A New Year Round Robin from Myanmar – 2016 by jet ni
A most auspicious mingalar 2016 to dear dear friends of Myanmar,
How 2015 dragged past! Phew!
Jet Ni is still in the tourist industry. Still bowing respectfully at tourists at the door of Mingalar Hotel which, you might recall, stands on the patch of land once owned by Jet Ni’s peasant father. Now, in the spirit of reconciliation, Jet Ni will not whinge how father ate fertilizer and died in agony after we lost our land to tourism three years ago.
Yet Jet Ni would be remiss if he didn’t tell you about Uncle Myint Aung of Kunlon Village Group near Taung Gyi, the capital of Shan State in eastern Myanmar. Uncle Myint Aung doused himself in gasoline and set himself on fire on 21 May 2015. Uncle was protesting against the Myanmar Armed Forces Eastern Command, grabbing over 5,000 acres of farmland in his region. The poor man suffered a great deal more at the poorly-equipped Taung Gyi hospital and died three days after his self-immolation.
Mother’s cervical cancer is collecting more and more medical bills. Jet Ni has considered switching to telecommunication, one of the most lucrative industries along with charity and tourism, for better income. Jet Ni wanted to sell black-market handsets from China but all the micro-financing organizations Jet Ni contacted would not loan him a dime.
Jet Ni’s cousin Shwe Mi, the Zhang Ziyi lookalike, is in less and less demand in the streets of Mong La, a Myanmar town owned up by China. She wrote that she is soon moving to Singapore as a housemaid. Despite that Jet Ni’s little sister Mya May insists she must go see cousin Shwe Mi in Mong La.
The year that began with the realization that each and every Myanmar citizen (53.26 million if you believe in the official census) in 2015 has a development loan of Kyat 500,000 (500 USD) to foreign donor industries, thanks to President Thein Sein, ended with the Kyat having lost nearly 30 percent of its value against the dollar. Jet Ni learned, Myanmar economy is increasingly Cambodianized, or dollarized. The Myanmar populace these days increasingly resemble the hackneyed 100 Kyat notes at Myanmar bazaars. The Myanmar elite, on the other hand, smells of mint 100 USD notes.
Of course 2015 couldn’t wait until November for elections. No election violence though. Only irregularities in voter lists nationwide. No vote rigging. Only irregularities in advance votes. No military coup! Touch wood! Long live Mother Suu!
So spectacular was Mother Suu’s election victory, more disappointed than the members of the military-backed ruling party were pundits and astrologers who had overlooked our desire for change.
Understandably, the first thing the outgoing President Thein Sein did following his electoral defeat was tabling a bill that will grant him immunity for life for whatever he did during his presidency.
No kidding! We are talking about a president who has jailed a peaceable poet for writing a verse that goes like: ‘‘I have a president’s portrait tattooed on my penis/ My wife was utterly disgusted, inconsolable.’’ Not to mention Mr. President’s complicity in, to name but two, anti-Muslim riots in Rakhine state, and bombing of Kachin and Kokang regions.
In contrast, Mother Suu embarked on a nationwide anti-littering campaign, picking up trash with her own fingers. Litter is a Myanmar landmark – some people might call it Myanmar heritage. Of course Mother Suu knows that her fight against littering or betel chewing may be harder than her struggle against Myanmar totalitarianism. Her point is this; ‘‘Look, I first have to deal with the trash left behind by the previous Myanmar governments from 1948.’’ Long live awesome Mother Suu!
However, Mother Suu’s another move, to send the elected MPs from her party to a boot camp at a hotel owned by Myanmar’s top crony businessman Tay Za, who probably owns more than half of the country’s assets, was met with thousands of thumbs down, of course, on Facebook.
In Myanmar today, it doesn’t matter how you make your money as long as you toss a million Kyat or two into Mother Suu’s party or some other good causes such as Daw Khin Kyi Foundation. As Buddhists, we tend to forgive absolutely everyone, including mass murderers, child rapists, and land grabbers. We also extend our forgiving metta to those who have committed Crimes against Mother Earth and Crimes against Common Sense. Long live Mother Suu!
Talking of injustice, you might recall student protests for education rights in February and March? History repeated itself when student unionists clashed with the brutal police at Letpadan on 10 March. The EU, which had trained the Myanmar riot control forces condemned the police attack, but decided more training was needed, and more funds were promised. Currently there are 77 students on trial of which about 50 students are being locked up. Long live All Burma Federation of Student Unions!
Thank you, dear friends, for your care and support in July and August when floods all over Myanmar affected 1.6 million lives and ruined 1 million acres of farmland. But we Myanmar stood up to the challenge with numerous innovative and inspiring fundraisers. Even Burmese poetry became pro ‘‘Bono’’ when some poets auctioned off their hand-written poems for flood relief.
You must have heard of routine jade mine landslides at Hpakant in Kachin State, northern Myanmar, the past year? The victims are not those who mine jade with heavy machinery but those who hope to find traces of jadeite at the dumpsites of gigantic jade mines owned by crony businesses. This year alone, an estimated US$ 31 billion worth of jade was hauled out of Kachin State. In January, 20 miners, tailing at a jade mine dumpsite, were buried alive when the heap of refuse collapsed over them. Some bodies were never discovered. The landslide death toll in March was 30. In December, 100 scavengers, sleeping in their tents at the base of a jade mine dumpsite, were killed when the landslide struck at dawn. May their souls rest in peace! May you wear your jade in style!
Early in the year our vulnerable Venerable U Wirathu caused much furore when he called Ms. Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur to Myanmar, a whore. Ms. Yanghee Lee would not have been so upset if she had known that contemporary Myanmar language is full of figurative expletives. The Venerable surely meant Ms. Yanghee Lee is whoring for human rights. Who in the West isn’t whoring for human rights? Long live Ms. Yanghee Lee, and her rights!
Backed by the ruling party, 2015 saw the Venerable U Wirathu’s mabatha (The Committee to Protect Race and Religion) go from strength to strength. By August, President Thein Sein signed The Population Control Law, the Religious Conversion Law, the Interfaith Marriage Law and the Monogamy Law, all written and tabled by mabatha.
Westerners are quick to label mabatha neo-Nazi as if the monks were designing another Holocaust. I tell you, we Myanmar people are getting weary of the increasing number of Myanmar fuckers – aliens who are married to Myanmar nationals. To prevent Myanmar fuckers from fucking up with the Myanmar nation and Buddhism, it is imperative that we have the rule of race and religion laws! Long live mabatha, but of course Jet Ni will vote No! to all those laws if there is a referendum under Mother Suu. Jet Ni is secretly in love with a Bengali-Rohinja girl who was recently trafficked into Yangon from an IDP camp in Sittwe. As long as she will convert to Buddhism, Jet Ni should not worry even if race and religion laws are here to stay.
The news story of the year goes to the townspeople’s arrest of a policeman at Nam Kham, Shan State. The policeman was a drug mule. The Myanmar film of the year is ‘‘I am a rose, Maung’’, based on the 100th novel of the same name by Ponya Khin. No kidding! The 100th novel. How prolific Myanmar women writers are. And yet none of them have headlined international literary festivals. The funeral of the year is that of Aung Thaung, a former general and minister, whose photograph of himself being fanned by an eighth grader at a state ceremony emerged in June.
The most unexciting wingding of the year of course is the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). All the eight signatories to the NCA had already stopped fighting, imported luxury vehicles, and signed bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government years ago. The Myanmar Peace Centre (MPC), the architect of the NCA, of course had to live up to their project proposal for peace and the NCA was part of their proposed ‘‘results.’’ Despite criticisms, the MPC remain as optimistic about peace in Myanmar as Yoko Ono is about world peace. However we the Myanmar people know that the MPC is a multi-million dollar extravaganza and that Mother Suu has told the international donors to stop giving money to the MPC until she takes over the whole peace process. Long live Mother Suu, and the MPC!
The Myanmar slang of the year is ‘‘Mr. President’’, which could mean any dodgy type, from romancer to spinner of yarns. The celebrity of the year is Nay Shwe Thway Aung, the grandson of much revered retired Supremo Than Shwe. Alas, in this country, grandchildren of political failures have nothing better to do. They spend their whole life defending their grandparents’ legacy. Nay Shwe Thway Aung is definitely the finest sampler of such wasted lives.
After Mother Suu declared she would be above whoever she will name as president, she was summoned to the Supremo Than Shwe’s resident. During the two and a half hour meeting, the Supremo, without actually saying it, reminded Mother Suu that he is above the outgoing President Thein Sein as well as above the Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing! The Supremo still calls the shots, literally. Long live Mother Suu!
2016 is going to be very very hot, according to Myanmar’s much-loved weatherman U Tun Lwin. The monsoon season is shrinking drastically with less and less rain to come. At the same time, El Nino is looming. When Myanmar was hit by a heat wave a few years back, there was a long line of corpses at cemeteries in the dry region in central Myanmar. Joke of those days was that the Myanmar poor have to queue up, even in death. 2016 dry season could be the same, says the grumpy weatherman.
Looking forward and optimistic, Jet Ni trusts that Mother Suu with her irenic qualities can restore law and order, and bring peace and development to Myanmar in no time.
The sham transition from rule of terror to rule of error is virtually over. An authentic transition from the rule of error to rule of Mother Suu is about to emerge. Just don’t expect Mother Suu to change the clime. Long live awesome Mother Suu!
With loads of metta for the year ahead,
Jet Ni (Kyak Ni)
Hotel Zone 24 (Gyobingone Village)