Improved Burma for all

30 November 2008

During my recent trip to Burma, a business acquaintance of mine, a foreigner, who has spent the last five years in Burma, commented that the living standard in Burma is improving and Burma is opening up with the booming of five-star hotels, resorts, and restaurants etc. Right after her remark, our car passed by two frail-looking elderly begging on the platform. When we stopped at a traffic light, a couple of boys; young enough to be attending a primary school, appeared besides our car's window hoping to sell some Burmese journals to us.

I turned to look at my acquaintance and said, "I think Burma seems to be improving only for a handful of elites".

Indeed, Burma has improved. Whenever I go back, I see more buildings, more hotels, and more restaurants springing up and with them, came the rising prices as well. One bowl of mont-hin-gar (favourite breakfast dish for Burmese) at an above-average eatery can cost almost 1,000 Kyat and a book by a well-known Burmese author can go up to 3,000 Kyat, etc. With most of the items in the price range of thousands and with the average salary of 40,000 - 50,000 Kyat for a fresh IT graduate at a private company, the locals struggle to survive in Burma. Most of them try to find jobs in foreign companies or NGOs which pay them in US dollars; deemed to be better pay than local terms and better value than local currencies. Such jobs become highly sought after.

The number of expatriates also seems to have grown in Burma. All the hotels and restaurants are mainly filled with foreigners. There is a boom of various types of businesses such as restaurant, spas, saloons, pubs etc, to cater to such circle of people. Having gone there on expatriates' packages, life in Burma seems rather lavish for them; a great distinction from the locals in the country.

Being one of those Burmese, considered to be fortunate enough to have been able to move to another country in search of a greener pasture, I find myself being among the group of people with above-average spending-power whenever I return to my home country for a visit. With the declining value of Burmese currency in the black market, constantly rising prices in Burma fail to cause a big hole in our pockets.

In contrast, with the natural disaster like Nargis, and ruthless junta who only act in their own interest, the lives of my countrymen in Burma seem to have been dragged further down into the poverty. The world is facing a financial crisis and turmoil in various places like Thailand, and Mumbai etc. Amidst all these chaos, Burma may be forgotten once again by the international community. Burma may become once again just a tourist destination, an exotic country with splendid scenery to look forward to.

As we curl ourselves up in our happy cocoons, we sometimes fail to reach out of our comfort-zone. Though I still continue with my necessary expenditures in Burma whenever I go back there, my heart always remains aware of the fact that a large percentage of my people are suffering. I feel that it is of paramount importance for foreigners in Burma; be it expatriates or tourists, to be at least mindful and empathetic of the conditions of the local people.

As my people try hard to remain afloat under dire conditions in life, I can feel their spirits waning. The blood of those who have sacrificed remains dried on the streets of Burma. The souls of those who have sacrificed seem to be forgotten.

Another Christmas is coming. Another year is ending. How many more Christmas will there be before Burma improves for people from all walks of life and not only for the handful of elites?


BPA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BPA said...

Thanks Thway Ni

Some see it like it-is
Some conveniently see that, "which they want to see only"

You noticed the gap.
Maybe she is a blind-bat-spdc.

The only way to stop the gap growing deeper is by becoming UNITED, inland and in exile where the voice is stronger, meanwhile let's listen to the tourists' juky juky juky

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