Where do we go from here, Burma?
Sao Noan Oo
An essential question at present, as the people of Burma grow
increasingly disenchanted with their illegal, dictatorial government. It is
obvious that the past and present generals have failed Burma and her people.
In spite of the fact that Burma has rich natural resources, they have made
the country one of the poorest in the world. During their occupation they
have perpetrated atrocious human rights violations against the population.
The extent of suffering inflicted on innocent citizens, and the number they
have killed without reason is unimaginable. Daily the soldiers with guns go
on a rampage in every town and village to force the people to labour. They
steal and kill, and rape young women and girls whenever they feel like it.
The Burmese people pleaded to the United Nations, the superpowers, China,
Russia, India and the Asean countries for help. But international countries
seem unable or unwilling to do anything other than try to coax Than Shwe and
his generals to reform. From what has been seen recently Burma is not going
to get practical help from the United Nations and there will not be an
invasion on humanitarian grounds by the superpowers. It is now up to the
people of Burma to fend for themselves. Some have come up with an “Armed
Struggle”, “A Saffron Revolution” and other ideas. According to Thomas
Jefferson, when a bad government cannot be reformed the people have the
“right to stage a revolution”
Demonstrations will be a waste of time as they will be crushed by the
regime, resulting in deaths and imprisonments. To ensure a successful
revolution, all the peoples of Burma need to get together; the Burmans as
well as other ethnic nationalities. They will have to unite behind the
common goal of liberating the country from the dictatorial regime which
rules by the gun.
For such unity to take place, all nationalities will have to get rid of
their preconceived ideas and change their mental attitudes towards each
other. The regime has, for four decades, divided and ruled, while, at the
same time, it has by force tried to assimilate the different nationalities
into one Burman nationality, creating enmity, misunderstanding, grudges, and
prejudice. The extreme Burman nationalists have used Burman nationalism,
chauvinism and superiority complexes as their inspiration; whilst the other
ethnic nationalities, in order to survive, have reacted by building stronger
cohesive groups excluding other minorities, leading to the development of a
strong sense of ethno- and religious nationalism. All must realise that
narrow ethno- and religious nationalism is the obvious cause of conflicts
Whether we like it or not all the ethnic nationalities of Burma, because of
their geographical situation and history, are interdependent; therefore, for
the common good of all concerned, they will have to reconstruct sincere,
meaningful and trustworthy relationships, beginning by treating each other
as equal partners, learning from past mistakes, and moving forward towards a
better future. They will have to rid themselves of the desire to dominate
and control, and recognise and respect each others’ freedom of choice. Human
relationships are not easy but good relationships can be achieved by trying
to understand each other’s feelings and points of view by voluntary
participation. After all, the ethnic nationalities joined the Burmans to
form the Union of Burma by their own free will. Bogyoke Aung San understood
when he said, “the right of secession must be given, but it is our duty to
work and show our sincerity so that they do not wish to leave”.
An amicable relationship between all ethnic nationalities can create the
manpower that is needed to defy the SPDC—the only weapon which will bring
them down. This has to be very well planned and organized with the creation
of a network throughout the country. Our hope lies in the Sanghas of Burma,
the Burmans, Shans, Mons, Arakans etc, and the revered and respected leaders
of all religious groups, who have the power and ability to teach morality
and uphold the concept of loving kindness, thus uniting the people. They are
experienced organizers and have the capability to mobilise the population.
If the religious leaders were to lead, the people would follow.
The 19th of July is Martyrs Day in Burma, commemorating events in 1947, when
Bogyoke Aung San and his colleagues, who had great hopes for the future of
Burma, were assassinated. Allowing the dictatorial regime to continue to
bully the citizens means that their aspiration and sacrifice will have been
in vain. The SPDC generals, besides being greedy and selfish, are cowards,
afraid to give up their guns and power and live like ordinary folk, and are
the greatest bullies of all. A schoolboy likes to bully those weaker than
him and only stops when the victims have the courage to stand and fight.
Likewise, the SPDC generals will continue their bullying c until the victims
have enough strength and courage to defy them. It will not be easy because
the generals have the advantage of guns and ammunition.
Manpower and strength can be created if all the ethnic nationalities can
unite under the common goal. Such unity can only happen by reconciliation
of all peoples of Burma by rebuilding trust, and respect for the individual
freedom of choice of religion, culture and political views. Enmity, hatred,
grudges and prejudice should be overcome by forgiveness and loving kindness.
This conciliation and understanding between all ethnic nationalities of
Burma is the only weapon which will dismantle the SPDC and lead to true
democracy and a lasting peace in Burma.
Reproduced by kind permission of Shan Herald Agency for News
Old age, research and a breakthrough
We’ve noticed—perhaps you have too- that the medical pages in this paper
seem to be concentrating on “old age” diseases and that the vast
majority of research quoted seems to originate in the USA, a vital and
excellent source, but not the only one. Putting aside the very obvious
fact that, here in Chiang Mai, the retirement community is an amazing
representation of that well-known saying, “ 60 is the new 40”, do we
really want to be reminded each week that as we get older we may be
subject to some unpleasant shocks, even although our lifestyle here will
almost certainly delay their onset? Having said this, however, a recent
report on research into that most dreaded of “old age” diseases,
Alzheimer’s, should reassure even the most nervous of expats and please
the Brits amongst us, as this medical breakthrough was engineered by
The results of the research are being hailed as the most significant
breakthrough in Alzheimer’s treatment for 100 years, and were reported
at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s disease held in Chicago
recently. A new drug, Rember, taken daily, astonishingly stabilised the
disease’s devastating progress and effects in 81% of trial cases. Trial
subjects experienced no further decline in mental function over a 19
month period. The trials, carried out at the University of Aberdeen,
involved 321 mild and moderate Alzheimer’s sufferers from the UK and
Singapore, divided into 4 groups, three of which were given differing
doses of Rember, and one a placebo. After a 50-week period, the groups
on Rember experienced 81% less mental decline compared with the placebo
group. Images of the brain showed a significant increase in blood flow
to the affected areas. A consultant psychologist monitoring the groups
stated that those taking the drug showed more confidence and were better
able to deal with everyday life.
The research team was led by Dr. Claude Wischik, who originally
discovered, 20 years ago, the “tau protein” which makes up the “tangles”
in the brain which are highly correlated with the disease. At the
Chicago conference, he stated that Rember is able to restore
functionality to the worst affected areas. The drug targets the tangles
in the brain which destroy the nerve cells, leading to loss of memory,
and helps to disrupt this process, even loosening already affected
tangles. It is hoped that eventually the disease could be stopped in its
early stages, before symptoms have appeared; at present the drug, which
should be available within 4 years or so, is said to be more than twice
as effective as current treatments. Larger scale trials will now be set
up to confirm its safety and its long-term benefits to sufferers.
Here’s one for the Brits-Gordon the Rooster
Trevor the farmer was in the fertilised egg business. He had several
hundred young pullets and eight or ten roosters, whose job was to
fertilise the eggs. He kept records, and any rooster that didn’t perform
went into the soup pot and was replaced. That took a lot of his time, so
he bought tiny bells and attached them to his roosters. Each bell had a
different tone so Trevor could tell from a distance which rooster was
performing. Now he could sit on the porch and fill out an efficiency
report simply by listening to the bells.
Trevor’s favourite rooster was old Gordon, and a very fine specimen he
was too, but on this particular morning Trevor noticed old Gordon’s bell
hadn’t rung at all! Trevor went to investigate. The other roosters were
chasing pullets, bells a-ringing. The pullets, hearing the roosters
coming, would run for cover but, to Trevor’s amazement, Gordon had his
bell in his beak, so it couldn’t ring. He’d sneak up on a pullet, do his
job and strut onto the next one!
Trevor was so proud of Gordon, he entered him into the West Yolks County
Fair and Gordon became an overnight sensation among the judges. The
result - the judges not only awarded Gordon the No Bell Piece Prize but
they also awarded him the Pulletsurprise as well.
Clearly, Gordon was a politician in the making: Who else but a
politician could figure out how to win two of the most highly coveted
awards on our planet by being the best at sneaking up on the populace
and screwing them when they weren’t paying attention?
Do you know a Pulletician called Gordon?
OPINION: Drinking versus smoking
A recent press release trumpeted the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s
decision to plough 125 million dollars over the next 5 years into an
anti-smoking campaign, one aim of which will accelerate, through the
Bloomberg Initiative, (whatever that is!), the implementation of the
MPower package of “proven tobacco control strategies and interventions”.
This important-sounding international project’s intentions include
“Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies; Protect people from
tobacco smoke; Offer help to quit tobacco use; Warn about the dangers of
tobacco; Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship;
Raise taxes on tobacco”. Leaving aside the question, “why don’t
governments just ban the stuff altogether if they’re so concerned?”, and
the obvious answer, the balancing of the cost of treatment of
tobacco-related illness with tax revenues from smokers, one might be
tempted to enquire of the fabulously wealthy couple, “Why just tobacco?
Why not alcohol abuse as well?”
Bill and Melinda, however, are not alone in this. Western governments
have all been leaping enthusiastically on the politically-correct
anti-tobacco bandwagon for some years. At the same time, the UK
government’s brilliant idea of converting British drinking habits to a
“continental café” lifestyle by introducing 24 hour opening of bars,
clubs and pubs, has resulted in a huge increase in alcoholism and
alcohol related crime, including domestic violence. Continental café?
Tell that to your average Glaswegian on a Saturday night! Except that
now, it’s not just UK cities which are suffering as a result, it’s
everywhere. Ancient market towns, seaside resorts, formerly quiet
suburbs, villages—and it’s not just Saturday nights, it’s all week!
Neither is it confined to the UK— drinking to excess together with its
often tragic consequences is very evident here in Thailand, although
Asians in general have a scientifically proven congenital lack of
tolerance for their preferred tipple.
Smoking, of course, has scientifically proven links to a variety of
unpleasant diseases; many people, (are the majority ex-smokers?), have a
genuine aversion to tobacco smoke which should be respected,
particularly in restaurants. But- is this writer alone in finding the
sight of a confirmed 2 pack-a day- man puffing away contentedly less
offensive than an aggressive drunk throwing up in the gutter? And how
many battered women give the reason for their frequent visits to the
emergency room at their local hospital as “he smokes too much, that’s
why he beats me”?
Tobacco and alcohol both contain addictive substances, and are the root
causes of fatal or debilitating disease. As such, both are best avoided;
although there are studies which promote a glass of wine with a meal as
beneficial to health, this writer has read nothing published later than
the early 20th century which recommends a cigarette for the same
purpose. So-where are the health warnings on cans and bottles of
alcoholic drinks? Where are the constant media warnings and legislation
to prevent excess drinking and its consequences? In the UK, drink
related crime and illness together account for more government spending
than does tobacco-related illness. At least, here in Thailand, Buddhist
holidays are legally designated drink-free—some of the bars and
restaurants even manage to obey the prohibition! Censorship of Western
films on UBC’s English language channels, however, joyfully blanks out
cigarettes whilst leaving the whisky bottle on the table! This writer
just doesn’t get it!