March 30, 2016 will be judged by the historians of tomorrow as a significant day for the Burmese people, a day that embodied recent developments in Burma’s political landscape, a day that culminated with the swearing in ceremony of U Htin Kyaw as the country’s new president, the country’s first civilian president in 54 years.
The morning of March 22, to much anticipation, U Htin Kyaw publicly submitted a shortlist of 18 nominees for ministerial portfolios in his new cabinet, giving the world a glimpse into both how NLD intends to run the civilian government and how the military intends to run ministries under its control. Here’s a closer look at this select group of individuals. Continue reading
A few years ago, I wrote about bureaucratic bloat in Burma’s national government. At the time, Burma had 31 cabinet level ministries, well above Southeast Asia’s regional average. Turns out this is finally being addressed, in one of U Htin Kyaw’s first welcome proposals as the president-elect.
The other day, I came across something profound. Perhaps it’s been forgotten by the vast majority now, but Burma, like its Southeast Asian neighbors, once had an Indic national motto, during its short-lived parliamentary period following independence from 1948 to 1962.
The ironic tragedy is that while Burma’s economic system has been decimated by decades of sustained political mismanagement, the country’s education system has also produced some of the world’s most prominent and influential economists, including Hla Myint*, Ezra Solomon*, and Ronald Findlay*, all of whom were educated at Rangoon University. (All subsequently established academic careers outside the country, at world-class institutions like London School of Economics, Stanford University and Columbia University.)
Growing up, I always wondered why Burmese didn’t have a distinction between ‘he’ and ‘she.’ As with a lot of Asian languages, including Chinese*, Burmese has a gender-neutral 3rd person pronoun. ‘He’ and ‘she’ are all and the same, သူ (thu). Or so I thought…
During my review of the 2014 Census results, I came across a number of interesting maps that demonstrate exceeding disparities within Burma, everything from population density to electricity penetration, not readily apparent by the national “averages.”
These disparities are palpable even from bordering regions, so I did a quick runthrough against World Bank data to see where the states and regions fall among the nations of the world, to demonstrate these vast differences further. Findings below.
After 2 years on Google Nexus 5, I figured it was time for an upgrade of my well-worn phone. Shortly after Google announced its new lineup of phones in late September, I preordered a Nexus 6P, Google’s latest flagship phone, built by Huawei.
Robert H. Taylor, a prominent Burma studies scholar, has penned an excellent article on the emotive ethnic-based political troubles that Burma is currently mired in. I’ve written before about the man-made construct of ‘race,’ and the transformation of regional affiliations to ethnic-based ones during the colonial period.
I finally got to reading an excellent report out by the Justice Trust, entitled Hidden Hands Behind Communal Violence in Myanmar: Case Study of the Mandalay Riots. It presents a compelling analysis as to the origins of the riot violence that gripped Mandalay in July 2014, affecting both Muslim and Buddhist communities.
Khan Academy is an awesome online service, offering educational videos in virtually every major subject, from math and science to economics and finance. More importantly, it’s free, meaning this resource could possibly be leveraged throughout the developing world. Video content has already been translated into nearly 3 dozen languages.
The e-Gov fever has officially hit Burma’s regional governments. Continue reading
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?