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/ A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 9
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"The struggle for democracy and
human rights in Burma is a struggle
for life and dignity. It is a struggle
that encompasses our political, so-
cial and economic aspirations."
"Those of us who decided to work
for democracy in Burma made our
choice in the conviction that the
danger of standing up for basic
human rights in a repressive society
was preferable to the safety of a
quiescent life in servitude."
--AungSanSuuKyi
(currently under house arrest in Burma)
Burma--renamedMyanmar
in1989bythemilitarygovern-
ment -- has been in the news
recently;quiteabit,infact.The
newsisusuallycenteredaround
theNobelprizewinnerAungSan
SuuKyi.She'sbeenunderhouse
arrestsince1998forheroutspo-
kenpoliticalviews.
Because of her house arrest,
she'sachievedworldwidenotori-
etyandbeenabletobringatten-
tiontotheplightoftheBurmese
people, who are living under a
repressivemilitarygovernment.
InOctober,wespentaweekin
Burma; a week that would dra-
matically affect our views on a
partoftheworldthathasseen
its share of suffering over the
centuries.
BurmaislocatedbetweenIn-
diatothewest,Thailandtothe
east, and shares a border with
Chinatothenorth.Ithasapop-
ulationofapproximately48mil-
lion; more than 75% living in
thecitiesofYangon(Rangoon),
MandalayandMoulmein.Almost
halfofBurmaiscoveredinfor-
ests comprised of teak, rubber,
cinchona,acacia,bamboo,iron-
wood,mangrove,coconutandbe-
telpalm.Thenorthernhighlands
haveoak,pineandmanyvariet-
ies of rhododendron. Tropical
fruitslikecitrus,bananas,man-
goes,andguavasarefoundinthe
coastalregion.
The Mons were the first in-
habitants,migratingintoBurma
around3000BC.ThePyuswere
thenextpeopletomigrateinto
theareaaround600AD,setting
upacapitalnearthecityofmod-
ern day Prome. In the mid-9th
century the Burmans migrated
intotheareaabsorbingtheMons
andthePyus.Itisbelievedthatall
threemigrationsoriginatedfrom
theareasofTibetandChina.
Overthemillennium,Burma
hasbeenunifiedthreetimesby
Burmandynasties.Thefirstsuch
dynastywasin1044AD,under
theBaganrule.Thiswasconsid-
eredthegoldenageinBurmese
history.Alongwithlargecities,
thousandsofpagodaswerebuilt
alongtheIrrawaddyriver.Itwas
duringthisperiodthatBuddhism
becamethepredominatereligion.
Inthe15thcenturytheTaungoo
Dynastysucceededinagainuni-
fyingBurmaunderamultiethnic
kingdom.Thefinalroyaldynasty
-- the Konbaung -- was estab-
lishedin1752.
TheBritishenteredthescene
with their initial conquest in
1824,leadingtothreecostlywars
andthefinalannexationofBur-
maintoBritishIndiain1885.
Burma'smorerecentpolitical
historyhasseenshortperiodsof
relativecalmonlytobefollowed
byconflictandrepressivemili-
taryregimes.DuringWorldWar
II,AungSanSuuKyi'sfather(U
AungSan)wasastudentleader
andwasinstrumentalinputting
togethertheBIA--BurmeseInde-
pendentArmy,aidedbytheJap-
anese.Laterinthewar,theBIA
switchedsidesandaidedtheEng-
lishandAmericansintheirfight
againsttheJapanese.
Burma gained independence
fromBritainafterthewar,setting
uparepresentativegovernment.
ItwasduringthisperiodwhenU
AungSan--inaleadershiprole
--wasassassinated(andmostof
hiscabinet)byhispoliticalrival.
Sincethen,therehasbeenaseries
ofmilitaryleaders,riots,attempts
at democracy, staunch socialist
regimes, and various repressive
dictatesfromthemilitarygov-
ernment.
In the 1990 elections, Aung
SanSuuKyi'sNationalLeague
forDemocracy(NLD)partywon
alandslidevictory,butthejunta
refusedtohonortheoutcome.As
aresultofthisdenialbythemili-
tary,theU.S.andothercountries
haverefusedtoadoptthename
Myanmar (chosen by the mili-
tary),insteadusingBurmaasthe
officialnameofthecountry.
Forus,thetriptoBurmawas
noeasytask.Itinvolvedapply-
ing for a costly visa months in
advance,findingatourgroupthat
would offer a sense of security
whileallowingustoexplorethe
nooksandcranniesofthisfasci-
natingland.And,wehadtofind
aflightthatwaswithinourbud-
getwithreasonableflighttimes.
Aftermuchinvestigation,we
choseEVAairlines,flyingoutof
LosAngelestoTaiwanforabrief
stopover,thenontoBangkok;
totalflighttimewas21hours.
AfterspendingthenightinBang-
kok--inanattempttorecover
fromjetlag,wejoinedupwith
oneothertravelcompanionfor
aflighttoRangoon.Ouroverall
landtripwasarrangedthrough
OverseasAdventureTravel(www.
oattravel.com).
InadditiontoBurma,wetrav-
eledtoThailand,VietNam,Laos,
andCambodia.ThetriptoBurma
wasaoneweekpre-tripextension
ontoourtravelitinerary.
Afterashortone-hourflight
fromThailandtotheMingaladon
InternationalAirportinRangoon,
wedisembarked,excitedandap-
prehensiveastowhatwouldlie
ahead in this land steeped in a
historyofancientkingdomsand
contemporaryunrest.
Tobecontinued...
Robert Ross can be reached at
SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com
Copyright2009byRobertRoss,allrightsreserved
on
Burma - Part 1
By Robert Ross
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Midriff Islands Offer Wildlife Encounters
Comparable to Darwin's Archipelago
By Sara Widness
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