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Window on Burma #1
BINA -- The Burma Independent News Agency --
Window on Burma #1
(from ?Mojo?, Issue 3, June 1999):
The Rangoon International: Built as a Hotel, It Opens 10 Years later as a Beer
Began in 1988, the great Rangoon International Hotel finally opened in 1998
after many problems and false starts. It missed the great ?Visit Myanmar?
campaign of 1996-7, and was unable to fill its rooms once it finally opened.
Now it serves mostly as a ?beer bar? for those local Rangoon residents who can
afford to buy beer.
The Curfew Order of the Taungoo Rural Administration: ?First we kill you, then
we fine you?
Tandabin Township, east of Taungoo City, has been under a dusk-to-dawn curfew
since the beginning of March. A major from Light Infantry Unit #39 announced
that ?civilians who disobey this order will be shot on sight; furthermore, the
village will be fined 50,000 kyat for the inconvenience to the soldier of
having to get up and shoot someone?. Thus the local people are now faced with
the unique dilemma of having to kill themselves to save money.
The troops in this area also engage in forced labor tactics, as villagers were
obliged to build a fence around the military compound. Another story of the
army?s abuse of the people under SPDC rule.
A Surprising Story in ?The Myanmar Aline?
While perusing an old copy of the ?Myanmar Aline? (the government's main
Burmese-language newspaper), an unusual bit of news caught the reader?s eye.
In the February 15 issue, page two, in an editorial about SPDC?s efforts to
curb the production of opium, he read that ?the government, the NGOs, and the
ethnic minorities are working hard together to increase drug production.? Had
the SPDC had finally decided to tell the truth about their narcotic drugs
A retraction was later published on February 27, page two, which claimed that
the writer actually meant to say ?reduce drug production?. Hmmm?.
Magwe City Department Store is now a Bean Storehouse
Opening department stores is one of the economic activities of the SPDC in
every major city of Burma, although the military junta usually fails to manage
and promote the business well enough to survive financially. Nevertheless,
black-market traders, who follow the junta like pet dogs, obediently build the
department stores and supply them, only to lose their investment in the end.
One department store in Magwe City, unable to make a profit, was finally taken
over by relatives of high SPDC officials. They use it to store dried beans.
The local people call it the ?kon-taik?, which informally means ?department
store?, but literally translates as ?empty building?.
Hoist by their own Petard: SPDC Troops ?Land mine? Themselves
SPDC Light Infantry Unit #4, under Regiment Officer Kyi Lwin, had a
disconcerting experience during their usual land mine-laying operations last
February at Saw-Ta Camp in northern Karen State. Sergeant Sein Myint from
Engineering Infantry Unit #904 was seriously wounded when he stepped on a land
mine that his troops had laid the previous day. Although he was sent to
hospital, he died of his injuries before he arrived there. Local people were
surprised to see the army blowing itself up.
The Street Children of Rangoon
The gap between poor and rich in Burma is vast. While the SPDC officials
collect everything from the people, including fish paste, to ?repair the
umbrella on the Shwedagon?, the government?s economic, health, and education
services are almost extinct. Looking into the innocent eyes of the street
children in Rangoon, who are obliged to gather plastic, glass, and metal
from the streets to survive, only the hardest of hearts would not feel pity.
In the expensive restaurant at the Rangoon Bus Station, for example, these
children can often be seen gazing through the windows at the wealthy patrons
enjoying their meals.
The Battle Between the ?Loungyis? and the ?Trousers? in Kalay City
[Ed. Note: ?loungyi? is a large sarong, traditionally worn by Burmese men]
In Kalay City, Sagaing Division, the local court was recently prosecuting the
Township PDC Chairman Than Htun and the Secretary Myint Naing for theft. It
seems that these two ex-soldiers had the habit, in their old SLORC days, of
arresting local black market gold dealers, confiscating their wares, and then
presenting imitation gold to the court officials for prosecuting the cases
against the dealers. When the court officials (the ?loungyis?) realized that
they had been deceived, they brought the action against the two ex-military
government officers (the ?trousers?). All the residents of Kalay City were
waiting to see the result of this popular case.
Since soldiers always stick together, Myint Naing ran to the Commander of the
Northwest Military Command Area to ask his help in getting the case
The Commander told the court to drop the case, because Myint Naing had
to return the gold, and the court reluctantly obliged, being too afraid of the
army?s displeasure to pursue justice.
Outside the courthouse, an angry citizen shouted at the judges, ?If you can't
wear trousers, you can still wear loungyis. But if you lose your loungyis,
what will you wear?? According to the SPDC, no one can sit above the Law, but
in fact the Generals have been sitting above the Law in Burma for many years