Thursday, November 28, 2013

What Burma change after 25 years: View of an exile (Part 2)

Htet Aung Kyaw

Part 2

The next days, I visited the NLD (National League for Democracy) office which I called telephone almost everyday in 2000s from Oslo-based DVB (Democratic Voice of Burma) radio to report their activity in their difficult days. As I'm activist-turn journalist who working for opposition radio, I'm very sympathy the NLD and the opposition. I met some senior NLD officials as the first time in person although we know each other by phone for decades. 

The NLD's days are now not much hard as in 2000s because they join to parliament in early 2012. The DVB is no need to call their office as we did in 2000s. There is much relax political suppression, relax media censor, even the DVB itself back to Rangoon from Oslo. So, should I say this is a sign of change to democracy?

The next day, I visited the office of 88 Generation Peace and Open Society which the same generation with us. I met some prominent leaders who served decades in jail while we are in jangle and exile. ''Many people come to our office to help their difficulty. Most are farmer and ask us to request the authority to stop confiscate their land'' a leader told me.

As the NLD and political parties are busy with parliament and party lobbying for 2015 election, the 88 generation and civil society groups are very busy in grassroots level. Although the government saying that Burma is heading to democracy, the authority, especially army and crony not yet return the land they confiscate from farmers in 1990s. Myint Myint Aye, Bauk Jar and dozens of activists who former local leader of the NLD arrested recently for leading the farmers to protest return their land.

On weekend, I launch my first book in Rangoon called ''Marathon journey of a Student Rebel'' which recall my days in jungle with the ABSDF. This publication is unthinkable until last year, but now there is no more censor in print media. Dozens of daily private newspapers, journals are publishing now in Rangoon. I surely can claim that is a fact of changing sign to democracy. But don't forget the authority still control broadcast media.

After a week in Rangoon, I went to my native town Tavoy or Dawei which the new name giving the military era. Although there is still hard to find evident that Burma is changing, I see a lot changing in local level, especially in business, social and environmental areas. There are 4-5 planes to Dawei from Yangon which only one plane in 1988 the time I was student. The air ticket is not limited (although so expensive) as we faced in 1988 which some time we wait a ticket for weeks.

On board, I saw some foreigners, perhaps investors on Dawei deep sea port project where the so-called gray area and prohibited foreigner in 1988. The longer run way, the new control tower, the new terminal in Dawei airport is a sign of changing or open era for new business in this costal town. My parents, relatives, friends and 88 generation students in Dawei welcome me at airport. My mum is crying as she so happy to see her son in first time in 25 years.

Heading to my village, I sit a front seat of 4 wheels Toyota while my relatives and friends follow by motor bikes. No one use horse-cart or bicycle which I always used in 1988. Between the Dawei town to Dawei river, I saw huge of new building, including local parliament, local government offices which I see only paddy fields in 1988. Later, I note that land is also confiscated by authority to extend the division's capital city. In November, hundreds of farmers and activists protest in front of local parliament, to return their land.

When I arrived my parent's house which I live until 1988, I not see my bicycle but motor bikes. I also not see our oxen and bullock-cart but a small tractor. ''We are now heading to industrial farm after 100 year in Europe'' joked one on my friends. I also note there is some limited electricity, tarred-road which I no knowledge in 1988. ''This road is very new as they did in 2010 election lobby'' a local NLD member told me.

There is no strange that the whole Long Lon Township where my village located is support Aung San Suu Kyi and opposition and so the NLD won a seat in 2012 by-election. Local NLD leaders are my close friends who worked with me in 88 uprising. While we talked freely and openly about current politic, two strange guys come in to my home by motor bikes.

''I'm from SB (Special Branch) and he is from local police station'' a guy who wears sunglass introduced me. ''Don't worry; we just come here for our duty. Pleas your passport and visa'' he continued. When I show my passport, they took picture and write down the facts what they see on passport. ''You guys are over action, he come here as higher authority allowing. If you want to know about him, you should ask your boss in Nay-pyi-taw'' a NLD guy shouted them. Then, they say sorry for disturb and to understand their duty. This is the only thing I face monitoring from the new government during my 28 days visit.

The next days, I visited around my township. I noted there are no oxen, cows, and buffalo in the fields. ''As we heading to industrial farm, all oxen and buffalo gone to Thailand's canning'' friends told me. But I also noted some side affect from losing animals, there is no more nature manure for vegetable fields but only chemical fertilizer. I suspect the rise case of cancer in the region might be link with that chemical fertilizer.

Another case in environmental issue, there is a lot of rubber plantations which I saw only nature forest in 1988. They destroy forest, then to grow rubber around township, perhaps the whole region. In some area, I saw government sponsored thousand acres of palm tree projects. I also noted that people in the region are not much knowledge about environmental impact, perhaps the daily life survive is important than future impact.

For life style, many teenage or students wear trouser or Korean style than longyi which we wear in 1988. Most of house in my township is look like Thai style as many young people are immigrant workers in Thailand or Malaysia. They use Thai-make motor bike, clothes, food, drink and even their Thai language skill fluent then me. I noted (Thai beer) beer Singha is very popular in Dawei region and cheaper than Myanmar beer.

''That all new Thai style houses built by money send back from their sons and daughters working in Thailand'' friends told me. Only a few new houses own by young crony, he added. But the houses of the NLD members, including my parents' home are look too old. ''Because we were under economic sanction by authority in military ruled era'' a local NLD member told me.

Htet Aung Kyaw is a former member of the ABSDF and former reporter for the DVB. He visited Burma recently as the first trip in 25 years.


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