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. hotmail.com, mail.yahoo.com, and many other web-based, free e-mails are still not accessible. Burmese news site such as
http://www.irrawaddy.org 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

203.81.71.111 (cache-dial.bagan.net.mm) 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