THE MYANMAR TIMES
JUNE 23 29, 2014
The local lowdown & best of the web
Brave new Burma: doublespeak and opposite day
The termination and accepted resignation of the Union Minister for Religion and the Chief Minister of Rakhine State were, for obvious reasons, interesting and newsworthy events in their own right. Perhaps more fascinating, though, is the lengths the government has gone to in explaining the retirement, in particular. In times gone by, announcements about hirings and ﬁrings were made in state media and rarely elaborated on – and when they were, it was accepted wisdom that words like “resignation” or “retirement” could often be intended more as a euphemism for “disgraced and discharged”. There’s no small amount of intrigue and scandal surrounding the Minister for Religion’s termination. That it’s a bit of a debacle has been made clear in ofﬁcial statements, as well as the response to the developing story on the monastery raid. Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson U Ye Htut has spent the better part of the last week issuing statements to the effect of “Nothin’ to see here, folks,” to quell speculation about the circumstances surrounding the Rakhine Chief Minister’s very ordinary retirement. However, many aren’t quite sure how to reconcile this one-man rapid-ﬁre press release approach with the old “and that’s that”, wondering whether to take it at face value or if, perhaps, he doth protest too much. That said, by all accounts so far it would seem there is nothing wildly out of the ordinary at work and that his insistence on the matter is understandable, given the tangled mess of affairs in that part of the country.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi eased into 69 last week, celebrating her birthday in a low-key fashion. Addressing the media in Nay Pyi Taw, Suu Kyi said she’s not a big believer in making resolutions, and that each year she works toward the same goal – and it’s not rule of law!“It’s the time to glance back on what you have done in the past year. As a politician, I prefer to contemplate what I have done best for the country, rather than what I have gained personally. I wish you—my friends, colleagues, the NLD members and anyone who loves me—to enjoy wellbeing, and that you pray for me, and I urge you to keep supporting and walking with me on my ongoing political journey.”
Thailand and Malaysia were issued with a good old-fashioned slap on the wrist by the US State Department last week, joining Myanmar in the Tier 3 naughty corner following the release of the annual Trafﬁcking in Persons Report highlighting their failure to curb trafﬁcking and modern-day slavery The rest of the ASEAN bloc remains steady with Cambodia and the Philippines still on the Tier 2 watchlist, while Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brunei and Laos enjoy a straight up Tier 2 ranking.
Quote of the week:
“Frankly, everybody commits atrocities every now and then.”
New York Times
columnist Nick Kristof’s rather jolly, if somewhat ham-handed lead into explaining the situation in Rakhine State, during a reader Q&A. He was asked about atrocities committed during the waves of violence in 2012 not seeming typically Buddhist.
Ugly round of smug “When I ﬁrst came to Burma” one-upmanship breaks out at Strand happy hour Tourist discovers previously unphotographed angle of Shwedagon Pagoda
Upon completing course of rabies jabs, domestic cat enjoys greater legitimate international travel privileges than an entire ethnic population“Pretty much everyone” secretly pleased when “creepy” expat’s carpetbagging business venture failsLegislating on population control: simpler and more effective than contraception, education?
Peanut: World’s Ugliest Dog 2014. Photo: AFP
Photo: Jason (SENSE Photography)
Tour of Duty
As Myanmar has opened up, tourists have come in droves. The vast majority leave the country having had a great time, their camera loaded with pictures of pagodas, monks and thanaka-faced babies, with a few stories to boot. But this isn’t about those tourists. This is about the miserable, the perpetually unimpressed. The kind of tourist who makes you want to ask why they bothered to leave the house at all. The kind of tourist who goes to Shwedagon and complains about the Wi-Fi signal. I’ve not done any rigorous scientiﬁc research into the matter but I feel fairly conﬁdent in saying they’re also the kind of person who likes to leave reviews on TripAdvisor.Below is a collection of snippets from reviews of various Myanmar attractions lifted from the TripAdvisor site. All of these fell under the ranking of “Terrible”.
“Terrible. It was a nearly three hour train ride through unending slums and poverty that encircle the pleasant and clean premium city of Myanmar.”
“Not Angkor but very nice”
“Probably the worst museum I’ve ever seen.”
“I hope it Falls Over”
Irrawaddy Conﬂuence near Myitkyina
“Not very impressive”
“Waterfalls was dry”
Hampshire Falls and Caves (Pwe Kauk)
“Tacky. I would suggest that the falls are not really for western visitors. There are dozens of stalls selling local produce and the falls themselves have been ruined. Similarly the Buddha images in the caves are really tacky. I would never want to come here again and would not recommend it .”
Balloons over Bagan
“ There’s no thrill factor”“Grossly overrated, not worth USD 310 for one hour of underwhelming pleasure” (To be fair, $310 for an hour of “underwhelming pleasure” does seem like a lot)
Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue
“Being a Jew, I was not there to pray, just want to see the interior. There was no chance in hell that I would wear something on my head from a communal bin in a synagogue in the middle of the slum/cesspool that is Little India/Chinatown of Yangon.”
“Where Are The Cats ???”
“Don’t go !!! This is the most disgusting pagoda ever. It is situated in the middle of a dirty village in the back of beyond... There is nothing at the top worth looking at.”
“It was the worst experience in my entire 30 days in SEA”“Mount Popa: Mt. POOPa: Lots of poop and overall tacky”