Monday, December 26, 2005


Merry X'mas to you all. I know it's a late wish. But I wasn't home since Christmas. :-) So no online access. I managed to go without the Internet for 2 days, I guess. :-) I went window shopping on December 24 with my boss. We did buy a Mac mini as I said in my previous diary entry. We were around the new shopping mall. A lot of Thai people were also doing window shopping.

On Christmas day, I went to Bangkok Christ Church and met some of my BARS students who visited Bangkok from Vientiane, and Yangon. They were here for vacation. After church, I went to visit their dorm. We had lunch together. Good Burmese food. We then went to Calvary Church at Sukhumvit Soi 2 in the late afternoon. After church, we went to watch a movie at the theater. We watched King Kong. It was an exciting movie. The movie basically compared New York city with the jungle, human beings with animals. The cost was 120 bahts a person. It was only $3. Compared to the States, it was very cheap. Don't you love being in Asia? I do :-)

At Calvary church, there were a lot of Burmese. I was wondering how many people from Burma were outside of Burma. One of my BARS students wished me merry Christmas from Chiang Mai.

I also met Joey Tun, who lived with us while studying in the States. His family was in Bangkok for Christmas vacation. I spent Sunday night with my friends hanging out with them and eating Burmese food with them.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Somboon Chungprampree

Today, I helped Somboon Chungprampree, my friend, to set up his new laptop.
He is an activist working for Spirit in Education Movement organized by Sulak. He has been
in and out of Burma many times.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Doug Cooper, my colleage, mentor, boss, and I registered today. SEALang stands for South East Asian Languages. Right now, only Thai is up and running. It's not even completely finished yet. You can see Burmese, Karen, Mon and Shan without any links. Please be patient. It will be coming in a few months or years :-) That's what we will be busy with in a couple years from now. We already finished some work on Burmese-English dictionary. We have to polish it a bit before we put it online. I hope one of the Unicode fonts will be stable enough to use online. Every data in the Burmese-English dictionary is in Unicode encoding now. We used Perl to convert the dictionary data from Chitwin font to WinInnwa font. We then used TECkit converter to convert from WinInnwa to Unicode Encoding. Keith Stribley helped us with conversion to Unicode. In our testing environment, we use Padauk font to display. The problem of Padauk is you need a special build of Firefox with Graphite.

I will have to figure out a way to present it to you if none of the Unicode fonts is mature enough. What I will probably do is try to convert the HTML to PNG image on the fly and then present it to the user. I will just have to wait until one of the Unicode fonts is stable and usable. If you have any suggestions, please send me an email. :-)

Here is our SEALang project link: (note: Internet Explorer won't work properly with our site because of its lack of compliance to standard)

Burmese will be up in the spring of 2007 if you look at the schedule. So stay tuned :-)

The above site is hosted on my Linux machine which I maintain and use daily, which I am using right now to update this blog :-)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Blogs I have been reading these days

I have to say I am glad to see many people from Burma blogging. Back in 1998 when I was in the States, there were not many web sites about Burma except by the activists, such as Back then, the Internet was just starting to grow up. I remember using a very old version of Netscape to go online from my Alma Mater, Indian-Purdue University.

The Internet has come a long way since then. So are web sites from Burma. My web site has been up and running since May 1998 and I can't believe time flies whether you are having fun or not ;-)

My old web site was at the student web server from my school. It no longer exists because I am not a student there any more.

Dr. Than Tun, the great historian, died today.

He is a great scholar. He came to MIT once to talk about how to do research on history. He commented about censorship. I am sorry we lost a great scholar of Burma.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Proxies that are still accessible from Burma

Recently, BaganNet, the only ISP in Burma, has updated its filtering software and many proxies that have been used by young folks in Burma have been banned. Here are some that are still openly accessible for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Arriving in Bangkok

I arrived in Bangkok today. I started surfing the Internet with free and high-speed access. No more proxy services needed to read the Irrawaddy. Isn't freedom of information a great thing? We sure need that in Burma.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Old computers

I spent all day reinstalling Windows XP on a computer at the Myanmar Christian Fellowship of the Blind. The computer I was working on was quite old. It was Pentium 3 (300 MHz) with 128 MB of RAM. Hard disk had 20 GB of space. I made 2 partitions, 10 GB each. Windows XP ran fine on this. It ran a bit slow with Norton Antivirus 2005. I decided not to have any antivirus program since they don't have Internet access to be exposed to the world of
virus and trojans anyways.

Here in Burma, we made old computers work with pirated Windows software. Linux is not a big thing because most people don't have reliable Internet connections. Nobody sells software for Linux. However, we can buy any versions of Windows, Adobe Suite, AutoCAD, Macromedia DreamWeaver and any software you name it. It cost only 500 kyats (50 cents) a piece. I love Burma. All local Christian organizations use pirated software, which cost 50 cents a piece. (Note: The maximum salary of a professor at a seminary is $20 a month.)

Mehm Thaung Tun, the president of Mon Baptist Bible School, using a computer donated by Friends of Burma. ( The computer has pirated Windows XP installed. Microsoft Office XP, Adobe PageMaker, Photoshop and Macromedia DreamWeaver, Visual Studio and many other software are all pirated copies.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Kachin Environment Report banned by KIO (Kachin Independent Organization)

KIO banned the environment report saying it tarnished the KIO image. Is it as bad as any repressive ruling class?

Ceasefire Groups Defiant

Ethnic ceasefire groups in Burma will not surrender their arms to the junta, despite the government's stated claim that all such groups must disarm, said officials from three ethnic ceasefire groups.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Myanmar being slashdotted :-) for its Internet censorship

In the world of computer scientists/geeks, being 'slashdotted' is an honor :-) Today, an article concerning Myanmar's Internet is being slashdotted :-) Isn't it a fun thing to be in Burma? :-)

Myanmar slashdotted

Study Says Software Makers Supply Tools to Censor Web

Fortinet, a company in Sunnyvale, California, is supplying filtering software to censor the Internet in Burma

Bus trip home

I came home from Myay Ni Gone at about 6:00 in the evening. There were a lot of people at the bus-stop. When I got on a bus, it was crowded and I decided to go to the back of the bus. The conductor of the bus shouting at everybody to go to the back. He wants to have more passengers. A poor mother was sitting on the floor, breast-feeding her baby. A father was holding his baby in his arms. The scenes I would miss if I take a taxi or if I am out of the country. The general public of Burma and their daily lives are very interesting. It would be both disappointing and rewarding at the same time if you take a bus during rush hours.

The following picture was taken from Times magazine. I don't remember who took the picture.

The dream is Honda, but the reality is the bus (Photo source: unknown)

Neil and Diana Sowards, my host-parents, took the following picture in Burma

Sunday, September 25, 2005

BARS Baccalaureate Service

BARS baccalaureate service was this evening at the Kachin Baptist Church. It was a nice worship service. Students were all smiling and most of them were with their parents.

OJ (one of the teachers) and Me

Graduating seniors and Lwin Moe

They are my students, whom Neil Sowards and I taught "Entrepreneurship."

Standing: from left to right: Mun Shawng Tsin Nan, Nang Awng, Z. Kai Nu, N. Seng Ra, Lwin Moe, Roi Awng, Lum Tse, Htu Raw.

Sitting: From left to right: Awng Ba, H. Tang Mai.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies

BARS senior worship service, dinner and senior night programs were today.
It was fun.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Mawlamyine Trip with BARS students

I went on an excursion with BARS religion students to Moulmein (Mawlamyine), Mudon, Than Byu Zayet, Set Se and Kyaik Kame. It was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures.

That's how we travel in Burma :-)

One of the students, Elizabeth, sleeping under the seat on the train. :-)

A house on the rice field

Girls selling drinking water

A girl selling water melon

Bullock Cart on the beach

Friday, August 12, 2005

Purdue Degree

While I was going through my old files, I found this piece of paper from Purdue for my 4 years' effort.

My Purdue Degree

My Graduation Day back in May 2002

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Birthday Thansgivings

I went to Si Si Htun's house for her birthday thanksgivings. She just graduated from BARS program at MIT.

I had a chance to talk to Saya Augurlion who just came back from the States after finishing his Master in Theology from Pittsburg Theological Seminary. He also had to go through some reverse culture shock.

He gave chocolates to the immigration officer and cigarette cartoons to the customs officer at the airport.

I went to the dinner hosted by the Myanmar Christian Fellowship of the Blind (MCFB). I was involved, in early days, in the project to convert Burmese fonts into Burmese Brey.

Dinner to honor Zaw Htut from MyanmarsNet and Kyaw Lin from Natural Language Processing for their work to convert Burmese fonts into Burmese Brey. Left-right: Lwin Moe, Kyaw Lin, Zaw Htut, Htay Lwin, U Thein Lwin (standing).

U Thein Lwin, the secretary of the Myanmar Christian Fellowship of the Blind (MCFB), giving a speech during dinner

Unlicensed Car Crackdown

The government has really cracked down unlicensed cars all over the country. The car in the picture was imported from Thailand through Three Pagodas border pass. People in Mon state were using those cars with fake licenses. The offical price of that car in Rangoon would be US $ 100,000, which is ridiculous and only the richest of the rich can afford. However, the price of that car smuggled in through the border would be US $ 10,000, which it should be. The control of import license is causing the jump in price for cars. The powerful are abusing the system.

Cars were smuggled in through Thailand and China border towns, such as:
  • Three Pagodas in Mon State
  • Mya Wa De in Kayin (Karen) State
  • Muse in Northern Shan State
  • Thachileik in Southern Shan State
  • Laiza and Mei Ja Yang in Kachin State
Lwin Moe with an unlicensed SUV :-)

Somebody was joking that Burma is the most expensive place in the world for:
  • Phones (US $ 1,000-2,000)
  • Automobiles
  • Prawns (Shrimps)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ex-political prisoner, Dr. Khin Zaw Win, said the following:

The situation has changed a little bit. I think it is getting slightly more open. I am saying what I think. You can call me stupid as I studied Political Science. I wrote not only about Political Science, but also about the Burmese Constitution, they became more frightened. What I want to say is, I want more Burmese to attend and participate in the international organisations and universities. I want their eyes to be more open. We have been cut off from the outside world around 40 years. We are quite behind in academic outlook, academic standard and the like. As you know, is there a Political Science in Burmese Universities? Before 1962, it is said that Political Science was taught by History departments. During the Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) time, La[n]zin Youth studies political science for their propaganda purpose. If you want to have progress in a country's university education system, you can't leave aside and omit this subject, or be afraid of it. To say it openly, because of this vacuum, there are some outdated political views. I dare say it. Our mode of thinking is outdated. We are unable to think in a modern way. Our views are outdated. I want to urge young and middle-age[d] people to continue studying.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Back home

I went home to my parents. We are having electricity every other day. It's not bad. Used to be worse :-)

My house

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Change in Burma

The only change I have found this time coming back to Burma is the change of the "Access Denied" message from the country's sole Internet Service Provider, BaganNet. It changes in color --- from a colorful green and yellow to a bright red one.,, and many other web-based, free e-mails are still not accessible. Burmese news site such as still remains blocked. It seems the users and the ISP are having fun playing Tom and Jerry. These kids in Burma probably know better than me how to bypass Bagan's firewall to get the information they want.

Gmail banned

Gmail accessible using a different method (https).

Yahoo Mail banned

Proxy server configuration in my Firefox web browser ( is a proxy server for dial-up users.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Rangoon International Airport

I flew back to Burma this morning. Everything seemed to work fine at the airport. I just told them I was a student. The immigration officers asked me some questions about my passport. He was suspicious that I was working abroad. My passport was renewed in Washington D.C. while I was a student in the States. I renewed it again in Burma before I left for Laos last December. I renewed it again in Bangkok a few days ago. He was suspicious that I couldn't be a student for that long since 1998. :-)

I told him I travelled for research purposes, and he let me go. I had to wait for a long time to get my suitcases. I went through custom officials and one of the officers checked my backpack. It all went fine because I had books in my backpack. Lucky enough, she didn't find my laptop in it. Come on, what's wrong with bringing in a laptop into the country? :-) Even in Lao, they didn't search me like that.

At least, I had a better experience than my last time coming back from the States. Nobody asked chocolates from me this time :-)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Stopped by police

This is so exciting. Today, on my way to a friend's house, I was stopped by two guys who appear to be policemen. They wanted to see my passport. Unfortunately, I didn't have my passport with me. They asked me if I could speak Thai. I answered them 'No,' and insisted to speak English. Since I didn't have my passport with me, they wanted to arrest me because they thought that I was illegal. The only IDs I had with me were Indiana driver's license and Indiana-Purdue University student ID. I showed them those and insisted on speaking English even though they didn't seem to understand me very well. These stupid policemen thought that I was from India because of my IDs, which they read 'India' for 'Indiana.' Then, I called my friend because that was what these guys wanted me to do so he could bring my passport. Although he was a Burmese, I only spoke to him in English on the phone. I asked him to come see me. Just before I finished my conversation, these guys told me I could go. They were just getting nervous because I was speaking fluent English on the phone. I kid you not my heart was also pounding and there was a peak of hormonal activities in synapses in my brain's gray matter. I instantly understood the fear of Burmese migrant workers and how police are living off these poor workers' earnings. It's basically about Bahts 3,000 -- 4,000 per head as a bribery to get him/her out. Thai police are so corrupted that they live off the poor's hard-earned money. These migrant workers lived in fear in Burma and they still have to in Bangkok. I wonder when they will be able to live and work peacefully.

In addition, Burmese government is also not recognizing these problems and is not looking for solutions whereas Laos and Cambodia are issuing passports for migrant workers from their countries so they can live and work legally in Thailand. At least, they recognized the problems and provided a solution.

Worse thing is Thai media really demonizes Burmese people. In many Thai soap operas, they often portray Burmese housemaids speaking Thai with a funny accent. As I learned more and more Thai, I am understanding what they are saying on TV about the Burmese. I don't like Thailand because of their prejudice and discrimination but I am going to live here for a long time and I am sure God wants me to understand the fear of my people and the situations they are in.

The bottom line is never speak Thai to Thai police. Speak English because Thai people want to kiss Europeans' or Americans' ass in general -- excuse my language but that's how I really felt while I lived eight weeks in Bangkok. That is true because people treated me differently if I told them I was from Burma, or I was from Burma and, later in the conversation, I graduated from an American university. Just the word 'America' sounds like 'honey from the rock' to them.  

If we look at the following map, we will have a better sense of why people from Taunggyi, Loikaw, Pa-an and Dawei area are working in Thailand.

Myanmar (Burma) in South-east Asia

Friday, June 24, 2005


It's been a while I updated my diary. I am busy programming and learning Burmese (yes, I am learning Burmese :-) I have been working at the Center of Research for Computational Linguistics. I have a lot to say about Burma and more. Later. I am going back to Burma in the first week of July. Before then, I will update my diary and ALOHA.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Burmese blogger, Dathana

Here is another blogger with the same interest as me :-) --- technology, Burma, and freedom.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Leaving Laos

I left from Lao today. I finished my contract with Digital Divide Data ( We had farewell on the 12th.

Grace singing, Thongchangh and Lwin Moe

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Freedom of Dress?

I know many university students in Burma don't want to wear uniforms :-) Here is what Bogyoke Aung San and U Thant debated about the dress code in school from the New Era Journal.

At my old school, Yenangyaung, this system of uniform dress is not foisted upon us; the teachers first set the example and we follow it voluntarily. In my case, the idea of brotherhood is an ordered thing to me after I have adopted the uniform dress of Pinni, and I come to know only then that it is not a social stigma on anybody to wear Pinni. I remember how my friends and myself paraded together with our heads held up high wearing the newly adopted uniform clothes in going out for boating, to football matches, examination halls and on National day. We didn't then think that our personal freedom had tremendously impaired. And this brings me to say again that freedom of dress is not essential to the development of personal freedom in the school children.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Water Festival

Water Festival (Myanmar New Year) is coming up. Laos, Thailand and Cambodia also have the same water festival. At DDD, they are having some kind of religious ceremony to have good luck for the next year. Monks are chanting and the staff dripping water for sharing their merits.

Friday, April 08, 2005


I donated $1,000 to Digital Divide Data as part of my contract today. For the first time in my life, this is a huge donation for social mission. :-)

Saturday, April 02, 2005


On March 29, we went to the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. I was surprised to learn that my boss couldn't get into the office. She was told that she couldn't because she was wearing pants. She was supposed to wear traditional skirts.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

This is what I received in my spam e-mails

International Thinking at its Best!

Question: What is the truest definition of Globalization?

Answer: Princess Diana's death.

Question: How come?


An English princess

with an Egyptian boyfriend

crashes in a French tunnel,

driving a German car

with a Dutch engine,

driven by a Belgian who was drunk

on Scottish whisky, (check the bottle before you change the spelling)

followed closely by Italian Paparazzi,

on Japanese motorcycles;

treated by an American doctor,

using Brazilian medicines.

This is sent to you by an American,

using Bill Gates's technology,

and you're probably reading this on your computer,

that uses Taiwanese chips,

and a Korean monitor,

assembled by Bangladeshi workers

in a Singapore plant,

transported by Indian lorry-drivers,

hijacked by Indonesians,

unloaded by Sicilian longshoremen,

and trucked to you by Mexican illegals.....

That, my friends, is Globalization.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Lives in Burma

I have been thinking about lives in Burma and now in Laos. I really had fun the last two years living in Burma after my studies in the States. Some experiences, such as unreliable electricity, were frustrating. Overall, I loved being in Burma. If you have been reading my diary, I complainted a lot about Burma. But it's because I was going through a reverse culture shock. There are still a lot of good things even now. Don't get me wrong if you are reading my complaints the last two years :-)

Here is a picture of me and my students from the BARS program at the Myanmar Institute of Theology last year. We went to a church in Rangoon, Burma to talk about our mission trip to villages in Karen state. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Min Ko Naing

I never knew that Burmese most prominent student leader, Min Ko
, had relatives in Mudon, Mon State, where I was from and my
parents still live. Min Ko Naing spent 16 years in prison for his leading role
in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Laos Wedding

Last Saturday and Sunday, I had a chance to go to Laos weddings. Some of my students from DDD got married. It was fun at the wedding party.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Do our prejudices know no bounds?

Bangkok Post, January 13, 2005


Whatever the colour of our skin, we all look the same when our bodies decompose. That is what the array of corpses at Wat Yanyao informs us, the living. So why the fuss about our racial or ethnic differences?

No matter how rich or poor we are, the loss of our loved ones is equally overwhelming in our hearts. Since we are all the same, don't all the victims and survivors of the Dec 26 tsunami deserve equal assistance? Sadly, the Thai authorities do not think so, not when it comes to migrant workers from Burma. As we Thais celebrate the massive outpouring of our own generosity for the tsunami victims _ particularly for the foreign tourists, the country has totally ignored the plight of poor migrant workers who, like us, lost family members and their source of income when the killer waves hit the Andaman coast.

Like us, their lives have been shattered. But we do not recognise their deaths and their losses. We do not give them relief aid. Worse, we punish those who survived the disaster by deporting them to a precarious life back in Burma, which refuses to accept its own citizens. What has become of us?

There are more than 120,000 registered manual laborers from Burma in the fisheries, construction, rubber and other industries in Ranong, Phangnga, Phuket, Krabi, Satun and Trang provinces. The real number of migrant workers could be at least twice that figure.

Thousands of these people are believed to have perished when the tidal waves hit those provinces. According to survivors' accounts, at least 1,000 are missing in Phangnga alone. These survivors believe many of their loved ones are lying unattended at Wat Yanyao among the unidentified. But they are too scared to go and check and collect the bodies for fear of being arrested and deported.

The fear is well-grounded.

Thanks to the media and nationalist history, the general Thai public harbor a deep prejudice against the Burmese as a ruthless and untrustworthy people who destroyed our once glorious capital and now steal our jobs, rob their employers and bring us contagious diseases. Right after the tsunami, an actor who served as a rescue volunteer told the media he suspected a group of looters he saw were migrant Burmese workers. The mere suspicion awakened the deep prejudice against the Burmese.

To confirm these suspicions, the police immediately arrested a group of migrant workers accused of looting. The media proclaimed the Burmese were out to hit us again in out time of tragedy.

Instead of sending the accused to court, as is their basic right, the migrants were immediately deported. And then the authorities began rounding up all migrant workers with the excuse that the crackdown was necessary to prevent further crimes during this time of emergency.

Who cares if these people are registered workers legally entitled to the same assistance as all Thai workers? Who cares if deporting them will aggravate their plight? Who cares if will they face danger in Burma, which was also ravaged by the tsunami? According to local NGOs, more than 1,000 migrant workers have been deported. When Koh Song in Burma refused to accept them, the officials reportedly left them to their own devices on nearby islands.

To avoid deportation, many survivors have fled to the mountains where they are hungry, afraid and jobless. Is that why some have turned to theft? Many Thais agree with the deportations, saying the scarce resources available during the emergency should be for Thais alone.

The foreign tourists may applaud Thai generosity, but the tales our neighbors tell their children and grandchildren about us Thais will be much less flattering. These will be tales of racism, cruelty and heartlessness. They will be tales of a deep prejudice that could not be moved even by a natural disaster that highlighted the transience of life, the sameness of humanity and the futility of all prejudice.

When will we ever learn?

Sanitsuda Ekachai is Assistant Editor, Bangkok Post.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

A Solo Protestor in Rangoon

An excerpt from the article:

The Boston, Massachusetts native said he had a sign next to him which read: "Buddha says, 'Quality of sidewalk and quality of government is same thing.'" The capital's sidewalks, like much of its infrastructure, are crumbling.

People fleeing their home

What is going on in the border? Check this article out.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Tsunami situation in Burma

Here is an e-mail from a friend in Burma.

This is just to inform you about our present situation about the Tsunami disaster. As you have already known on 26th December. There was an underwater earthquake in the India ocean causing lost of lives and distructions to many people.

Here in Myanmar too, we faced this disaster and the areas which were hit by the Tsunami were attached. The latest news tell us that (59)people died, (517) household distroyed and more than (2745) lost their farms and fisher men were homeless. They all need shelter, blankets, clothings, food, medical treatment and drinking water. Emergency relief activities were done by the government, local authority, Red cross society. Many well wishers make donations for that area people. But still help is needed endlessly. Drugs on cholera, fever and dysentry are most wanted by the local doctor who are active in medical treatment. Clean drincking water is a demand because all the deep wells and natural lakes are over whelmed by salt water. The wind is strong and so people need shelter and protection. Housing constructions are urgently in process.

I'm be coming to Ashram for the Advance GLT and then only I will being able to give more information about the matter.

See you soon.

With thanks,
Saw Naing

Here are some pictures of Tsunami in Thailand from a web site


  • ALOHA 19 (January 10, 2005)

  • Saturday, January 01, 2005

    Happy New Year!

    I went to the Buddha Park in Xieng Khouang and the Friendship Bridge in Dongphosy.

    Buddah Park is situated about 25 minutes drive outside of the Vientiane city. Although not an old temple, it is nevertheless fascinating for its huge structures that combine Buddhist and Hindu Philosophies. Here are some pictures:

    We also visited Friendship bridge. It was built by the help from Australia. The Friendship bridge was named so to illustrate the friendship among three different nations -- Laos, Thailand and Australia.

    Here are some more pictures from around the village.

    Buying Cassava on the street

    Our Laos lunch with sticky rice

    Grandfather and grandson in a village