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On Burma, Another Memoir

Chance encounter with a visiting professor from Cambridge changed the life of Pascal Khoo Thwe, a member of the remote Burmese tribe known for the giraffe-necked women. They struck up a scholarly correspondence that would take Pascal from the brutal hardships of guerrilla warfare to the hallowed world of Cambridge University. I just started the book which has a brief history of Burma–the rise of Burmese Socialist Programme Party and the Burma Nationalists, the latter being responsible for helping the Japanese Imperial Army invade Burma, hoping in reward for Burma’s independence.

In 1962 U Ne Win, claiming that the unity of the country was in danger, seized power in an almost bloodless coup. But he regarded himself as the Father of the Country, and made no distinction between his own and the national wealth. His regime was marked by hostility to educated people. When he set up the one-party system, he banned all other political parties, shut down independent newspapers, and outlawed all student organizations. All these helped army become the super-privileged body.

This is hardcore reading. It requires con-cen-tration! Not that I usually don’t concentrate when I’m reading…

8 Responses

  1. As I’m looking at this, the news tells us that the Burma’s borders are firmly closed for aid workers. Meanwhile its people are suffering again, or rather even more, unnecessarily.

  2. I was just thinking of this book when the news of that cyclone hit Burma. My mother met Pascal at a reading he gave several years ago when this book first came out. I have a signed copy. It means so much to me!

    Here’s a link to an interview he gave to NPR:


    And I totally agree with seachanges. I’m really upset at how aid is being denied or slowly, very slowly, allowed in.

  3. Burmese leaders have a long history of being selfish and interested their own rights. That the military dictatorship is doing all that it takes to hide the exact location of the new capital it’s in the remote Mandalay, even at the expense of 100,000 people receiving no aids, is simply outrageous.

  4. I have this one on my shelf, waiting for me to read it. Now I really can’t wait! 🙂

  5. seachanges:

    Burmese (military) government and its officials don’t want to lose face; so the aids that arrived in the country had to go through the government, which will stamp “Burmese Government” before being dispersed to the victims. It’s a messed up country.

  6. mari:

    Oh that must be so special to have met Pascal! I’m reading through the memoir now, although at one point or another, it’s too difficult to read and I have to put it down.

  7. John:

    Mandalay is very secluded. Pascal’s description of Mandalay upon his arrival confirmed the fact that it’s very distant but beautiful. I would like to set my foot there someday.

  8. Eva:

    It’s an engrossing but sad read.

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