Thursday, October 19, 2017

Where Demon Kings Reign ~ postscript to Burma Revisited

A typical back alley in downtown Yangon, near the Bogyoke Aung San market, taken from my friend's kitchen window. Rubbish had been piling up uncleared for weeks, but two days after I arrived we noticed workers hard at work, hoeing away the hideous mess. My guess is that some municipal bureaucrat "forgot" to settle the invoice of a private contractor - until barraged by complaints from local residents.

Power outages are a regular occurrence in Yangon. It happened almost every day I was there - sometimes for only an hour, other times for three or four. Each time that happened, the water pump would stall and had to be manually restarted. Obviously, Myanmar 's middle class is still too new and voiceless to demand higher standards of utilities and services. I bet the ruling elite in Naypyidaw don't experience frequent power outages or lousy plumbing. On the other hand, without cellphone services and with their bosses breathing down their necks, I doubt the families of high-ranking civil servants get to experience much of anything - except when they manage to get out of Myanmar.

Young Burmese at Yangon International Airport, waiting for their AirAsia flight to Kuala Lumpur,
where jobs await at food outlets, gas stations and construction sites.
Many end up in detention centers run by Malaysian Immigration, a fate worse than hell.
General Than Shwe reviews the troops during a grand ceremony in Naypyidaw
(photo: Khin Maung Win/AFP/Getty)

Naypyidaw, located in the mountains, 250 miles north of Yangon
(photo by David Longstreath/Associated Press)

Isn't it remarkable how alike the Burmese military junta's "vision" is to Mahathir Mohamad's Wawasan 2020? In 2005 General Than Shwe decided to build a colossal new city from the ground up - not unlike Putrajaya (Victorious Principality) - exclusively to house the families of the military junta and high-ranking civil servants. The new administrative capital was named Naypyidaw (Abode of Kings). It's not some place you would wish to visit - unless, of course, you have an environmentally ruinous mega-project to pitch to the Myanmar government.

Sign on KTM Komuter warning against indecent behavior, petrol bombs, and dogs.
Does that mean the entire UMNO/BN cabinet is banned from using this service?

[First posted 3 October 2011, reposted 9 October 2014]