To be honest. The day that I left Myanmar, I have not sense of joy at all. It is not a particularly nice feeling to witness another neighboring ASEAM country in such economical state. I know the media currently is inclined to almost one-sided affair on the military-ruled Nation. So, Instead of joining in making another useless assault on the government where new term like "junta" or so on emerges on media term, I would rather present my views from another perspective. I have no interest in the politic nor have any commercial motive, after all the little business skill set I have is non-relative & possibly may take another many decades before I can make any viable presence in this country. Burma has achieved its independence back in 1948, nearby countries such as the Malaysia (1957), 4 millions' Singapore (1963) & even Thailand which was once Military-governed have moved on considerably over the last few decades have made many wonder where does the populated 40 million strong in Myanmar heading from here ... The military-ruled government was the center of long, disputable issue in international political arena. Other than Cuba,, never has any country faced so much criticism. I would think no one likes to be monitored but even the once most hated ideology such as communism can be diluted and accepted under the roof of economical interest, I think one way or another, some solution can be achieved via establishment of understanding.
" ... The Mother of ALL PROBLEMS in any inter-human relationship originates from GREED ($$$), CONTROL (Power), FEAR & at times, JEALOUSY...", each element is inter-locking, Some are genetic, most are made to be ... - leofoo, 2005-
Update: 2006, the New Capital city of Myanmar will be Nay Pi Taw - according to sources, a relica of the Shewdagon with a slighter shorter height will be constructed at the new administrative capital.
63 millions forms the backbone of the Booming Thailand Economy
Kuala Lumpur new City skyline, 1998 23 million
The established economic status of 4 million's Singapore
Absolutely Personal View
(open your mind to digest if you can, EXIT if this section is not your cup of tea..It is NOT a political view on Myanmar as I try to present my views because I was there for only less than a week; thus, I would think it is not approproate for me to make any drastic comment (the same applies to journalists who always like to use this juicy topic to make editorial comments - have you been to Myanmar ? How long have you stay ? Of does your source of information relies on local correspondence ?)
Frankly, many friends thought I was crazy to plan a trip to Myanmar (even my money changer thought so..) because due to US-led economic sanction, even credit cards like VISA, Master or Amex card cannot be used as credit, so, one just has to travel in cash - funny as it may sound, but it is true, bring the US Dollars please... Neither the Burmese currency KYAT is available readily in any currency exchange centres and/or official financial institutions - basically, the isolation has extended to tourism sectors in the many western countries. In many ways, history has suggested most foreign intervention in Asia & Africa were essentially commercially motivated. Burma has been confronted, either direct or indirectly with the Portuguese, French and the British. I am not suggesting US has any hidden agenda behind the human rights issue but one way or another, I do not entirely agree this is the best option one can adopt to resolve a long pending political issue. Myanmar and Thailand has/had been under military rule for most part of this century. The only difference, in the case of Thailand was the Thai has a common figure in the much respected King Bhumipol Adulyadej of Thailand who actually can, at times, influence a political outcome - any ruling military figure during his reign understood this simple fact. Thus, in the many decades of sudden military coups happened in Metro-Bangkok, His Majesty has actually served as a neutralizing figure between governing of country as well as monitoring development of the nation, so, that was how Thailand was able to move-on economically all these years (partly benefited from the in famous US war in Vietnam during the '60). Myanmar is a little different, partly, it was also the mistakes leftover by the British who did not ensured smooth transitional hand over of power back to respective countries who seek for independence during the late '50 in South East Asia & South Asia. Overall, if you looked back to countries such as India, Malaysia and even Vietnam, all the then young nations that have been "freed" from foreign colonization had long been struggling internally for a decade or two to settle down politically (I would not like to use nasty note but why would their "ex-boss(es)" care anymore for an abandoned child ?). However, not to entirely discredit anyone, because it was a weakness in human nature to gain control of wealth and power of others has been on since the cavemen pre-historic era. But actually, one of the best leftover ruling countries was actually their judicial system as well as educational structure which has formed the basis for a organized frameworks of a modern social structure for the occupied Nations. In the case of Myanmar, the country may not have taken any advantage in other areas to move in tandem with other Nations in similar nature (Malaysia was "freed" in 1957, a decade later than Myanmar) but as the country has been under military governing for the last 50+ years, I think deploying such a political move was largely seen as too drastic and/or too fast of a pace (actually, it is liked applying a corporate restructuring for a illing company - a small Asian economy might not be able to cope with changes like this overnight). The formation of ASEAM which has Myanmar to participate was widely regarded as the BEST path that can help to slowly taking off the defensive shield of the conservative military-ruled figures currently in charge. So, technically speaking, economic sanction will only make life more difficult for ASEAM partners in such a positive process. Frankly, I do not see a positive sign the sanction will work in anyway, I would rather think through soft approach, which takes time, is a better option. Come to think of it, the sanction is not going to be a short-live method forcefully in shortening the situation right now.
The bait for the ever greedy West right now are: New Air & Sea Ports, Utilities, oil/gas, telecommunications, Infrastructure, Banking & Finances, Insurance & even consumer retail markets etc. - with 40 million Burmese consumers as its backbone, it can easily reap in USD100 billion + foreign investment fund for the next 10-15 years. That was why this can only happen only when Burma was in a state of democracy (partly to secure their investment, easing the worry of being nationalized). Basically, people are keen to go, but no one dares and now with the sanction imposed, no one can. So, forget about the Macdonald, KFC, Coke, Boeing & the KENT or Marlboros etc. for this moment, it may takes a while more for that to happen. Well, if moneys is the source of all problems, while the American Investors can so forgetful and keep flocking back to once hated Communist Vietnam for large scale investment (strangely, any active participation of foreign investment usually do not associate Human Rights issue in between - at least the US Senate members can be very forgiving on any foreign US economic interest), I don't see why can't this can happen in Myanmar one day. Anyway, whether like to believe it or not, foreign investment is often a short key to rapid growth, take the example of foreign aid for Tsunami effect in Indonesia - consumers index suggested motorcycle sales shot up 31% months after the scheme of relief of efforts poured in. The only problem is, some analysts suggested sales was up in Java, not in Acheh as a whole.
Burma used to be called as "the Land of GOLD" ...it applies to modern days in many potential areas for internationa investors and even today, many people didin't know Myanmar which relocated their capital to a new city called Pyinmana, some 300km north of Yangon is one of the few ASEAM country recently found oil and gas. In fact, the counrty now pipes a billion square feet of natural gas daily and had just founded another oil reserve at its north west (The Thai PM Thaksin recently flew to meet the General, hoping to share a slice of the cake..for (whoever) Thai Companies). At least now you probably understand why our more visionary Petronas has its presence so early (moe than 10 years) in helping the country to explore their reserves. Indirectly, other than truthfully basing on native human rights issues - it also shows one of the reason why the western nations are turning so interested in the politcal changes in Myanmar as they are eyeing for an "opening", Errr ...
I am not a politician and I have not much things to offer to help either (I do know Malaysia is one of the rare few country in the ASEAM region to take in Burmese workers, today, our jalan Imbi is the gathering spot for Myanmar workers during off-duty weekends and holidays), well, I can offer my part in a small way as, except that I have a web business skille set and quite a popular web forum and see if it can help the local businesses in Myanmar ...CLICK panel.
Ironically, due to geographical locations of various ASEAM members, most nearby countries who each of them have their own set of problems don't even bother much ! I would say may be Thailand, Malaysia & Singapore are the more involved parties in the Maynmar-in-ASEAM issue. Malaysia has been the most active player in enabling new admission of Myanmar into ASEAM (along with others such as Cambodia, Vietnam & Laos), this could date back to the Dr Mahathir's time in his political reign. In fact, the whole process was without other secondary problems, as Nation such as Philippine has been one that strongly opposed the idea of the inclusion. Singapore's support can be regarded as largely commercial as the applied-sanction has indirectly made Singaporean very active in its trade status with business establishments in Myanmar. Thailand, except for the ongoing trades along its common border towns, but the cast of shadowy historical hostile background with its neighbor has always adopted a halfhearted attitude thus far (believe it or not, a usually moderately Thai friend commented recently: "... Shwedagon ? half of the 30 tons of gold was robbed from us...if not all ! so, like it or don't, the centuries of conflict is still lying deep in the root of many Thai). But nevertheless, I would not say Myanmar is entirely in isolation now, the path for realizing potential of inter-ASEAM trade on exports that ship through ASEAM gateway has also slowly making the government begin to compromise on certain grounds. But now that Dr. Mahathir has retired from active politics and Thailand has now a potentially ASEAM spokesman in the making who needs to create his presence felt, the united stand on Myanmar between Thailand & Malaysia on Myanmar lately seems to make things workable because the sole support of Malaysia is inadequate. That is a positive sign for many better things to come, I guess.
a typical street in Yangon populated area
Aging Public Transports - one that reminds me on some rural towns of Thailand but it is Yangoon, the Capital city.
another typical side street view in Yangon, Myanmar
Busy night rush back home at a bus top in China Town
Night market in China Town
One of the popular scene if you can observe carefully is the widespread usage of "Tanagar or Thanaka" for makeup - a kind of paste of power extracted from certain kind of woods at the northern region of Myanmar to cool the skin and/or cosmetic effect for men, women and children alike. A local told me, he likes the smell as well, and has requested his fiancee to apply it for three months prior to marriage - simply that unique smell generates "passion"....
These two boys who loiters around the Scotts Plaza has been asking tourists for cash, I have encountered them for almost 5 consequentative days, they were persistent (and a little smart) in using various means to touch the soft spot in your heart. I offer them a little but at the expense to allow me to take a snap of them. 25-30 years ago, Thailand had the same problems with street kids, they are gone now much due to improved economy and it is a rarely seen phenomenon today in any Thai towns or cities. So, open economy does bring benefits in improving living standard. I do hope one day, Myanmar has a totally changed landscapes in every department.
If the intention is good, there will always be a way (can't anyone figure that was how & why human race can move forward in such manner because the basic equation is/was: NUMBER of solutions is ALWAYS bigger than number of any given Problem ! ). Sometimes, a choice which some thought is workable among the many available solutions will only aggravate a primary problem. I would say, for an instance, wrong choice of a chosen solution (such as war) may not be the best option to resolve a problem as well. IF freedom is the core subject matter, the economic sanction against the current Myanmar has a price to pay - usually it is the people that will suffer - come to think of it, whoever that you intend to "dethrone" probably can enjoy life than more than all those rich guys that are making a good living in Wall Streets - except they cannot dine at fine restaurants in countries that imposed the sanction.
Is Myanmar people suffering now ? I guess so. Neither it is proper for a neighboring visitors who has just spent a few days to make a conclusive statement (similarly, I would think most of the people who frequently used the media to attack the Myanmar government have never been to Burma at all). But during the entire duration of my visit, sadly, if a comparison is made on blank opinion, one can easily conclude Yangoon can be probably 50 years behind its neighboring city such as Metropolitan Bangkok in property development - widely used as plain yardstick to measure a country's economy. I would think many Industrial activities are stalled, basic infra and utilities are still weak or at its infantry (my cell phone roaming is not working either); the tallest commercial buildings are probably the Singaporen-owned 12-15 storey high Trader's Hotel and office of Malaysian-based Petronas along one of its main business area while the largest shopping area is not less than some standard shop lots in many China towns of other cities. public transportation is far less than desirable state (the taxi, models of '70 or early '80 - problematic as parts are short, I had thrice broke down in a journey in a short span of 3 days...). I noticed many locals are loitering around few tourist centres asked for foreign exchanges. Honestly, I felt a little sad. Myanmar is full of natural resources and has a 1,500km coastlines which can easily be converted as growth segments.
Facts: Probably a Burmese who is aged 55 or below have been under Military rule since birth. Frankly, I would think in this game of power & control - if one icon falls, another may just pop-up from nowhere to take over. So, it is not entirely good in dreaming of converting ideology overnight. Neither anyone can adapt to such changes at such a fast pace but exposure is definitely helpful - may be a starting point can be try inspire concerned parties what economical benefits can bring to them ahead of their people. Over time, views may change, at least at a faster rate than adopting the the method of confrontation.
Say anthing you like - but a cruel fact remains: - intervention of the developed countries in this areas plus adding up the spicy human rights issue has actually complicated the entire issue in finding a quciker solution to enable Myanmar finding a workable path to democratic society.
If the western views are commercial-bound and do not like the Asian first to cultivate/harvest this potentially "fertile" commercial region, I think the sanction will be a prolonged process (If Myanmar has found huge reserves of oil & gas, probably a war will begin in trying to shorten the process but after the bitter episode in the forest-rich covered landscape and frequent seasonal monsoon-bound Vietnam, Myanmar is not like the opened space middle-east or forest-less Afghanistan - who dares to step into another round of potential military shit-hole again ? I am not good at politics, and I have great respect for UNG SAN SUU KYI, the NLD leader whom is the recipient of Nobel Peace Price by the West but I doubt our lady has little knowledge how to help her native Burmese. Errr ... don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting military rule is acceptable as evidenced by the current economic state of Myanmar as compare to other progressing ASEAM neighbors But I would think in trying to alter or instill changes in a country with a long history of internal military conflicts, the current method MAY NOT be the best option. Myanmar needs help - but any help from the west has been "genetically" defined as interference. Basically as a Burmese friend of mine said, as long as it is a cowboy's idea, any form will inevitably generate a sense of threat to the ruling parties if assuming possibility of lay down in power and control is possible. Logically, If $$$ can be part of a key to unlock a fear and assuming back to public life without being harassing is also possible, the enormous income generating from free-trade, wide scope in business potential on nationwide commercial development for entire Myanmar (which can take next 50 years in economic cycle) can be very forgiving indeed .... Basically, to expect conversion of current state of ruling to ideal democratic society, it is as good as asking the hard-core politician in the US senate to withdraw the economic sanction first. But both sides may ask - why should we be the first ? So, Myanmar will or might just remain as it is. Hard to tell if I am wrong or right but chances can be very slim indeed. So, is there any innovative workable solution package ?
Anyway, Myanmar is gifted in every aspect of its cultural, historical background, religious sacred sights, scenic raw wonders + 1000+ km of un-touched costlines and even of its wide diversities of friendly, hard working personalities. It will awake & moves on, one day.
Maps of Myanmar - Choice A | Choice B / Map of Yangon (Rangoon) City
|Decorative computer Wall papers / desktop Pictures on Yangoon for free download
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-will probably be my next destination next visit to Myanmar.
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