The goal of this volume is to introduce the reader to conditions in Burma through the eyes of Burmese and Foreign scholars who present a variety of perspectives of life in this noble land. Preface The year 2004 has brought a never-ending flow of both sad and bad news from Burma. Economic, political and health conditions continue to decline precipitously and repression by the ruling military junta is worse than ever. Leaders of the anti-government Burmese democracy movement, including its heroine, Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, languish in prison or under strict house arrest. The junta's much heralded convening of a national convention to rewrite the constitution is in reality a cloak to disguise its dictatorial hold on the Burmese people. The future of Burma looks very bleak indeed. For centuries visitors to Burma have come away with a sense of awe and respect for a highly civilized people who live in an incredibly beautiful country. Burma is a land with considerable natural resources that should be one of the wealthiest in Asia, but while some other Southeast Asian countries have democratized and prospered, Burma has not.
The Burmese are ruled by a highly repressive military dictatorship which has ruined the economy and imprisoned its own people in a living hell where they are deprived not only of their livelihood, but also their most basic civil rights. The military junta has raped the land as well as the people and has transformed one of the wealthiest nations in Asia into one of the poorest with an annual per capita income of under US$300. While many Burmese have resigned themselves to their fate, others continue to resist the tyranny that has overwhelmed their country. Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) and the Burmese democracy movement in Burma and abroad have demonstrated tremendous courage and endured considerable suffering in their efforts to inaugurate a democratic society in their land. The goal of this volume is to introduce the reader to conditions in Burma through the eyes of Burmese and foreign scholars who present a variety of perspectives of life in this noble land.
We aim at a collective portrait of the dismal reality of a suffering citizenry who if allowed to be free could be among the most creative, energetic and productive people of Asia. We also look at the complexity of a highly heterogeneous people striving to find a collective identity amidst the chaos of savage repression. We present the work of both leading Western scholars on Burma as well as the writing of a number of leading young Burmese scholars who are dedicating their lives to the struggle for freedom in their country. This is one of the few publications to offer such a diverse presentation on the Burma question. We hope that scholars and teachers of Asian Studies will incorporate some or all of this material into their own writing, lectures and class discussions. We hope also to encourage many more people to join the international debate over what policies may best promote peace, prosperity, and respect for human rights in that country.
We wish to thank Christina Fink, Patricia Herbert, Maureen Aung-Thwin, Win Min, Aung Naing Oo, Min Zaw Oo, Inge Sargent, Min Zin and Roderic Owen not only for their thoughtful contributions, but also for their helpful suggestions and useful editorial assistance. It goes without saying that both the editors and contributors would deeply appreciate comments and suggestions from any or all readers. We wish to dedicate this work to the many courageous Burmese who are working to create a democratic and civil society in their own land and the scholars, journalists and political leaders in Burma and abroad who have worked or offered their support for a free Burma. Daniel Metraux Khin Oo Fall 2004
Dr. Daniel Metraux is Professor of Asian Studies at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia and Editor of The Southeast Review of Asian Studies. He has published widely on modern Japanese and East Asian history and religion including six books and many chapters and articles on Japan's Soka Gakkai Buddhist movement. Dr. Metraux has also taught at Doshisha Women's College in Japan and has been a Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University and at Soka University in Tokyo. Khin Oo (pseudonym) is a graduate student in International Affairs at a major American university. A native of Burma, Khin Oo is a Phi Beta Kappa and honor's graduate of an American college where she majored in Economics and Asian Studies. She has published articles and reviews on the Burma crisis in a variety of scholarly journals and has presented papers at several Asian Studies conferences.
Foreword ix; Preface xiii; History: The Evolution of Military Rule; Chapter One Burma's Modern Tragedy: An Overview; By Daniel Metraux 1; Chapter Two Aung San Suu Kyi: Courageous Symbol of Burma's Democracy Movement; By Khin Oo 33; Chapter Three Burmese Military Government: Crony Capitalists in Uniform; By Win Min 45; Chapter Four Inge Sargent: Her Life as a Shan Princess; By Khin Oo 69; Buddhism and Politics; Chapter Five Religion and Magic: Disappearing Jewels and Poltergeists; By Christina Fink 83; Chapter Six Burmese Buddhism and its Impact on Social Change; By Min Zin 111; Politics and the Economy; Chapter Seven Burma's Potential Political Transition: An Analysis of Ethnic Conflicts and Mobilization; By Min Zaw Oo 123; Chapter Eight Burma's National Convention: "Then and the Future"; By Aung Naing Oo 141; Chapter Nine Burma's Black Markets, Economic Growth and Freedom; By Khin Oo 149; Foreign Affairs; Chapter Ten The US-led Charge; By Min Zin 209; Chapter Eleven "Without Inner Freedom You Can Achieve Nothing:" An Interview with Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic; By Min Zin 213; Educating Young Burmese for the Nation's Future; Chapter Twelve Light for Dark Burmese Days; By Maureen Aung-Thwin 219; Chapter Thirteen Prospect Burma: Keeping the Flame of Education Alive; By Patricia Herbert 225; Reviews of Scholarly Literature on Burma 231; Aung Sang Suu Kyi. Aung San of Burma: A Biographical Portrait by his Daughter and Takkatho Nay Win. Biographical Sketches of General Aung San. Reviewed by Khin Oo 232; Christina Fink. Living Silence and Shelby Tucker, Burma: The Curse of Independence; Reviewed by Daniel A. Metraux 243; Andrew Marshall. The Trouser People: A Story of Burma in the Shadow of the Empire. Reviewed by Khin Oo 250; Win Naing Oo. Hidden Records of Atrocities in Burma's Prisons. Reviewed by Khin Oo 256; Afterword 259; Bibliography 263; Contributors 265