Monthly Archives: November 2010

Twin-Event in Ústí

The ultimate benchmark for truly devoted Burma campaigners: getting up before dawn to catch the train to a day-long event in Northern Bohemia. You don’t even have time to sniff at your coffee before running out into the cold night.

Thanks to not less devoted partners on the Ústí side, at the Faculty of Science of the local University who integrated Burma into their Week of Geography, it all went well and our presentations on Burma, short films about the Cyclone Nargis and Burmese refugees in the Czech Republic and the classic “Burma VJ”, as well as the tasting of Burmese food, fair trade items and the exhibition of Harn Lay’s cartoons were well appreciated.

Once you spend a day for an event, it is really difficult to stop. So we came next day again to Ústí, but this time to the ZOO. Together with the bears Barma and Myanmar and many Burmese refugees – who brought traditional Chin and Kachin dishes – we enjoyed a great afternoon with food, a quizz, the opening of the exhibition, our campaign video, Burmese children reciting Czech rhymes, fair trade items produced by Burmese grassroots groups and, one of the highlights, the bears climbing around in their compound in search of fruits and cups of yogurt.

Many thanks to our partners, the refugees, the people from the Aněžka School in Ústí, the bears … and the visitors who not only filled the rooms but actively participated!

This probably has been our last bigger event for this year. We are now focusing on finalizing the “Indian” project and this year’s edition of our annual publication Focus on Burma. Stay tuned.

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Burma. The Alternative Guide. A Review

This is a review I wrote some time ago for Burma Center Prague. I remembered it after the NLD seems to be fine-tuning now their boycott on tourism, giving up their previous hardliner policy.

Many travelers are increasingly concerned about ethical aspects of tourism. While it can serve as an educating, connecting and emancipating force, it might also leave indelible footprints from a powerful, sometimes ruthless industry, when recreation outweighs liberation. A particular, passionately disputed case is Burma, a country suffering for decades under military rule. In Burma, the ruling junta would not be able to continue exploiting its people without strong foreign political and economic support. For a dictatorship where an estimated half of the state budget goes to the army and is spent to maintain the luxurious life-style of the ruling families, it is not surprising that the question of investments becomes an issue of eminent ethical importance.
The democracy movement is divided on the question whether tourism to Burma would rather empower small business, encourage the Burmese people and help to circumvent the junta’s embargo on information or, on the other hand, inevitably feed the Generals, while any beneficial impact entirely misses the ethnic minorities living unseen in Burma’s officially declared no-go areas. Moreover, the role of tourists as righteous envoys of freedom and human rights seems more than doubtful, considering the nature of package tours and travelers escaping their dull lives in the quest for pristine beauty and unspoiled exoticism.
The famous advice of the Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, to visit Burma only later during better times, bears the risk of being outdated, having failed to foresee the regime’s durability. So, how to respond to the conundrum of whether to go or not?
Burma. The alternative guide. front coverBurma. The Alternative Guide by Elena Jotow and Nicholas Ganz does not try to answer this question. Rather, it chooses to offer a comprehensive picture of Burma, comprising “the richness of culture” as well as “the tragic tales recounted by refugees”. Complementing the information on culture, people and tourism sites with what tourists’ eyes are not able to see is certainly a promising approach to escape the moral pitfalls.
It is justified that the authors decided to limit the travel-related chapters to places that are officially permitted to tourists. Dedicating more space to hard-fact travel aids, however, would be worth consideration for future editions. This comprises preparatory arrangements like visa applications, vaccinations and malaria prophylaxis, dietary precautions, addresses of Western embassies, availability of telephones and Internet and a handful of town maps that help you find your way through the streets with their Burmese names, as well as some hints about expected behavior in pagodas, tipping in restaurants and dealing with unyielding taxi drivers. Particularly for the purpose of responsible traveling the reader would appreciate getting some practical advice on how to avoid junta-related business.
What makes this guide outstanding from others is its valuable chapters about the invisible and often ugly sides of Burma, without which no guide could possibly reach beyond a shallow tourism facade. You find informed articles about the “Saffron Revolution” and the situation of selected ethnic minorities. Ethnic armed forces have received much of the authors’ attention but their presentation reveals a debatable inclination to apply softer standards here than actually needed. Also, the selection of images, obviously stemming from the armed groups’ self-promotion kits, would certainly gain by a critical filtering with journalistic rigor. However, among the highlights of the background information range the chapters about Burmese migrants and political prisoners.
Now that the renowned Guide to Burma by Nicholas Greenwood has long vanished from the shelves, this book has the best chances to become a new benchmark for ethical traveling to Burma. Offering up-to-date and unvarnished information, the Alternative Guide by Jotow and Ganz fills a gap where other travel books have failed to explain the obvious contradiction between gold-covered pagodas and the use of bullets against unarmed demonstrators. Although it does not solve the question about traveling or not, even those who choose to stay at home will value the book as an enjoyable step towards understanding Burma.
Particularly the very outspoken parts about the hidden face of Burma make this guide a book that Burmese custom officers certainly would not like to find in your luggage. Not least for this fact it is highly recommended reading for prospective travelers who care about the people living at their destination.

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Reportáže na TV Prima

autor: Jan Novák

Zprávy TV Prima – Volby v Barmě


Soukromá dramata – Dva odvážní


Svět 2010 – Exilová média


Svět 2010 – Mikrogranty


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Freedom: back in the big prison called Burma

Rumors are saying that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be released today. Mizzima reports that “Tweets on Suu Kyi rank fourth worldwide”.

A massive crowd is gathering at the NLD headquarters. The news will make its way through Burma and the Generals might find out that they have not managed to sideline the NLD. And once again these praised strategists will have to admit a defeat they have not been prepared for.

The bad news is that the release of Suu Kyi probably won’t effect any changes to the situation of Burma.

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Barmské volby: Vhodit, nebo zahodit?

Zítra, 7. listopadu, se Barmánci po dvaceti letech znovu vydají k volebním urnám. Poslední demokratické volby v květnu 1990 přinesly drtivé vítězství Aun Schan Su Ťij a její Národní ligy pro demokracii. Generály ovládaná Státní rada pro obnovení zákonnosti a pořádku však výsledek anulovala. Letos vítězství demokracie neočekává nikdo. Junta si ho pojistila ještě předtím, než dopadne na dno urny první volební lístek. Barmánci přesto vášnivě debatují, zda volby podpořit, nebo bojkotovat.

Shodnout se nemohou ani ti žijící v exilu, kterých je dnes po celém světě rozeseto na pět milionů, nejvíce z nich v Thajsku, Malajsii a Indii. Mezi nejhlasitější stoupence bojkotu patří barmští mniši. Jejich důvěru v postupnou demokratickou transformaci zničila armáda před třemi lety, kdy krvavě potlačila šafránovou revoluci. „Věřili jsme, že můžeme Barmu změnit. Doufali jsme, že vliv, který v zemi máme, dá věci do pohybu,“ svěřuje se mnich U Pyinnyazatwta, před emigrací jeden z vedoucích kláštera v druhém největším barmském městě Mandalay.

Režim byl ale nakonec silnější. Údajně také proto, že proti revoltujícím buddhistickým mnichům nasadil křesťanské vojenské jednotky. Zmáčknout spoušť tak bylo mnohem snazší. Podle oficiálních vládních statistik zemřelo během nepokojů celkem 13 osob, neoficiální čísla ale mluví jinak. Podle nich přišlo o život minimálně třicet mnichů a další desítky civilistů. „Od letošních voleb proto nečekám vůbec nic. A nikdy je neuznám. Jak někdo může mluvit o demokracii, když je řada mých bratrů stále ještě zavřená, když nemůžeme kandidovat, a dokonce ani volit!“ připomíná mnich. Po neúspěchu šafránové revoluce musel U Pyinnyazatwta stejně jako řada jeho kolegů zemi opustit. Dnes přežívá v indickém Dillí mezi hinduisty a převážně křesťanskými barmskými uprchlíky. Buddhistů je tu jen hrstka. Continue reading

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Deutsche Regierung unterstützt Junta

Wie die burmesische Exilzeitung Mizzima heute mitteilt, lehnt es die deutsche Regierung ab, die burmesische Militärjunta für Verbrechen gegen die Menschlichkeit zur Verantwortung zu ziehen. Die Begründung klingt, wie so oft, zunächst wie der weise Ratschlag zu einer besonnenen Kooperation – was allerdings angesichts des schon länger anhaltenden Laissez-faire aus Berlin verdächtig bekannt vorkommt und der Verzögerungstaktik des Regimes ganz auffällig entgegen kommt.

Die Frage stellt sich also, ob die zum deutschen Mythos erhobene heilige Kuh Exportwirtschaft wieder einmal das eigentliche Argument liefert. Und tatsächlich bestätigt der Artikel den Verdacht: Die Firma Deckel Maho Gildemeister (DMG) soll Experten und Teile zur Herstellung von Raketenteilen geliefert haben, die Firma Trumpf ein Laserschneidegerät.

Sehen so die ausländischen Investitionen und das berühmt-berüchtigte “Engagement” aus, die die Verbrechen der burmesischen Armee gegen die Karen im Osten des Landes, die Verfolgung von Journalisten und Oppositionellen und die Selbstbereicherung des Regimes beenden sollen?

Das darf wohl bezweifelt werden.

Wenn ich dazu lese, dass die in Rangun ansässige deutsche Diplomatie dabei assistiert, dann fällt mir der Bericht der Historikerkommission über die Verwicklung des Auswärtigen Amtes bei der Deckung von Naziverbrechen ein, die sogar noch lange Zeit in der Bundesrepublik anhielten, und ich denke mir, dass in ein paar Jahrzehnten ein neuer Bericht fällig sein wird darüber, wie die deutsche Außenpolitik Wirtschaftsunternehmen profitieren ließ, indem sie Regime in Schutz nahm.

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