a new year round-robin letter from myanmar

from Jet Ni (Kyak Ni)

My dear friend,

 What a jolly good year we’ve had. Every village is democracy, democracy, democracy these days. Every villager is Mother Suu, Mother Suu, Mother Suu now. Long live Mother Suu!

 Of late even some oligarchs have become slightly socially responsible. After Mother Suu, one of those tycoons might plunge into politics to become ASEAN’s Berlusconi in the mafia state of Myanmar. Touch wood! Long live Mother Suu! 

 This tourist season hundreds of tourists descended upon our village stupa. Many of them complained we didn't have beer bars. They shouldn’t whinge. Everyone has something to sell here. Palm wine is 100 percent organic and cheaper than Myanmar Beer. Tourists can even buy peacock feathers, tiger claws, bear paws and porcupines.

 You might recall, when you visited us last year, my father kept talking about genetically modified rice seeds until his mouth foamed with saliva. Now he has gone quiet for a while. Nor does he have to worry about the impotent fertilizer supplied by his dealer.

 He killed himself in June when they told him the land he had tilled since he was twelve was not his. He didn't have any document that showed he owned the land. How could he produce any paper? He didn’t even have the pinkish card that said he was a Myanmar. I myself now need 5 lakh to buy the pinkish card so I can vote for Mother Suu in the coming election. 

 Our land has recently become a zone, a hotel zone or an industrial zone…I am not sure what, but the news journals say employment opportunities are better in the zones. I hope to find a job there soon...I need to look after my mother and keep my little sister Mya May in school. By the way, little Mya May may still be a quarter of a shrimp but she is ready for the Pacific. She says she wants to make money to get herself an Eyepad or something like that.

 Remember Shwe Mi, my pretty cousin, who was always the flower bearer at village pwes? She mysteriously disappeared after Thingyan water festival in April. Before Thingyan, her mother had died from food poisoning—the poor old lady had eaten too much tea Shwe Mi had pickled in the fake cooking oil she was sold at the village market. We recently received a letter from Shwe Mi from China. In her photo Shwe Mi could pass for Zhang Ziyi. She seems happily married to a Chinaman. Women are running out in China, Shwe Mi says.

 In November, some of our distant relatives ran to scoop up petrol from a derailed oil cargo train in Kantbalu, upper Myanmar. Dozens of them were instantly grilled in the ensuing flash fire. Even their immediate relatives could not identify the bodies. May they never be born again in the bottomless pits of poverty.   

 Scores of other relatives who had marched north to Kachin State for jade mines and teak jungles never came back too. Never mind them. I heard, there are no more tigers in Sri Lanka. Tigers have been long gone in Kachin state but the Kachins are still there. Of course, we have taken war against our own ‘national races’ for granted and it doesn’t bug me as much as the Rohinja question. Yes…the existence of Muslims in Myanmar undermines our core Buddhist values such as metta (loving-kindness), karuna (compassion) and mudita (appreciation).

 No doubt you knew what happened to our venerable abbots when Latpadaung copper mine protest was broken up by the police in November? We still don’t know what hit them. No one deserves expired teargas canisters. An abbot has had to undergo a skin transplant surgery in town and he seems ok, at least physically…but the 100,000 USD medical bill for the venerable U Nyarna who was sent to a private hospital in Bangkok has become a national issue. Even little Mya May’s soul wouldn’t sell for that much money. Even our government which has privatized everything over the decade felt ripped off, and U Nyarna has been moved to a Thai public hospital.

Good news is that this year I don’t have to live in fear any more. The Tatmadaw has stopped dragooning young men into army corvee, at least in our area. I am proud to tell you that our patriotic Myanmar commandos will soon be showing the US marines how to win battles by surviving on bamboo shoots, how to make the locals absolutely loyal to you and, in general, how not to be a wuss in the joint military exercise in the plantations in Thailand. In turn, I am sure they will learn from the US troops how to use damage as collateral, how to justify invasion-occupation of resource-rich/strategically-significant lands, how to regime-change through espionage, how to drone-bomb the Kachins or the Rohinjas to extinction and how to piss on your enemy's corpse.

 There is a lot of freedom these days, my friend. We now have freedom to ogle at the ivory thighs of model girls in see-through dresses on magazine covers. Even the village elders who used to have shy eyes are now buying those magazines behind our back. Some of those tasty legs have even walked up to our village monastery bookshelves.   

 I hope I will be receiving good news from you and your family as ever. Hope you will be visiting us again very soon…Mya May wishes for more chocolate…Whiter Shades of Grey for me please. Have a wonderful 2013! 

 Yours faithfully,

Jet Ni (Kyak Ni)
Zone- 24 (Gyobingone Village)
Myanmar (Burma)

 Ko Ko Thett


Funeral of Rugged Gold by ko ko thet (Sibyl)