Iraq.

There are 14 slides, all sending an obvious message, even to those who cannot read Burmese. I will translate a few of them:

Translation: Are we aiming for Progress or Decline?

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Free Burma!

Free Burma!

“Free Burma” to me stands for freedom to speak, think, and act on one’s accordance and the freedom to live and work as one pleases. As in the words of Aung San Suu Kyi,

“The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.”

Yellow journalism: all hype and no substance

Kenji Nagai shot point blank

Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai lying dead on a street in Rangoon.

A reader has just e-mailed me the following post from LAist, a blog specializing on Los Angeles, my hometown. The post “U.S. Media Blames Santa Monica College Professor for Burma Web Blackout,” describes the unfair sensationalizing of an innocent professor at a local community college who dutifully uploaded a video of the Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai killed by Burmese troops. The newswires, like Reuters (with its headline “L.A. professor triggers Myanmar Web shutdown”), directly connect the professor’s decision to upload the video to CNN to the shutdown of internet inside Burma. It states:

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Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. When I called her to tell her “Happy Birthday,” she had totally forgotten about her birthday. She was frantic and had been following news in Burma online at work. My mother has many relatives and friends in Rangoon, especially in Lanmadaw, where she was raised. She couldn’t reach them through phone or e-mail, but we all hope that everyone is okay. My mother is not a passive woman. She was partly angry that the protesters didn’t use force to combat force, angry at the cat-and-mouse game the protesters were playing with the armed policemen and soldiers. She doesn’t believe that passive and nonviolent protest would ever change Burma, even though nonviolence is one of the key selling points of the pro-democracy movement in Burma.

There has been a flurry of news in recent days from Burma. Countless heartbreaking pictures. Rubber sandals drenched in blood, Buddhist monasteries in ruin, and dead corpses lying on the street. Amid the heavy rain Rangoon has been experiencing are horrific scenes. Burma/Myanmar Genocide has a post with a greusome picture of what appears to be a young boy’s brain.

The junta fully knows that it could be prosecuted for its heinous actions by the UN, but probably it also knows that the UN has been too toothless in changing the situation in Burma. There are reports of Burmese army battalions deserting their superiors and protesting along with the people. There are reports of rumors that Maung Aye (No. 2 in the State Peace and Development Council) will be meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi. There are reports that Maung Aye and Than Shwe disagree on whether to use force against protesters.

Internet was disconnected in Burma at 3 p.m. local time. Citizen journalists have been key in releasing new updates, photos and video to the rest of the world and within Burma.

I feel so guilty, not being able to update as frequently as I would like to. College life is hectic, moving from class to class, attending seminars and finding your way around. I’m glad that most of my roommates now know about Burma and the current situation, and that some are actually interested. For extraordinary photos of the protests in English-language blogs, visit these two: and

U.S. sanctions renewal, Burma’s first decade in ASEAN and UN intervention

Financial Times “Burma junta fuels poverty, claims UN” headline; 2007-07-12

Headline from the Financial Times (July 12, 2007) reporting about a leaked UN report on Burma.

How interesting. Several important developments regarding Burma today: (1) Burma celebrates its 10th anniversary in ASEAN, (2) The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to renew sanctions against Burma, and (3) UN Envoy to Burma, Gambari has begun a trip across Europe to democratize Burma once again.

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Misleading outsiders: the Burmese constitution-to-be

A reader e-mailed me about The Myanmar Times article about the National Convention just now. The journalist, Thet Khaing euphemizes the National Convention. He writes:

The Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council, Lieutenant-General Thein Sein, said last week that the successful completion of the National Convention would be a victory for the first step of the road map and would pave a way for restoring civilian government. The approval of the constitution in a referendum will be followed by democratic parliamentary elections.

Restoration of civilian government? Democratic parliamentary elections? I wish.

I wonder why the media has not criticized the constitutional militarization of the Burmese government under the draft constitution. Kudos to the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma for bringing this attention to matter, because I can only do so much. It took me just about all day to figure out how the Burmese government will function under the constitution. I was fuming, reading about how invasive the Armed Forces will be in the constitution.

Update: Human Rights Watch took note of this as well. Read its observations here.

Update 2: The Irrawaddy reports that National Convention delegates have been told not to deviate from the guidelines agreed upon at previous sessions (including the 104 basic principles on government structure, including the clauses on the military’s stakes in the government), and that if they do, legal action will be taken. This dampens the chances that delegates will be able to do much to significantly modify the constitution, if they have intentions to do so.