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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (3)4/12/2012 6:49:59 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 19
 


The Golden Rock, which miraculously stays perched where it is.





Bagan


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From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell4/13/2012 11:13:20 PM
   of 19
 

Myanmar: the biggest emerging market story since China in 2001

By Lars Henriksson Apr 11, 2012

About five years ago I had the fortune to take a month-long tour through Myanmar with a group of Burmese and Japanese friends. For the most part, we travelled on buses – relics from Word War II that were crammed with people throughout our trip. Our fellow passengers offered us miniature wooden stools placed in the middle of the aisle to sit down on. And we stared out the window at the strange country that rushed past.

Myanmar absolutely mesmerised me. It is blessed with lush paddy fields, dramatic mountain ranges and people who seemed untouched by the modern world. We’d pass women and children with exquisite white-painted faces from thanaka cream. And almost every corner had an ancient Buddhist temple where local people asked for alms to paint or repair it. I was considering learning Burmese and staying.

For the last month, Myanmar has been back in the spotlight. On 1 April, the country held a landmark by-election, which could soon sweep the recently freed Aung San Suu Kyi to power. If the election is deemed fair, the EU and the US will lift some of their long-standing trade sanctions. Myanmar is also set to float its currency, the kyat, to attract investments and reduce corruption.

These reforms could bring decades of international isolation to an end. And the country has been swarming with foreign businessmen and politicians in recent weeks. Western companies are queueing up to get into the country, sandwiched between China and India and offering huge potential in energy and tourism. Even David Cameron has announced his intention to visit.

But you can forget China, India – and certainly David Cameron. Because Myanmar is part of a far more interesting investment story. In fact, I think that this will be the most exciting story of the next five years. And it promises to deliver some explosive returns for early investors.

What does Myanmar offer?

You can call it Myanmar or Burma (it doesn’t matter all that much to the locals I speak to), but this country has long been the subject of colonial interest. A century ago, the British used the Irrawaddy as a back door to the markets of China. Unfortunately the river - which starts in the perennially snow-covered Himalayas and descends a thousand miles to empty into the Bay of Bengal - passes through massive mountain peaks which were inhibited by hostile tribes.

But it still emerged as a major exporter of commodities: hard wood, gems and rice (the world's biggest exporter until the onset of the World War II). However, following independence in 1947 and a flirtation with democracy, Myanmar turned inwards and pursued a mixed ideology of Buddhism and socialism, leading down an economic cul-de-sac it has yet to escape.

Today Myanmar has three things going for it. First, it is a regional transport hub providing an alternative shipping route from Asia to the Middle East, India and Europe, by-passing the Malacca Strait. Second, the development of Myanmar’s natural resources will provide energy and food to much of Southeast Asia. And third, rising incomes in Myanmar and the expansion of the transportation network from Bangkok (east-west and north-south) will become a magnet for foreign direct investment inflows to the region.

Those factors place Myanmar right at the heart of the most exciting development in emerging markets since 2001.

The biggest story of the next five years

We are entering the era of the Asian world economy. This era can be dated back to China’s entry to the World Trade Organisation in 2001.

China’s membership changed Asia. Improved rule of law led to an investment boom, fuelled by capital mainly supplied from other Asian countries. The result was high-octane Chinese economic growth and rapid industrialisation due to competitive labour and land costs and proactive local governments.

The rest of Asia also saw increased intra-regional trade. Smaller neighbours fine-tuned their economic growth models and focused on niches that they can compete and thrive in in a China-dominated Asia. That adaptation is ongoing and the full benefits will be visible over the next few years.

But this won’t necessarily be a China-dominated story. Because Asia is changing. China and its economic might scares Myanmar. For the last 12 years China has pursued a ‘Go West' policy – sending people, industries and energy demand to China's western hinterland. And there are grave concerns about the ability of the Chinese government to avoid a devastating economic crash – I’ll explain exactly why China needs such a crash in a forthcoming issue.

Those concerns are now being felt in Myanmar, triggering a strategy shift towards affinity with rest of Southeast Asia. And one development could prove an enormous catalyst for this process.

In 2015 the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) will reduce the tariffs and other non-trade barriers for member countries. This will create a new economic zone called the Asean Free Trade Area.

Asean, home to 600 million people and $2.5trn in combined GDP, has decided that six of the ten member states will completely abolish taxes on goods. For the newly admitted members, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar, the 7% VAT on trade goods will be abolished by 2018. In fact, Myanmar will chair Asean in 2014..

The goal is obvious: cut red tape and reduce trade barriers for products and services. And as those trade barriers are removed, we are likely to see a total transformation of this region of Asia. There will be massive investment in infrastructure – from ports to factories – to facilitate these new trade links. And it will all happen in the next few years. In fact, I think there are parallels here with Eastern Europe in the very early years of European integration.

That’s why a delegation of 50 Malaysian businessmen flew into Myanmar last month. They see that 65% of the population is below 35 years of age, of which millions of are employed in neighbouring countries. They have seen how the rest of Asia prospers and enjoys increased political freedom. And the labour cost advantage combined with abundant natural resources makes it an alluring Asian tiger candidate. According to a JETRO survey of companies operating in Asia, labour costs in Myanmar are 55% of the wages in Vietnam, 24% of those in Thailand and 22% of those in China.

That’s why bilateral trade between Malaysia and Myanmar stood at US $795m in 2011, an increase of nearly 27% from the previous year, according to Malaysian government figures. And this isn’t just a story of Malaysia developing links with Myanmar; bilateral trade is exploding right across the Asean region.

Singapore, for instance, is looking to specialise in service sectors such as biomedical science, offshore private banking and tourism. So it is busy outsourcing its manufacturing base to Iskandar – near where I live in Malaysia. For years I’ve watched vast tracts of land rezoned around the province. And I’ve followed the development plans as enormous infrastructure projects have been laid out – linking warehouses to rail to ports, from one side of the Malacca Strait to the other.

Thailand is following in the footsteps of Malaysia. It is planning to invest large amounts of money to upgrade its ancient railway system. China and Japan are willing to support the push with long-term soft loans.

The end game is simple: bring down logistics costs, spread the economic wealth to new regions and allow Asean to better capitalise on its resources of rice, palm oil, coal, gas and other natural resources as well as its relatively young and inexpensive labour pool.

How to invest in the Asean story

At the moment, there are probably 30-odd stocks scattered across Asia with some Myanmar exposure. Many are moving higher. I am aware of at least three different groups that plan to ‘do something’ in Myanmar, suggesting that we can look forward to ways to tap into the market.

But for now, the opportunity lies with those companies helping to foster bilateral trade between Asean countries. That means infrastructure plays. That means transport companies, but also financial companies helping to foster trade. And over the coming weeks and months, I’ll introduce you to quite a few of the best stocks in this remarkable story. Stay tuned for that.

moneyweek.com 

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (5)4/14/2012 9:57:27 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 19
 
Spitfires to be unearthed, shipped to U.K.

Published: April 14, 2012 at 8:00 PM

LONDON, April 14 (UPI) -- Twenty Spitfire fighter aircraft buried in Myanmar during World War II are to be dug up and shipped back to Britain, officials say.

The planes will be returned to Britain as a result of intervention by British Prime Minister David Cameron, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The planes had been buried more than 40 feet beneath the ground for nearly 67 years because of fears of Japanese occupation.

Cameron reached a deal to have the aircraft unearthed and returned after he became the first Western leader to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar campaigner for democracy who had been under house arrest for 22 years under the previous military regime and was recently elected to Parliament.

David Cundall, 62, a farmer from Scunthorpe, North Lincs, located the planes at a former Royal Air Force base using radar-imaging technology after a 15-year search that cost him more than $207,000 and involved 12 trips to Myanmar.

After Cundall located the planes in February, he was told Cameron would have them returned to Britain.

"Spitfires are beautiful aeroplanes and should not be rotting away in a foreign land," Cundall said. "They saved our neck in the Battle of Britain and they should be preserved."

Cundall said the Spitfires -- only 35 in the world still fly -- were shipped to Myanmar, then taken by rail to the base during the war.

Because of technological advances and the development of more agile jets, the planes were never used, the Telegraph said. In July 1945, officials concerned about a possible Japanese occupation abandoned the planes, and they were buried on orders of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the head of South East Asia Command, two weeks before the atom bombs were dropped, ending the war.

"They were just buried there in transport crates," Cundall said. "They were waxed, wrapped in greased paper and their joints tarred. They will be in near perfect condition."

A British team is to soon begin the excavation, expected to cost about $797,000 and be funded by the Chichester-based Boultbee Flight Academy.

Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2012/04/14/Spitfires-to-be-unearthed-shipped-to-UK/UPI-85091334448042/#ixzz1s4PArYpf

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (6)4/14/2012 10:01:47 PM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
   of 19
 
A Solemn Path Back to Myanmar for the U.S.

Sim Chi Yin for The New York Times
Howa Zau Gam, 84, helped fight the Japanese and still lives in northern Myanmar, an area where hundreds of Americans died.

By JANE PERLEZ Published: April 14, 2012

MYITKYINA, Myanmar — In the fog-swathed mountains north of here toward the border with China, more than 700 American airmen, flying cumbersome cargo planes loaded with war supplies, perished in the last stages of World War II.



A statue of an American soldier and a local guide is kept at the American Embassy.

Now, as relations improve between the United States and Myanmar, then known as Burma, the Pentagon is seeking permission from the Burmese to recover the remains of the lost Americans scattered over some of the toughest terrain in Southeast Asia.

The spots where the planes crashed are so well hidden that even on a bus journey along part of the Ledo Road that American forces hacked through the jungle, residents pointed to the horizon, saying, “Over there,” or “Far from here,” when asked for exact locations of the crash sites.

Historically, the United States has tried to repair relations with former enemies by requesting permission to recover the remains of Americans listed as missing in action or prisoners of war. That practice allows two opposing militaries to meet over humanitarian issues, rather than security matters, and offers Americans an opportunity to enter previously forbidden territory that over time may become more welcoming.

Some of the first official postwar contacts with Vietnam developed a decade after the end of the fighting when the American and Vietnamese militaries began tentative cooperation that gradually strengthened as the search for missing American soldiers progressed.

The Pentagon had reached out to North Korea for help in recovering the remains of American soldiers missing in action from the Korean War, but that plan was canceled last month after North Korea announced its intention to launch the rocket that broke apart after takeoff Friday.

A deputy assistant secretary of defense, Robert Newberry, visited Myanmar in February to start negotiations for operations that would allow American military officials and forensic experts to excavate crash sites, and carry any remains discovered back to the United States.

Efforts in 2003 and 2004 yielded only modest results and stirred some anger.

On two separate missions, American teams began the search for remains at crash sites around Myitkyina, but made little headway before Myanmar’s political climate soured and they had to leave, said Johnie E. Webb Jr., deputy to the commander of the Joint P.O.W./M.I.A. Accounting Command of the Department of Defense in Hawaii.

The headquarters for renewed operations could well be here again in Myitkyina, the town that American forces led by Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell captured after mastering some of the most grueling territory of the war in the summer of 1944, Mr. Webb said.

The fight to take Myitkyina, now a bustling commercial center with growing Chinese influence, was undertaken, in large part, to help the American airmen who had to fly far to the north to evade Japanese artillery clustered around the town. But the more northern route took the planes over the Himalayas — or “The Hump,” as it was known during the war.

With only rudimentary navigation equipment in the C-47 cargo planes, the pilots essentially flew by the seat of their pants. An estimated 180 American aircraft and about 730 airmen were lost, Mr. Webb said.

The cargo planes, with crews of two or three, ferried supplies from allied bases in India to China, where General Stilwell was trying to persuade an obstinate Gen. Chiang Kai-shek to fight the Japanese rather than the Communist forces of Mao Zedong. American bombers, with crews of 9 to 11 men, sent on missions against the Japanese also crashed into the jungle.

Howa Zau Gam, 84, a member of the Kachin ethnic group in Myanmar, fought alongside the Americans against the Japanese. In an interview at his home in Myitkyina, he said he would be happy to assist in a renewed recovery effort.

“It is my duty to help because the Americans liberated us from the Japanese and the British colonials,” he said, in the flawless English that he used as a young man when he gathered intelligence and interpreted for the American ground forces.

A certificate on Mr. Howa’s living room wall, signed by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, noted that he had been among 400 Kachin rangers who had fought 700 Japanese soldiers in a 12-hour battle. The Japanese, according to the citation, were supported by artillery, but the Kachin killed 281 of the enemy, losing only seven of their own fighters.

The attempts in 2003 and 2004 at finding the remains of some of the downed airmen were fraught with problems, Mr. Howa said.

Wrecked planes were found at three or four sites, but the local workers who had guided the Americans there were underpaid by a Burmese middleman and became disgruntled, hindering the efficiency and success of the operations, Mr. Howa said. In one instance, the Americans were led astray by the guides and sifted sand around a wrecked plane that had already been examined at the end of the war, he said.

In all, the remains of seven Americans were returned to their relatives after the 2004 operation, Mr. Webb said. The chances of identifying many more through recovered bones, teeth or gear are quite good, he said.

The soil in Myanmar is not as acidic as it is in Vietnam, where forensic specialists sometimes struggled to identify the fragments they found, Mr. Webb said. Even so, more than 900 sets of remains of missing American service members from the Vietnam War have been returned to their families, he said.

The intense tropical heat in northern Myanmar is not necessarily an obstacle. In Papua New Guinea, where American servicemen died in mountainous, humid jungles, remains unearthed by Pentagon teams were quite well preserved, Mr. Webb said.

An unofficial effort to recover remains, led by an American, Clayton Kuhles, has unearthed six crash sites of American planes around Myitkyina, Mr. Kuhles said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Kuhles, who worked with Kachin guides, porters and interpreters, said that he believed there were remains of American fliers at the locations, and that he was in touch with the Pentagon about further exploration.

Although the previous decade’s searches for American remains were supposed to pave the way to better relations with Myanmar, that did not turn out to be the case. In an effort to honor the American servicemen who died in the ground battles in northern Myanmar, a Burmese sculptor cast a statue of an American soldier with a Kachin guide at the request of American veterans of the war, Mr. Howa said. The intention was to place it in Myitkyina, where several memorials to Japanese fighters have been erected with the permission of Myanmar’s authorities.

But in 2004, during an especially fraught period in the diplomatic relationship between Myanmar and the United States, the statue was deemed unsuitable for public display. The sculptor had to flee the country, fearing persecution from Myanmar’s army, Mr. Howa said.

The life-size statue is now sequestered behind the walls of the American Embassy in Yangon, waiting for the kind of reconciliation between the United States and Myanmar that would allow it to be unveiled in public in Myitkyina.

nytimes.com 

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (7)4/17/2012 1:12:40 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 19
 
My late father probably knew some of those missing airmen. He was stationed in India during WWII, helping to ship supplies into China. A huge culture shock for a 140-pound young guy who had never previously ventured far from his home on the South Side of Chicago.

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To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (8)4/17/2012 1:39:43 AM
From: Jeffrey S. Mitchell
1 Recommendation   of 19
 
This entire site is devoted to your father's fellow soldiers: miarecoveries.org  If your father kept pictures of his tour of duty, it might be worthwhile sending it to the guy operating the site.

- Jeff

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To: Jeffrey S. Mitchell who wrote (9)10/6/2012 9:50:40 AM
From: Glenn Petersen
   of 19
 
There may be some pictures. My parents corresponded while he was overseas and my mother kept all of his letters. Out of respect for my parent's privacy I decided that I would not read them until after my mother's death. That was five years ago. It is probably time to open the trunk.

I wish that I had quizzed my father on his war experiences. He was a pretty quiet guy who had a tough childhood, which included a physically abusive alcoholic father and a poverty level existence. He was always focused on the here and now and never talked about his childhood. I never wanted to pierce that shell.

Burma? Myanmar? New Freedom to Debate Includes Name

By THOMAS FULLER
New York Times
October 4, 2012

YANGON, Myanmar — To the saleswomen at a clothing shop here, the arrival of democracy means more customers looking to buy tight skirts and sleeveless tops, a sharp departure from the sarongs still ubiquitous in most of the country and a sign of what one clerk called a craving to “live freely.”

For a group of lawyers working out of a garage in central Yangon, it means the freedom to battle Chinese investors’ plans to transform a British colonial court building into a hotel. And for one of the country’s best-known linguists, it means the right to rail against the name “Myanmar,” which the former military government officially bestowed on the country and forced its citizens to use.

“I live in Burma, not Myanmar,” Maung Tha Noe, the linguist, thundered during a recent interview. “It’s my democratic right!”

The changes that have swept Myanmar over the past year are often described in political terms, starting with the release of the pro-democracy advocate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and hundreds of other political prisoners. But the military had such a pervasive influence over everyday life for decades that the generals’ relinquishing of power last year has also led to lifestyle changes well beyond the realm of politics. Most notably, it has allowed debates on once-taboo subjects, uncorking five decades worth of bottled-up opinions.

Writers and linguists have been freed to debate the use of words and terms banned under the junta. There are heated arguments about who should be considered a citizen and discussions over the preservation of buildings, which might have been touchy under a junta that cared enough about appearances that it built an extravagant new capital at a time of deprivation.

Myanmar, in short, has begun to search for a national identity defined by its people, not the cloistered vision imposed by military governments.

At the heart of the matter, in a country with 135 recognized ethnic groups, is a freer and freewheeling debate about the relationship between the Burmese majority and the nation’s minorities, a subject that never received a full hearing during military rule, largely because the military was at war with a number of ethnic minorities.

At a recent conference in Yangon called “National Identity and Citizenship in 21st Century Myanmar,” the elephant in the room was the hegemony of the Burmese majority, a group that includes the military hierarchy and most senior politicians.

Yin Yin Nwe, a panelist from the Shan minority, denounced a society where the majority received more benefits and better services. Another panelist, from the Chin minority, which includes many Christians, said the current government and Constitution still give preferential treatment to Buddhism.

The overriding question at the conference was whether Myanmar would become a melting pot or a less integrationist society.

U Kyaw Yin Hlaing, a Burmese academic who has assisted President Thein Sein in peace talks with minority groups, said the president was “inspired by the American identity” and solidly favored a melting pot.

Judging by the divided opinions at the conference, the question of ethnic identity is likely to remain unanswered for years. But speakers said it was a measure of the changes in the country that such a meeting was held at all.

Yet on some issues, like the basic question of what the country should be called, old authoritarian ways die hard.

In June, the country’s election commission warned Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to stop referring to the country as Burma, noting that the Constitution says, “The state shall be known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.” (The military officially changed the country’s name in 1989, soon after quashing a popular revolt against its rule; some Western countries, including the United States, continue to call the country Burma, as does Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, despite the government’s admonishment.)

While many younger Burmese shrug at the question of the country’s name, Mr. Tha Noe and other linguists say they feel strongly about it because of the way the military went about changing it, and about how the generals sought to use language to shape their message.

They banned references to the “military coup” of 1962, calling it a “takeover” by the Tatmadaw, the formal term for the armed forces that translates as “great defense force.”

It remains unclear why the military banned the name Burma, which was used by British colonizers, but also by the Burmese independence movement that fought them.

With the country now on a path toward a more democratic society, Mr. Tha Noe said he hoped that language would evolve in a more “natural process” rather than by the dictates of a self-serving military.

For others, that same battle applies to architecture.

After the move to the newly built capital, Naypyidaw — with its grandiose government offices and a massive military museum — government offices in Yangon were abandoned and left to rot in the tropical heat. Then, as one of its last major acts, the junta auctioned off some of Yangon’s oldest buildings through a secret bidding process.

But details of those auctions are now being called into question, and civic groups, like the lawyers fighting the conversion of the court building, are becoming more vocal about preserving what they call national treasures.

“They belong to the people,” said U Than Thin, the group’s leader. “That’s why it’s called national heritage.”

While preservation is partly a matter of aesthetics, it also seems inseparable from questions of identity. Within a few blocks of each other in downtown Yangon there is a Buddhist pagoda, a Hindu temple, a mosque, a church and, in a country with few Jews, even a synagogue.

Mr. Kyaw Yin Hlaing, who studied under Benedict Anderson, a scholar known for his work on how “imagined communities” become nations, said pinning down a national identity in a country with so many ethnic groups, languages and traditions might prove impossible.

“Sometimes we will have to leave it undefined,” he said, offering a more cosmic definition of identity. The new Myanmar, he said, might be a place where citizens “close their eyes and feel that they belong there.”

nytimes.com 

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From: Glenn Petersen10/24/2012 4:41:35 PM
   of 19
 
Burma? Myanmar? New Freedom to Debate Includes Name

By THOMAS FULLER
New York Times
October 4, 2012

YANGON, Myanmar — To the saleswomen at a clothing shop here, the arrival of democracy means more customers looking to buy tight skirts and sleeveless tops, a sharp departure from the sarongs still ubiquitous in most of the country and a sign of what one clerk called a craving to “live freely.”

For a group of lawyers working out of a garage in central Yangon, it means the freedom to battle Chinese investors’ plans to transform a British colonial court building into a hotel. And for one of the country’s best-known linguists, it means the right to rail against the name “Myanmar,” which the former military government officially bestowed on the country and forced its citizens to use.

“I live in Burma, not Myanmar,” Maung Tha Noe, the linguist, thundered during a recent interview. “It’s my democratic right!”

The changes that have swept Myanmar over the past year are often described in political terms, starting with the release of the pro-democracy advocate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and hundreds of other political prisoners. But the military had such a pervasive influence over everyday life for decades that the generals’ relinquishing of power last year has also led to lifestyle changes well beyond the realm of politics. Most notably, it has allowed debates on once-taboo subjects, uncorking five decades worth of bottled-up opinions.

Writers and linguists have been freed to debate the use of words and terms banned under the junta. There are heated arguments about who should be considered a citizen and discussions over the preservation of buildings, which might have been touchy under a junta that cared enough about appearances that it built an extravagant new capital at a time of deprivation.

Myanmar, in short, has begun to search for a national identity defined by its people, not the cloistered vision imposed by military governments.

At the heart of the matter, in a country with 135 recognized ethnic groups, is a freer and freewheeling debate about the relationship between the Burmese majority and the nation’s minorities, a subject that never received a full hearing during military rule, largely because the military was at war with a number of ethnic minorities.

At a recent conference in Yangon called “National Identity and Citizenship in 21st Century Myanmar,” the elephant in the room was the hegemony of the Burmese majority, a group that includes the military hierarchy and most senior politicians.

Yin Yin Nwe, a panelist from the Shan minority, denounced a society where the majority received more benefits and better services. Another panelist, from the Chin minority, which includes many Christians, said the current government and Constitution still give preferential treatment to Buddhism.

The overriding question at the conference was whether Myanmar would become a melting pot or a less integrationist society.

U Kyaw Yin Hlaing, a Burmese academic who has assisted President Thein Sein in peace talks with minority groups, said the president was “inspired by the American identity” and solidly favored a melting pot.

Judging by the divided opinions at the conference, the question of ethnic identity is likely to remain unanswered for years. But speakers said it was a measure of the changes in the country that such a meeting was held at all.

Yet on some issues, like the basic question of what the country should be called, old authoritarian ways die hard.

In June, the country’s election commission warned Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to stop referring to the country as Burma, noting that the Constitution says, “The state shall be known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.” (The military officially changed the country’s name in 1989, soon after quashing a popular revolt against its rule; some Western countries, including the United States, continue to call the country Burma, as does Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, despite the government’s admonishment.)

While many younger Burmese shrug at the question of the country’s name, Mr. Tha Noe and other linguists say they feel strongly about it because of the way the military went about changing it, and about how the generals sought to use language to shape their message.

They banned references to the “military coup” of 1962, calling it a “takeover” by the Tatmadaw, the formal term for the armed forces that translates as “great defense force.”

It remains unclear why the military banned the name Burma, which was used by British colonizers, but also by the Burmese independence movement that fought them.

With the country now on a path toward a more democratic society, Mr. Tha Noe said he hoped that language would evolve in a more “natural process” rather than by the dictates of a self-serving military.

For others, that same battle applies to architecture.

After the move to the newly built capital, Naypyidaw — with its grandiose government offices and a massive military museum — government offices in Yangon were abandoned and left to rot in the tropical heat. Then, as one of its last major acts, the junta auctioned off some of Yangon’s oldest buildings through a secret bidding process.

But details of those auctions are now being called into question, and civic groups, like the lawyers fighting the conversion of the court building, are becoming more vocal about preserving what they call national treasures.

“They belong to the people,” said U Than Thin, the group’s leader. “That’s why it’s called national heritage.”

While preservation is partly a matter of aesthetics, it also seems inseparable from questions of identity. Within a few blocks of each other in downtown Yangon there is a Buddhist pagoda, a Hindu temple, a mosque, a church and, in a country with few Jews, even a synagogue.

Mr. Kyaw Yin Hlaing, who studied under Benedict Anderson, a scholar known for his work on how “imagined communities” become nations, said pinning down a national identity in a country with so many ethnic groups, languages and traditions might prove impossible.

“Sometimes we will have to leave it undefined,” he said, offering a more cosmic definition of identity. The new Myanmar, he said, might be a place where citizens “close their eyes and feel that they belong there.”

nytimes.com 

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From: Glenn Petersen10/27/2012 11:27:45 AM
   of 19
 
Walter Russell Mead's blog provides periodic coverage of events in Myanmar/Burma:

blogs.the-american-interest.com 

Burma Violence Is Worse Than We Thought

Walter Russell Mead
October 26, 2012

The violence in Burma that began earlier this week has gotten much, much worse. Burmese security forces have begun to use force to stop the clashes between the stateless Rohingya Muslim community and the Buddhists who are trying to displace them. As a result, more than 80 have now been killed. Meanwhile the tens of thousands already displaced remain in limbo. Reuters:

The military opened fire to prevent Rakhine villagers on two boats from storming a Rohingya Muslim community, said Aung Kyaw Min, a 28-year-old Rakhine from Taung Bwe with a bullet in his leg. “I don’t know why the military shot at us,” he said. Two people died and 10 were wounded, said the villagers.

In a separate incident on Thursday, security forces shot at a crowd of Rakhine protesters on Kyauktaw’s outskirts, killing two and wounding four, said Hla Hla Myint, 17, whose forehead was grazed by a bullet.

The shooting of Buddhists is a sign that the military, which has been accused in the past of siding with Buddhists, is getting tougher following international criticism that Myanmar’s new government was doing too little to protect Muslim Rohingyas.


Initially, the state has stepped up to “protect” the Rohingyas, but so far they’ve done more harm than good. Meanwhile the Rohingyas are still stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Burmese claim that the Rohingyas belong in Bangladesh, but Bangladesh has been particularly unwelcoming. India Today reports:

On Thursday, Bangladesh border guards turned away 45 Rohingya trying to enter into Bangladesh by boats, said Lt. Col. Khalequzzaman, a border commander. Local police chief Selim Mohammad Jahangir said Friday that at least another 3,000 Rohingya Muslims had been spotted on about 40 boats on the Naaf River off Bangladesh’s Tekhnaf coast.

He said the boats may try to enter Bangladesh, but “we have instructions not to let them come here.”

Bangladesh says it’s too poor to accept more refugees and feed them. Bangladesh is hosting about 30,000 Rohingya who fled Myanmar to escape government atrocities in 1991.


This whole situation is a complete mess. The Burmese government may have been doing the right thing by finally standing up for the Rohingya Muslims (if, indeed, this is what they were doing), but their handling of the situation has been a disaster. Nearly 100 people have died, tensions are rising, and the Rohingya still have no place to go.

Unfortunately, this is just one issue that the fledgling semi-democracy of Burma will need to address. As the country slowly opens up, many of the tensions that had been bottled up during the decades of military rule will now be unleashed. The government will have to learn how to deal with these issues, and how to resist the impulse to use excessive force as a calming mechanism. Burma is still new at this, but it will need to improve in a hurry: things aren’t likely to get any easier.

blogs.the-american-interest.com 

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From: Glenn Petersen11/8/2012 1:29:58 PM
   of 19
 
Obama to Visit Myanmar

By HELENE COOPER
New York Times
November 8, 2012

WASHINGTON — President Obama will travel to Myanmar in November, the first such trip by an American president, as the United States continues its new policy of openness with the once isolated Southeast Asian country.

The White House has yet to officially announce the trip, scheduled for just before Thanksgiving, but it has been in the works for months as part of Mr. Obama’s planned trip to Southeast Asia, to begin next week, for scheduled international economic summits. Mr. Obama will also travel to Thailand and Cambodia, where he will be the first American president to visit the country.

Officials in Myanmar have begun speaking publicly about the trip with reporters, and a senior administration official in Washington confirmed the planned trip on Thursday morning.

In Myanmar, formerly Burma, Mr. Obama will meet again with the opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as the Burmese leadership.

nytimes.com 

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