Globe trotting -- Myanmar 世界走透透:緬甸

By Michael Kearney  /  STAFF WRITER

Sat, Aug 11, 2007 - Page 14

Myanmar is a country replete with charming people and countless pagodas. But debate rages over whether foreigners should travel to Myanmar and bring their money to this politically troubled land.


A closer look 說古論今

For a country that has been blessed with beautiful beaches and golden pagodas, life should be so much better than it is. A military junta that stands accused of countless human rights violations, including forced labor and forced relocations without compensation, rules over Myanmar.

A taxi driver told a BBC reporter, "I hate the people who rule this country. My hatred of the government knows no bounds."

One of the things that frustrates people the most is that the generals in control of Myanmar have no mandate from Burmese citizens to rule. General elections were held in 1990, and Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burmese independence hero General Aung San, won convincingly. But the junta wouldn't concede their power.

In 2006, the BBC journalist Katie McGeown reported that "probably the vast majority" of Burmese feel Aung San Suu Kyi is the rightful ruler of the nation. Known by most Burmese as "The Lady," Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has spent 11 of the past 18 years under some form of arrest.

The Lady has urged foreigners not to come to Myanmar, saying that most of their dollars end up going to the military junta. Some Burmese feel otherwise, arguing that the military will be less likely to oppress citizens under the watchful eye of foreigners. Either way, ordinary Burmese are generous and welcoming to foreigners in spite of the many hardships they face.






Who knew? 你知道嗎?

The ruling junta changed the name of the country to Myanmar in 1989, but the change wasn't recognized by the democratically elected Parliament of 1990. That Parliament never convened, but to this day the democratic opposition refers to the country as Burma. Many newspapers and countries, including the US, don't recognize the change either and continue to refer to the country as Burma.

The military junta also changed the location of the capital. In November 2005 the junta announced that the capital would be moved from Rangoon to the rural township of Pyinmana. There's much speculation about reasons for the move. Many believe that the junta is following the advice of fortunetellers. Others think that Than Shwe, head of the ruling junta, wants to build a new capital so he can imitate former kings.



What time is it there? 現在那裡幾點

Burma is an hour and a half behind Taiwan. When it's 2:30pm in Taiwan, it's 1:00 pm in Burma.


Flag Burma 國旗

Burma's flag is red with a blue canton. Inside the blue canton are 14 stars surrounding a white cogwheel with 14 cogs and a stalk of rice. The number 14 symbolizes the 14 administrative divisions of Burma. The cogwheel and rice stalk represent industry and agriculture, respectively.


About Burma 國情概要

Size: 678,500km2, or about 19 times the size of Taiwan

Location: Asia Pacific

Border countries: India, China, Laos, Thailand

Capital: Nay Pyi Taw (near the township of Pyinmana)

Population: about 54.3 million

Languages: Burmese, minority ethnic languages

Government: military junta

Currency: 1 Burmese kyat = 5.13 Taiwan new dollars