Why do I find Myanmar maddening?

From my outsider perspective, seven reasons come to mind…  

Posted on
October 1, 2021
5
min read
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(i) the deep culture of Burmese Buddhism speaks of compassion and pacifism. Over the centuries, children from an early age have been educated into the ways of respect, service and generous hospitality. Yet we find saffron-robed monks today uttering hate-speech at the heart of government.

(ii) The horseshoe of lush mountains that create Burma’s northern borders, the plains of emerald green paddy fields, the richly-decorated temples that grace most villages: these all speak of an ageless and entrancing beauty, largely untrammelled by sightseers. Yet attempts to attract tourism have famously faltered.

(iii) Burma's history boasts of rich diversity, as many as 130 co-existing ethnic groups within its borders. Yet civil war between these groups and government militia has torn the country apart sporadically for sixty years.

(iv) Burma is endowed with some of the world’s most stunning gems - lustrous blue sapphires, flame-red rubies, the shimmering translucence of jade from Mogok - yet most of the profit from the jewellery trade is siphoned off to the government and their business cronies.

(v) The worrying signs of isolation as the rest of the world ostracises this roguestate. The government remains intransigent, where one set of generals replaces another like shuffling the same pack of cards.

(vi) The  education system has been systematically decimated and according to Amnesty International, Myanmar’s record on human rights is among the world’s worst. Such is the political stalemate of the self-serving elite with its well-drilled army that it’s difficult to summon any optimism for this secretive land.

(vii) Burmese people have long been renowned for their exotic food and warm hospitality. This is what I experienced as I got to know April and her family but it seems disillusion has set in. As one local tells me: ‘we used to live to eat, but now we eat to live’.

"In those seven days the Burmese cast a spell over me, winding themselves into my heart, and leaving an ache, a gnawing hunger."
Rory Maclean
Whispers of Hope by Chris Mabey book cover

What lies behind the current malaise in Myanmar? Don't miss this intimate story of love, disenchantment and renewed hope.  

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