I am watching the dark night sky over Europe somewhere, counting stars above the shining body of a Boeing 777 on its way from Paris to Bangkok. As my fellow passengers are all deep into Holywood on their small screens, I read myself up on the history of Myanmar. It is more fascinating than Holywood, but also more sad than most history I read.
Myanmar is a big territory, tropical climate, but also mountains going up to 19000 feet, just below 7000 m! A rich diversity of cultures, ethnicities and religions created centuries of prosperous development. The rich and beautiful land was domesticated through a series of remarkable kingdoms and empires of unique breadth across Southeast Asia. These progressive cultures instilled ideas and habits that still permeate Myanmar’s society, including a love of literacy and an egalitarian belief in the equality of men and women.
Then the British Empire came through neighboring India. First they saw Myanmar as an Indian region. Then they met resistance and during the 19th century three wars were fought between UK Empire and Myanmar, and in 1884 the last battle is over and Myanmar is a crown colony.
The dream of independence is a driving force in the suppressed population, but then Japan is showing its most ugly face in occupying Myanmar. During the second world war the country called Burma is bombed flat and hundreds of thousands of the population are killed or malested. Finally in 1948 the country wins independence and everybody are looking forward to a glorious future in freedom from both British and Japanese.
The revolutionary General Aung San is credited with uniting Myanmar. He had the charisma and the potential to unite the many ethnical groups in the land, but he was assessinated by political opponents before he could even try.
After a confused period leading nowhere, a military coup d’etat took place in 1962, and a harsh dictatorship lasted all the way till 2011. Lack of human rights and a very brutal regime initiated what they called “the Burmese way to Socialism.”
The daughter of the national hero, Aung San Suu Kyi, was sat in house arrest for decades, and a more or less continuous civil war was fought between different ethnical and religious groups and the government, leading to economic and political sanctions from the West.
I know that Myanmar is working with programmes approaching human trafficking and domestic violence, drug addiction and homelessness and a number of other highly relevant social programmes. I am fascinated to visit a new country and to read its history. I am thrilled to start learning from my friends here. I know the President and the General Secretary and I know Saw Tun Lu, Change Agent from the first cohort and staff at the National Council. I am getting to know Eve Nan, responsible for Human Resource Development. More sharing tomorrow if time and Internet allow!