Tuesday, May 6, 2008

And the poor get poorer

I had full intentions, when I first began this blog, that I would try to keep these posts light, but I am not sure how any thinking person could idle away the news coming out of Burma (Myanmar). Even as the scars of the Boxer Day tidal wave in 2004 are still discernible in places, Myanmar was hit by a devastating typhoon and a sea surge that has taken 22,500 lives with another 40,000 plus unaccounted for. By comparison the Andaman earthquake and resulting Boxer Day big wave took over 300,000 lives. Little comfort in those statistics.
I'm struck by how miserable life must be in Myanmar under a brutal, ugly regime. Perhaps we've become jaded, because we have witnessed so many of these oppressive governments in our lifetimes. But I kind of feel a little more twinge then normal for the Burmese. I think one reason for that is the contrast that the regime's sheer despotic ugliness places on the bravery of Aung San Suu Kyi. She is a true hero, the genuine article. On Tuesday, President Bush signed legislation that awarded her the Congressional Gold Medal. On Monday Canada made her an honorary citizen. Of course, she is the 1991 Nobel prize for Peace recipient. She is under house arrest since 2003, after winning a landslide election that the bullies simply took away from her. Unfortunately her house is in Yangon. The city is in the grip of blackouts, water shortages, soaring food and fuel prices and despair.
I think another reason I sense more sympathy for the Burmese is because we occasionally meet young Burmese men and women here in K.L. They come here to work in the local coffee shops as servers. You can always spot them for they are distinctly different from the Indonesians and locals. For one thing they are neater in appearance and much more polite. In addition the usually speak better English. This latter fact attest to their status as having been educated. You see, these young people are from families that are better off in Burma then the average citizen, the ones that can find a way to send their young men overseas...to a job serving coffee in Malaysia. Can you imagine for moment what that means? That serving coffee in Malaysia is preferable to wasting away in Burma?

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