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A touching event

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   19 July 2010

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Another sad story from Myanmar

Today was Martyr’s Day in Burma (Myanmar.) The day commemorates the assassination of independence hero, General Aung San. He was the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, 65, who continues under house arrest.

Suu Kyi did not attend the ceremony and hasn’t for eight years to protest her detainment, but her estranged brother, Aung San Oo, did. He placed a wreath on the tomb at a mausoleum near the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon.

The event used to be celebrated with more officials present, but press reports the highest ranking official to appear was Yangon’s mayor. Other ceremonials such as newspaper memorials and whistles and bells being sounded at the time of the assassination also have faded away About 300 former members of her disbanded party, the National League for Democracy met at the home of a former officer of the party, with plain clothesmen photographing the event. Meanwhile, Suu Kyi is now 65 and the military, which accounts for 65 percent of Burma’s budget, grows wealthier because of the flows of foreign direct investment into the country. The investment is almost exclusively in natural gas, oil, timber, gems and other commodities. With a proposed “election” in the offing and the auctioning of some state-owned enterprises to make more money for the military, the Burmese generals attempt to create a propaganda vision of a modern nation.

But their efforts are just a vision. The per capita gross domestic product is $442. While eating at an Italian restaurant in Bangkok recently I was served by a very good Burmese waitress. We struck up a conversation as she had been learning about journalism at the university.

Our conversation eventually turned to her homeland and this tall, well-spoken, intelligent, Burmese women, rung her hands and at the point of tears said, “There’s nothing we can do.”

No one seems to know.

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