Burma's Modern Tragedy
Studies in Asian History & Development S. No. 7
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
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"Reflecting much of the moral appeal and political authority of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself, the contributors to Burma's Modern Tragedy clearly have a mission not only to inform and educate Americans about the systemic pattern of economic deterioration, political repression, state-supported violence, and environmental degradation in Burma -- but also to 'tell their story' to the international community, to influence those in a position to shape policy and the allocation of Western economic, military, and intelligence resources, and to cultivate an informed humanitarian response from citizens across the English-speaking world. They have succeeded admirably This book is likely to be used by faculty in English-speaking colleges and universities who are teaching about culture, recent history, economics, and politics in southeast Asia -- both as a text and as a research tool to help cover the all-too-frequent gap when it comes to 'Myanmar.'... I extend my heartfelt congratulations to both the editors of Burma's Modern Tragedy and the Edwin Mellen Press, Ltd. for exhibiting the intellectual and moral courage to tell the truth about Burma and to vividly share the plight of the diverse people of Burma in the face of cruel authoritarian repression and the daily exercise of totalitarian control over their lives in scholarly and personal terms." - (From the Commendatory Preface) Professor Roderic L. Owen, Mary Baldwin College; "The media each day brings us further news of the monstrous tragedy facing Burma, but surprisingly few scholars, journalists, and political leaders have any real understanding of what is happening to one of the world's oldest and magnificent civilizations. A number of Western scholars and journalists have published some very solid monographs on the Burma crisis, but we very rarely hear the voices of Burmese scholars. This volume, Burma's Modern Tragedy, adds considerably to modern scholarship on Burma by introducing the reader to the work of many Burmese scholars and journalists as well as a number of Western specialists. The articles cover a wide spectrum of topics on contemporary Burma including the evolution of military rule, the collapsed economy, crises in education and health care, the role of Buddhism, the psychological effects of military rule on the Burmese people, the bitter struggle among the nation's many ethnic groups, and educational possibilities for Burmese students living abroad. Editors Daniel Metraux and Khin Oo have done a highly admirable job in compiling a most valuable anthology on the Burma crisis." - Dr. Wilton S. Dillon, Senior Scholar Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution"