The Undoing of Our Passionate Hearts

23 February 2009

In Oxford dictionary, the word "passion" is defined as strong feeling, example of hate, love or anger.

Passion runs deep in our hearts regardless of the kind of situation we are in: a sports competitions, informal conversations among friends, formal discussions among intellects, etc.

As a young child growing up in Burma, I can vividly recall how we would feel rather strongly about which side we were on whenever we spilt into teams to play games. With high sense of comradeship and strong will to strive our best for our team, we played our games with a lot of passion; through the exchange of opinions on whether it was a fair play, arguments ensued between different teams. Luckily, we were only children whose hearts did not bear grudges for long. So we would make up with each other after a few days of having a cold war.

So, you see, our sense of passion was evident even from such tender ages. It can also be seen in our daily lives.

Whenever a group of people gather in a coffeeshop or at a house, they will discuss about certain topics - be it poetry, politic, education, or any kind of context to their interest - over many pots of Burmese tea (known as Yay-Nway-Chan) for what seems like hours. During their discussions, voices are sometimes raised; aliances are often formed; disagreements can lead to unpleasant consequences at times.

Now, in twenty-first century, we, Burmese, seem to have taken the display of our passionate nature to the next level: blogs.

Recent exchanges between two particular pro-democracy Burmese activists from Singapore and their blog readers (both anonymous and identified) have certainly left me bewildered as to what is the basic reason for all those arguments. Without a doubt, those two Burmese activists have been at the forefront of pro-democracy activities in Singapore. Unfortunately, their passion for their own ego seems as large as their passion for Burma. As a result, in many people's minds (including mine), their admirable passion for Burma has been overshadowed by the display of their unexpected sarcastic retaliations towards criticism (whether constructive or destructive).

During the referendum in Burma, many people who voiced out their opinions on the blogs were spilt as to whether to vote "NO" or not to vote at all. Now that, 2010 election is in the air, many people have also started talking about whether to participate in it or boycott it. For some people, tempers flared and things got heated up.

For both camps of such issues, I cannot tell who is right or wrong: perhaps different approaches, different perspectives, different opinions. One thing in common is that I believe both camps hold on passionately to their own conviction; be it for his own ego or for whatever cause he may be fighting for or for the greater good of Burma.

It is rather sad to see that, passion - something so prevalent in our blood - seems misplaced for many of my fellow countrymen. Many a times, our passion seems to have clouded our judgement from making logical decisions and hindered us from seeing a greater overview of what is really happening.

The more passionate we become, the lesser level-headed we seem to end up as. We lose our composure. We fail to differentiate what are important to hold on to and what are not. We forget to learn to agree to disagree.

For some of us, we may even start to bear grudges. During childhood, grudges can be considered as being cast on the sand; to be easily washed away in a short time. But for adults who have gone through various kinds of experiences in life, grudges can end up being cast upon stone; too difficult to be removed for a long time.

And so, with all those, our unity seems to be far-fetched though many people have repeatedly called for it.

In Oxford dictionary, the word "unity" is defined as harmony or agreement (in aims, ideas, feelings, etc).

Well, in the context for the future of Burma and her people, if we carry on like this, I am beginning to wonder whether one day, our misplaced passion would end up being defined as a form of our own undoing for our unity.


Speak out Loud to Deaf Ears

17 February 2009

Coming back to BB w/o B after such a long silent. Actually the previous post written by Tway Ni provoked my thoughts and moods. Thanks Tway Ni. You did a lot to BB w/o B and shared such a valuable things.
Yes--- this donation box scandals of the most relic Pagoda, Shwedagon was quickly spread over the internet within last few days , catching much much attention from Burmese people around. One blogger shared her experiences and witnessed how public donation was being managed inappropriately. But there was no response from deaf ears and blind eyes. That's very norm practice, in fact it is getting like a habit in Burma. But New Era Journal had started first move by asking direct questions to one of the Shwdagon's deacons. Instantly, he clearly denied it.

In that stance, what's the good point is the fact that nothing can hide out. People will speak out . The concerned authority will also have a chance to deny or explain whatever they want to public. That's the beauty of media and internet, more precisely, beauty of blogging. Even though it has some negative side, one thing for sure is some interesting news are brought by citizen journalists and citizen journalists are brought by blog


Simple Loss of Faith

16 February 2009

Recently, there was a rumour about the donation boxes from one of the the holiest pagodas in Burma (Shwe-Da-Gon) being contracted out to certain businessmen at a certain amount of money. The rumour stemmed from a Burmese blogger's sharing of what she encountered at Shwe-Da-Gon Pagoda some time back. Though the person-in-charge at Shwe-Da-Gon Pagoda has denied such allegation, many people have commented under her post of having heard similar schemes being carried out in other well-known pagodas like Golden Rock (Kyite-Htee-Yoe). At the same time, some readers remained unsure - such notion is too incredible for them to believe.

One thing for sure is that the damage has been done. Doubt has been cast over the readers' minds and even the reminder by a senior monk from Rangoon to be cautious about such rumour seems to have fallen on deaf ears. In a country, where the majority of Burmese people are staunch Buddhists, the only reason to justify the existence of such rumour, I think, is our loss of faith in many things happening in our country.

We no longer have faith in the government, the education system and the health-care system, etc. A visit to any government office will require a string of briberies to get things done, starting from the lowest-rank. Many educators and health practitioners have traded in their sense of integrity in exchange for the pursuit of materialistic goals or simply for the need of survival. Schools have lost their essence of education and nurturing. Our educational certificates no longer hold much worth. People no longer have a sense of pride at being "educated". Corruptions and lies have crept into Burma over the decades and slowly but surely, settled into the daily lives of our people.

I have always been proud to know that we, Burmese people, are seen as being kind and helpful. However, my personal experiences during my recent trips to Burma threatened to prove otherwise. Starting from the airport, I could no longer tell whether an airport-attendant was being helpful by offering to collect my luggages - rather an unnecessary task since the trolleys were available and I traveled light most of the time - or simply trying to extort money from me. When I pass by beggars on the streets, I am faced with a dilemma of whether to donate because many people have cautioned me about those beggars being impostors who "rent" babies or children to take advantage of our kind intentions.

How sad it is to doubt my own people! Yet, I can't deny the fact that corruptions and lies clouding over my beloved country have robbed a substantial portion of my faith in Burma.

Related Posts:
New Era Journal - Burmese (


The need for humanity amidst the need for survival

25 December 2008

My friend's brother once said; "If you were to take pity on anyone in Burma, you would have to extend your sympathy to almost everyone in Burma because they are all struggling just to survive". Such need for survival has unfortunately and probably compelled most of the Burmese people to turn oblivious to those who are worse off than them. That conclusion seems even more probable after I read the Irrawaddy's report on the plight of elderly people on the streets of Burma [Irrawaddy - "Seniors on the streets"].

My friend recounted to me how the eyes of an old lady, begging on the streets of Burma, lighted up brightly when my friend's niece gave her three pieces of 1000 Kyat notes. and how she said a string of well wishes for the girl with so much gratitude. With the black-market rate, this amount will come to not more than around US $3. However, to that old lady, it was a significant amount.

With the kind of government whose focus is just to fill their own pockets as much as possible, and after being hit by the natural disaster like Nargis, Burma has become like an abyss when it comes to donations. Everywhere, everything - be it health care, education, social well-being of the people, political prisoners and their families, etc - is deteriorating and at every turn in the streets, we are faced with the sights of poverty and suffering aplenty. Many people point to the junta as the root cause of all this. That is true. However, I've come to realise that while this junta is still in power, we must find ways to help alleviate the suffering of our people. And money or rather donation has become essential.

As the whole world feels the impact of global economic crisis, donations for Burmese people from NGOs and private individuals will inevitably dip amidst the sense of uncertainty for the future. In addition, a number of Burmese working overseas have to face the retrenchment and among them might include those who have been sending donations for the people in Burma. Moreover, many individuals may have reached a point where their struggle for their own survival seems sufficient enough to justify their own conscious for having to turn a blind eye towards the conditions of people in Burma. Or they may even feel the donation-fatigue syndrome after not being able to see any tangible improvement in the lives of the people.

In fact, I am also hit by such sentiments at times. Whenever that happens, I am reminded of this Burmese proverb which can be translated as; "You do not donate as you do not have the means. You end up not having the means as you do not donate". Because of such belief, Burmese in olden days try their very best to donate within their own means or sometimes even at the expense of their own well-being, to gain merit to have better next lives. It could be as small as just a piece of bread or a bowl of rice. Nowadays, their day-to-day struggle for survival has become so grim that many people can just think of how to get through this life, let alone think about next life.

Such happenings make me wonder whether our sense of humanity will eventually be annihilated in our struggle for survival. If such day were to come, I cannot imagine what might happen to the people in a country - where some people lose their lives or face serious health risks as they have to resort to illegal means of abortion just because there is no proper education and subsidy for family planning methods and they cannot afford to have another child: another mouth to feed [Irrawaddy - "Desperate Decisions"].


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?


Myanmar-Bangladesh Energy Crisis

08 November 2008

[News Source: AFP,6Nov, 2008]

Dhaka, (AFP)-A simmering dispute between Bangladesh and neighbouring Myanmar in a hydrocarbon-rich stretch of the Bay of Bengal has highlighted Dhaka's desperate plight over dwindling gas supplies, say analysts.

Bangladesh this week took the unusual step of deploying four naval ships to the disputed waters -- claimed by each nation as their own -- after its southeastern neighbour began gas exploration activities there.

Dhaka says it will take "all possible measures" to protect the zone, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Bangladesh's Saint Martin Island.

The military-backed interim government has meanwhile sought to resolve the dispute diplomatically, dispatching its foreign secretary to Myanmar to hold crisis talks.

A senior official from Myanmar's military government said they were open to discussions, but insisted that oil and gas companies were operating inside their territory and far away from the disputed sea boundary.

Myanmar also insisted that the United States was involved and stirring up trouble -- an accusation denied by Washington.

Regardless of what sparked the face-off, experts say Bangladesh has taken an unusually strong stance, especially towards a country it has generally enjoyed friendly relations with.

"There's a chance we might find gas in the Bay of Bengal. India and Myanmar have already discovered gas there so it's crucial for Bangladesh to assert its territory. A lot is at stake," said energy expert Nurul Islam, from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

Bangladesh has been facing an acute shortage of gas in recent months with demand outstripping supply by 15 percent thanks to its booming manufacturing sector.

The government has told hundreds of factories they will have to wait until 2011 for new supplies, as years of neglect over exploration have fast depleted gas reserves.

To overcome the crunch, the emergency government earlier this year divided its sea territory into 28 blocks and invited bids from international oil companies for exploration contracts.

Myanmar protested the move, although Bangladeshi officials have said they refrained from awarding contracts for blocks lying in disputed waters.

Security expert Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University said Bangladesh's actions this week were aimed at deterring foreign companies who had been awarded contracts by Myanmar to search for gas in the region.

"The government is trying to send a signal to foreign oil companies and the international community that it would take any drillings in the disputed blocks very seriously," Ahmed said.

"Under international laws, Myanmar cannot drill in disputed waters, which have not been demarcated yet."

Ahmed said all seismic surveys showed huge gas reserves in the Bay of Bengal, which would ensure Bangladesh's energy security for decades.

"It's a matter of our future. We may not be rich now but our economy is growing fast. Soon enough we'll have the capacity to drill in deep sea waters," he said.


DASSK's role in Burma

07 October 2008

After reading Irrawaddy's commentary, "Where would Burma be without Suu Kyi" by Kyaw Zwa Moe, I wondered where Burma would really be without DASSK.

Though DASSK played a significantly large role in bringing about the events mentioned by Kyaw Zwa Moe, I believe that her ability to provide a "human touch in politic" rather than anything else, is what makes her irreplaceable in the history of Buma.

DASSK has sincerely dedicated more than a decade of her life to Burma and in return, we, Burmese people, have given her our utmost faith. Her unwavering stand for Burma has been a source of inspiration for many of us. Without a doubt, we are also full of pride for someone like her who can remain tall among the world leaders.

Although many of us cannot imagine Burma without her, we have to face reality that DASSK cannot defy the natural cycle of life. There will eventually come a day when we will have to carry on our own. When such time comes, it is our responsibility to keep her determination, spirit and dedication (for Burma) resonating in our hearts and souls and act upon those in the same way as she would have done.

Only then, we can say for sure that Burma would never be without DASSK.