Some say February 1st is the first day of Spring north of the equator. We woke to TV coverage of scenes in Burma where it’s Groundhog Day the day before Groundhog Day. The military have taken control yet again.
It may not have been inevitable but it was increasingly likely that the generals would resume their rule. The National League for Democracy has been under their control, if indirectly, since a share of power was returned to them in 2010. Isn’t it coercive control if the democratically elected representatives always worry that a coup could be used to resolve disagreements?
The military had written the new Burmese constitution. It names and prohibits Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming President. So a new office of State Counsellor was created. Daw Suu was appointed to the role and she promptly told the world she was above the president. The Tatmadaw (Burmese military) responded with standard military finesse – persecution, jailings and assassinations stifled the voices of the electorate and elected.
Fearing that the Tatmadaw’s influence was being reduced by the recent overwhelming democratic rejection of their participation in parliament, they struck.
They used to tell a very bad joke when I was in Burma. You were told to imagine walking through the jungle with just one bullet in your gun. You see a cobra rising on your right while a Chinaman watches from the left. The jocular advice was to shoot the Chinaman because you’d know what the snake will do. Some might ask what the Tatmadaw expect their northern neighbours will request in return for their support.
Coincidence or not, I have been writing recently about memories of Burma that resurfaced when I found an old diary. What I actually found was a Memory Minder from 1990. A leather-bound Executive Edition, according to the message emblazoned on some of the dividers.
Full marks to filoFAX and my wife who bought it for me. filoFax had produced a book that I carried around the world for nine years. I used it as an ever expanding personal bible which has preserved my testaments ever since. Short on detail, it’s full of memory keys. Two decades later, the memories are still recoverable from somewhere in the organic mess that is my brain.
As a personal organiser, the black filoFax really has stood the tests of times and locations. Searing desert heat in Niger, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Patagonia to name a few. Desiccation in the Bolivian altiplano. Wave thrown salt from the south of Argentina to the north of Nova Scotia. Tropical humidity and leather eating mould in Burma, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. A suitcase that travelled beyond Singapore and made it to Melbourne before returning to me in Rangoon, two months later. An object of intense interest on customs inspection in Pakistan.
It continues to be interesting to me to see what interested me in the 1990’s. For example, there are notes that range from the sublime to the ridiculous:
- Sophie’s World: Jostein Gaarder April ’96: ‘Socrates saw his task as helping people to ‘give birth’ to the correct insight’.
- Xmas ’97: ‘Happy birthday to Jesus’ – in tuxedos and cocktail dresses.