Burma, Especially Its Children – Post 1: Intro and Politics

Myanmar, also called Burma, is bubbling with energy. While visiting here in January 2013, I had trouble sleeping, as images of this colorful, energetic Southeast Asian country pulsed through my head each night.

Mandalay, Burma, Myanmar. U Bien Bridge

Mandalay, Burma, Myanmar. Mandalay Hill

Bagan, Burma, Myanmar. Hill Near #820 Temple and Buddhist Monk Novices.

Bagan, Burma, Myanmar. Bagan Nyang Do Market.

Yangon, Burma, Myanmar. Schwedagon Pagoda.

Much of Southeast Asia is colorful and energetic, but Burma/Myanmar is even more so. Why? The answer has to do with political change underway right now. It was great to experience it firsthand. Here’s the story on that:

Myanmar or Burma? Burmese prefer the name Burma for their country. “Burma” was changed to “Myanmar” by the military junta that took over the country in 1962. Most Burmese were not happy about the new government, which took away many freedoms and violated human rights. That’s the bad news.

Mandalay, Burma, Myanmar. Mandalay Hill

The good news is that many people kept the desire for democracy alive. Finally, the military government decided to allow Burma to transition to a democracy – right now! Freedoms are being restored bit by bit, and people are no longer afraid to speak their opinions. I had read this before travelling to Burma, and then experienced it directly, as all of our guides (local Burmese people) talked enthusiastically about being able to speak freely.

The person who is the symbol of Burma’s desire for democracy is Aung San Suu Kyi. Her father was instrumental in bringing independence from Britain to the country of Burma but he was assassinated six months before independence was finally achieved. His daughter became involved in politics but the military dictatorship constantly thwarted her attempts to move the country to democracy.

Aung San Suu Kyi was either in detention or under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years (1989 – 2012). Influenced by Buddhism and Ghandi, she has always advocated for a peaceful change to democracy for her country.

Mandalay, Burma, Myanmar. U Min Thone Ze.

The government wanted her to leave but she would not – even though she had sent her husband and children to England for safety – because she knew the military government would never let her back in. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her peaceful resistance to the dictatorship of the military. Her peaceful resistance paid off. The people remained loyal to her (they call her “The Lady”), and eventually the military decided to let the country transition to a democracy. During the elections that followed this decision, she was elected to the country’s parliament in 2012. Presidential elections are scheduled for 2015, and most people believe she will be elected president. (See photos of her and read more about Aung San Suu Kyi here.)

We passed her house and I photographed the entrance. Best wishes to The Lady!

Important 2019 update – Wow, “The Lady” let us down hard. This link is about her testimony defending accusations of genocide of the Rohingya people at the International Court of Justice. The documented evidence presented before her defense was gruesome: three-quarters of a million people driven driven from the country to date, half a million more in internment camps or virtual house arrest, mass executions, arson, and rape. Apparently, there is an election next year and many believe that she does not want to lose her power-sharing arrangement with the iron-fisted generals. It hurts when one who had seemed so honorable falls so low?

see 2022 update below



2022 update - Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (now 77) has been imprisoned - again. The generals are still firmly in power and brutally repressing Myanmar’s people. An article by Daw Nilar Thein (a wife whose husband was recently executed by the junta) describes the current chaotic situation. See MYANMAR’S JUNTA KILLED MY HUSBAND. IT CAN’T BREAK OUR WILLl, NYT November 11, 2022.


“Myanmar is in chaos. Thousands of people have been killed or arrested and more than one million displaced in a worsening humanitarian catastrophe. The military is waging a scorched-earth offensive to terrorize the people and erase the democratic progress painstakingly achieved over the years. Executing Ko Jimmy, a prominent figure in the struggle for democracy for three decades, was part of that strategy.”

When will there ever be peace for the children of Myanmar?