Thursday, April 4, 2013

Books from and about Burma.

Copy from

Freitag, 22. März 2013

Books from and about Burma

I should mention that those books presented were/are printed in small editions only and are more or less available in Mae Sot and Chiang Mai only. Good places to buy them are Myat Thu's Aiya Restaurant and The Best Friend Library in Mae Sot, also the Best Friend Libraries in Chiang Mai and Nu PO Refugee camp. One can also try any used book store in Thailand. And finally: You can contact the publishers or the authors of the books, for I added all available information below each book.

Legal note: all excerpts on this page are published with explicit permission of the authors and/or publishers.

Sorry, von dieser Seite gibt es diesmal keine deutschsprachige Version, da von den Büchern keine deutschen Übersetzungen existieren.


Far from home: 20 years in exile

In this book the author Htet Aung Kyaw tells us about his personal experiences as a rebel fighter for the All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDC), which he joined after the military crackdown on the uprising against the junta in August 1988, and of his life as a reporter. He describes the inner conflicts between the different Burmese opposition groups as well as between the several social classes, eg. the problems and conflicts between those who decided to stay in Burma and to fight the military regime and those groups of educated people who fled the country and were accused of enjoying a happy life outside Burma (mainly in the US, Norway and Australia) and just waiting for the others to topple the government. The book also offers several analyses and appraisals he has written over the years for several newspapers and magazines.

The first excerpt I chose is a little bit unusal for the book. Why? Because it describes the clash of two different worlds when the rebel camp, where Htet Aung Kyaw was living at that time, was visited by an official of the International Refugee Committee (IRC). This woman had obviously no idea about the situation of these rebel fighters and their struggle to survive in a civil war area. One can only hope that this incompetence and stupid behavior by this IRC official is an exception and is not the rule!

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

(first chapter, from page 5 to 7)
...with an official from the International Refugee Committee (IRC). We passed the beautiful beaches and the popular Ban Laau Waterfall and finally reached the last Thai village, Khauung Yai (The Big Mountain) before our jungle camp. As we walked along the stream to our camp, the lady from the IRC, seeing the paper, plastics and food waste the students had thrown into the water, began complaining to me that we did  not respect the enviroment.

When we stopped for lunch along the way, we washed our hands and dishes in the stream as we did every day. But the IRC official complained again and again that the ABSDF were not respecting enviromental law. As a burmese rebel, I had never heard of enviromental law so I just smiled and paid no attention to her complaints. Once we arrived at the camp the, the IRC official exclaimed loudly when I offered her monkey curry for dinner. "You guys are killers. You have killed innocent wildlife. You are destroying the enviroment and nature," she shouted and spent the whole night crying.

We had no idea why she was so angry. The next morning, some students shot a monkey in a big tree just beside the camp and others used the monkey's hand bone as a tool to make Yazin (cigarettes). "How can you complain? If you don't want us to kill monkeys, you should provide us with proper food, meat and milk - you are the donor," I told her.

She was really upset now but we just laughed as we didn't understand her feelings. I heard later that she wrote an official letter of complaint to the ABSDF headquarters saying that battalions 201 and 203 were destroying the enviroment and forest wildlife. If we did not stop, she wrote, the IRC would cut our aid...

...It was only when I arrived at Norway that I truly understood her feelings. There are many ducks in the public lakes and beaches but no one tried to catch them. I learned that there are many regulations to protect wild animals, but more importantly, no one thinks to kill these animals as no one is hungry here.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The second excerpt I chose is in strong contrast to the ivory tower views of the IRC offical and the brutal reality the rebel fighters were confronted with in their fight against the military government forces. (Still one can observe a lot of those so-called experts and starry-eyed-idealists running around at the Thai-Burmese border (and now also inside Myanmar) who have absolutely no idea what's going on.)

(second chapter, page 11)
...I don't know the exact number of casualities on our side, but I am certain that it was only one or two percent of those suffered by the Burmese troops. With my own eyes I saw hundreds of bodies, hand granades, helmets, ID cards, guns and knives of Burmese soldiers scattered in front of our frontline bunkers, in a place we called the killing ground...

...Soldiers from the ASBDF's battalion 211 and the Karen National Liberatioon Army (KNLA) Special Batallion 101 led by colonel Taw Hla built heavily fortified bunkers along enemy lines while a number of normal bunkers were built along the river. We built three barbed wire fences in front of the fortified bunkers and three rows of bamboo traps...

...But unbelievably, although everything was in our favour, hundreds of Burmese soldiers tried to advance on the killing ground in wave after wave while their comrades ordered artillery shelling of our bunkers. Most of the fighting took place in the early morning and evening. All we needed to do was sit and wait in our bunkers until the enemy reached the last line of barbed wire, then pull the triggers of our AK-47s. It was so hard to understand why the waves  of Burmese soldiers kept on coming in the killing ground even though they had seen hundreds of their comrades killed before them...


About the author:
Htet Aung Kyaw, a freelance journalist  and writer, was born 1964 in Tavoy in southern Burma. After the crackdown of the 8.8.88 democracy mass movement in Burma he joined the All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF). Later he worked as a field reporter for Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).  He still lives in Oslo, Norway.
Momentarily he is working on his new book about his life in the ABSDF , this time in Burmese, and prepares to publish it in Myanmar (or Burma, as he prefers to call his country). He also writes for the Irrawaddy Online Magazine.

Published by:
Htet Aung Kyaw

Tel:+47 97 15 50 74 (mobile)

twitter: @hak201

December 2008
Htet Aung Kyaw

Layout and Design:
Irrawaddy Publishing Group (IPG)


The Contents of a Life

A beautiful poem about returning home. It was published a few months after Maung Aung Pwint was released from jail, serving more than 6 years in Insein and Tharawaddy (also Thayawaddy) prison as a political prisoner.

Great Time
(pages 10+11)

When he would make
an angel of the devil  is back home,
from the bread the bread knife to the big chopper
all get shrpened

When he would make
an angel of the devil 
is back home,
the rose apple tree in front of the house
looks more luxuriant than ever,
all birds sing, enjoying nectar,
the purple sun bird couple
with their needle-thin beaks
flit at play.

When he would make
an angel of the devil 
is back home,
more orchids bloom,
the soap acacia tree puts on more new leaves,
garden crotons look more fresh,
the lemon tree in the corner
sags with fruit,
When he would make
an angel of the devil 
is back home,
neighbours come in a crowd;
one carrying a four-month-old says:
"This baby has such magnetic power
his granddad is back home."

Well if babies all over the land
showed such power all at once
it would be such a blessed day,
a great day.

Before he published this poem Maung Aung Pwint spent more than 6 years in prison from 1999 - 2005

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A bit of this and that
(page 71)

The flute is silent,
the cowherd's shadow - 

          No light on the other bank
          Ma Ka Toe's house - 

                      The dog Velvet
                      staring -
                      the leftovers?

                                      The horizons
                                      one gazes
                                      the blue colour overwhelms.
                                      One yearns,
                                      gazes and yearns.


About the Author:
Maung Aung Pwint was born 11. November 1946 in the small village Hpayakon in Burma. He published his first poem in 1968 and his first book "Forest of Sadness Trees" in 1972.

He worked as school teacher, proof-reader, used book dealer, news monitoring editor and a video programme writer. In 2002 he received the Helmann-Hammett Grants Award by Human Rights Watch and in 2004 theInternational Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

For his political beliefs he was imprisoned for several times: Pathein Prison (1967-68), Insein Prison (1978-80), Tant-U police lock-up (1997) and Insein and Tharawaddy prison (1999-2005).
(source: book cover from "The Contents of a Life")

Article on Maung Aung Pwint:
Maung Aung Pwint - The peoples poet

Nyein Chan Aung
Jaamantie 23 H 65
70150 Kuopio, Finland

ISBN 978-952-67187-0-5

Swam Myaing
PO Box 132
Mae Sot
Tak 63110

Copyright: no information


The Darkness We See:
Torture in Burma's Interrogation Centers and Prisons

This book contains mainly a vast collection of interviews and statements by witnesses, former political prisoners  and victims of torture. It provides also information and facts about the prisons, torturers and treatments and "interrogation methods".

Why am I suggesting this documentation of 2005 about prison conditions and torture in Burmese prisons? So much has happened in the meantime. There is this new "civilian" and "democratically" elected government ("only" 25% of  all seats in the parliament are reserved for unelected military officers and many elected members of the ruling party USDP are former officers of the Burmese army). The whole world celebrates the new wonderful and golden era in Myanmar. Everything is fine and beautyful, a new garden Eden on earth when it comes to certain journalists, foreign official representatives and governments. Myanmar's President Thein Sein even has reportedly been tipped for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

But STOP! What about the hundreds of thousands of victims who suffered during the brutal dictatorship from mass rape, torture, forced labour, lootings, abductions and imprisonments, murder and war crimes? Shall all the perpetrators escape unpunished?
Are they really democrats now and changed their methods of ruling the country just because they switched their uniforms for civil suits?

Already bloggers are declared traitors or criminals again for criticising the government, and political prisoners are only released and dissidents/refugees are only allowed to return home when they assure that they won't enter politics and refrain themselves from making political statements and/or criticising the government. The war against the Kachin ethnic minority is still going on. Also, we should not forget the atrocities in Rakhine State. For ethnic conflicts see also the book/report number five at the end of this post: Deciphering Myanmar's Peace Process.

I choose this book because it gives an impression about what happened inside Myanmar's prisons, what the junta, it's helpers and supporters did to their people (many of them still remain in office and/or hold the power in the "New Myanmar") and how many victims are struggling to go on with their daily lifes.
There will be no reconciliation without justice for the victims.

(chapter III, Torture Methods in ..., physical tortue, page 30)
...One man explains his experience:
"After being relocated to the dog cell, I was taken out of the cell with other
prisoners and made to run, shackled and blindfolded, under the noonday 
sun for 5-7 minutes, with authorities forcing us to run as fast as possible. 
This lastet for three days each afternoon, and was overseen by the jailer
Thein Myint. Finally, we were taken back to the cells, where the door was 
opend and we were kicked inside. Only then we were able to remove our
blindfolds. We remained shackled."...

(chapter V, Prison Health Care System, Medications, page 75 and 76)
...While the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has provided the prisons with several quality medications, political prisoners rarely ever benfit, as many note that the authorities sell the medications on the market or to the political prisoners themselves:
"The ICRC visited Mandalay prison three times while I was there. During
these times, conditions did improve to a certain extent. However, we found
out that though the ICRC had donated much medicine to the prisoners, the
authorities kept it to themselves to sell while giving the prisoners poorer
quality medicine."

(chapter VI, The Future For Former Political Prisoners, Families Of Political Prisoners, page 98)
..."After my release, I had to write reports daily to MI officers in order to keep
myself and my home safe. I had to record everyone who visited the house and
what we discussed. This was mental torture. The MI knew that I was not 
reporting truthfully , but they didn't react - they made me only do this to harass
me. Then, my mother died from a heart attack, because she knew that her son
had met with serious torture in interrogation and it was more than she could 


Publishing and distribution:
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
December 2005

Assistant Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)

Office Ph: 66(0)55-545495


A burmese political prisoner's story
by Paul Pickrem

This time there is no need for me to give a description or an explanation because the author already put everything in a nutshell himself.
(from the back of the hardcover)
No Easy Road: A Burmese Political Prisoner's Storey
chronicles Thiha Yarzar's nearly 18-year journey on the long road to freedom, first as a political prisoner jailed and tortured in five differnt Burmese prisons, and then as political exile in Thailand.

I wanted to scream. But I controlled myself. I did not want to show 
them my fear or my rage. I swallowed my voice. I did not want them to
to think of me as a coward. - Thiha Yarzar (from the back of the hardcover)

(chapter 12, The Prisoners Dream Comes True, Page 69)
"It was like a dream," he remembers of the night he was driven in a taxi to his sisters house. 
Was this that old prisoner's dream, and would be returned to prison just before waking up?
He got lost because the city streets and the neighbourhood  had changed so much while he was in prison. 
Two police cars followed the taxi as he tried to find the house he had spent so much time in as a child.
But he didn't wake up in his cell. Instead, he finally stood at his sister's door.
When his sister, Daw Khin Mar Win, answered the door, they just stared at each other. They had not seen each other since she visited him in Insein Prison in 1992.
"She shouted, 'Hey! This is Thiha!' She came running to meet me, crying."
"Mommy is here," she told Thiha.
Thiah stared in amazement as he watched an old woman come out of the house.
"It was my mother. But I didn't recognise her at first," he said.
Daw Tin Lay Myint was now 68 years-old. He remembers her hair had turned white. She was thin, but looked healthy.
"She just stared at me, as she moved slowly toward me," he recalled.
"This is Thiha!" his sister shouted.
"They thought I was dead," Thiha said, ...

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

(chapter 14, Free Burma!, page 78)
This decision made by Thiha Yarzar, the young history student at Rangoon University, to pursue and defend the cause of democracy in Burma because it is the better way, and his willingness to pay the steep price to secure it, has not waivered despite long years of imprisonment and torture and suffering to him and his family.
"I did my duty and I will continue to do my duty. Every Burmese has a responsibility to struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma," he said.
"I'm free, and I'm getting strength from the fact that I'm a free man. I will do whatever I can to continue my fight for democracy and human rights."...


2nd Edition: ExPP-ACT


The Best Friend Library:

Info (by ExPP-ACT):
Released in April 2012:
EXILE: Personal Portraits of Burmese Refugees
Can be bought or ordered in Mae Sot only!

‘Exile’ is a collection of nine portraits from the Thai- Burmese border area. Here, thousands of Burmese migrants and refugees live a life in hiding as a consequence of a corrupt military regime in their homeland.

The voices of nine different people each tell a personal story about life in Burma and life in exile. From democratic movements, ethnic minorities to ordinary Burmese people, the portraits uncover the brutality of the Burmese regime, its massive violations of human rights and the trials and tribulations of living as a migrant or refugee in another country.

Written by Anne Marie Thyrup Christiansen and Pernille Houborg.
Copyrights by Christiansen, Houborg, Exppact


Deciphering Myanmar's Peeace Process
A reference guide 2013

This collection of facts about ongoing conflicts in Myanmar, of the various ethnic groups and their political organisations and armed forces, and the level of peace talks etc. is very detailed and informative. There's a discourse about the different root causes that lead to those numerous conflicts. Another chapter explaines the Burmese government's idea of a peace plan on the one hand - and the ethnic minorities ideas about peace on the other hand. One can also find a description of international assistance, mediation and of the business peace mediators.
And it delivers a complete overview of ALL ethnic armed groups, including their history, strength, leaders, organisations, developments, offices, contact numbers and adresses, partners, clashes, etc.
Finally, three appendices are included explaining 1.) Ceasefire Terms, 2.)Comparison of agreed terms by the ethnic groups and 3.) Armed Resistance Groups.

This book was delivered at a press meeting at the FCCT in Bangkok on Monday 18th March 2013. It is not available in any bookshops but you can download it for FREE as pdf-file from this web page:



Burma News International
First Editon 2013

Published by:
Burma News International
PO Box (76) Chiang Mai University PO
Chiang Mai, 50202, Thailand

Information and Links:
Phone: +66 (0) 84 722 5988


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