Showing posts from 2008

Venus, Jupiter and Moon over Bangkok

Venus, Jupiter and Moon smiled over Bangkok last night.

Burmese blogger sentenced to 20 years imprisonment

From Irrawaddy : Burmese blogger Nay Phone Latt, 28, was sentenced to 20 years and six months imprisonment.

Barack Obama's speech

Full text can be found here .

Abandoned, but not forgotten

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITWF) released the following 10-minute documentary about the plight of Burmese seamen in Thailand's fishing industry.

China Taps into Burma's Nickel Resources

William Boot reported in the Irrawaddy that Chinese companies would extract nickel in the Mandalay region. The military government has signed an agreement to allow the China Non-Ferrous Metal Group to develop mines in the Mandalay region to extract a massive 100,000 tonnes-plus per year. Burma's Ministry of Mines claims that the project will provide jobs for more than 1,000 Burmese , but observers note that China will be the main beneficiary . "It's reasonable to say that Burma is being systematically plundered for its natural wealth by its big neighbors, China, India and Thailand," said one analyst with an economic development agency in Thailand, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media. It's just sad that Burma, as always, will keep selling raw materials because it lacks human resource, technology and facilities to make refined products.

An eye for an eye?

Aung Zaw said in his commentaries at the Irrawaddy and the Wall Street Journal that the Irrawaddy web site and some other exiled news sites were under attack by the Burmese military junta. Even if his claim is true (it probably is), what he did not mention in his commentaries is that the military government is not the first to start this war. People's hatred of the current military government can be seen online since the early 90s. Back in the days of early and late 90s, Usenet newsgroups were the places where people shared information and ideas. It was before we know the web as we do today. Anti-junta Burmese activists fought with the pro-junta people in discussion groups such as soc.culture.burma . Some people just got tired of arguing and defaced on August 3, 2000. Eight years after that hacking episode, the Irrawaddy and exiled media groups were under attack. The sad truth of recent attacks is that the pro-government people are eight years behind in techn

Chinese milk powder in Burma

Htin Kyaw reported in the Myanmar Times last year that Chinese brands dominated milk powder market in Burma. I am sure that is still true now. The latest headlines in China and beyond are baby milk powder produced by 22 Chinese companies has been tainted with melamine, a toxic chemical. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is included in the list of countries where the products have been exported according to the following report from AFP . Chinese officials have found 22 companies produced baby milk tainted with a toxic chemical, state media said Tuesday, in a dramatic escalation of a scandal that has left two infants dead. Milk powder contaminated with a chemical used to make plastics has sickened more than 1,200 infants in a health scare that erupted last week and prompted a nationwide investigation into the extent of the problem. The contamination was originally thought contained to the Sanlu brand, with the company apologising on Monday for the scandal. The 22 companie


August went past so fast for me working with four dictionaries. Sigh..... Finally, here they are: Burmese dictionary Burmese dictionary is mainly based on the Myanmar-English dictionary published in 1993 by the Myanmar Language Commission and republished in 1996 by Dunwoody Press (ISBN 1-881265-47-1) Mon dictionary Mon dictionary is based on the Dictionary of Modern Spoken Mon by H.L. Shorto (1962, Oxford University Press) Shan dictionary Shan dictionary is based on the Shan-English dictionary by Sao Tern Moeng (ISBN 0-931745-92-6) Karen dictionary Karen dictionary is based on the Drum Karen-English Student dictionary published by the Drum Publication Group in 2008. If you do use them and find any errors or mistakes, please let me know.

Harry Shorto

From : Harry Leonard Shorto (1919-1995) was the world's acknowledged expert on the development of the Mon language over the last two millennia, and a leading scholar on Mon-Khmer and Austroasiatic linguistics in general. This site is devoted to presenting Shorto's published and unpublished work, as well as photographs taken by him in Burma in the mid-1950's. See here for Harry Shorto's pictures taken in Burma in the mid fifties. Mon-Khmer Comparative Dictionary The following is from Amazon : A Mon-Khmer Comparative Dictionary (MKCD) is the magnum opus of Professor Harry L. Shorto (1919-1995), formerly Professor of Mon-Khmer Studies in the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies, until his retirement in 1984. He is the author of two standard reference works, A Dictionary of Modern Spoken Mon (1962) and the highly respected author of the standard reference to epigraphic Mon: A Dictionary of the Mon Inscri

Learning English in the prison

From Washington Post : A Rangoon teacher jailed for five years in the aftermath of the uprising talked about his experiences in the prison. In prison, he said, "you know who your real friends are; you learn the meaning of 'friend.' We shared everything we had: our food and all our knowledge." He and two prison mates tore apart an old English primer, the only book that one of them had managed to have smuggled inside. They took turns reading and hiding the pieces, burying them in the soil outside their cells. From the pages he learned to speak English. The article is definitely worth a read.

Burmese unicode converter

I thought I would share this Perl script I have written to convert Burmese unicode from version 4.1 to 5.1. If any of you find it useful, please feel free to use it with GPL license. If you find any bugs, please let me know. Download it here .

Once upon a time at the Rangoon University

Dr. Kyaw Thet gave a lecture at the once-prestigious Rangoon University. The clip was taken from 1957 CBS Edward Murrow's "See It Now" program on "Burma, Buddhism, and Neutrality".

Those who dare

Today is Nelson Mandela 's 90th birthday! Let's listen to an old famous song to honor his birthday and sacrifices for South Africa. " Free Nelson Mandela " is a song written by Jerry Dammers and performed by the band "The Special A.K.A." The song was to protest the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela by South Africa's apartheid government. Free, Free, Free, Nelson Mandela Free Nelson Mandela Twenty-one years in captivity His shoes too small to fit his feet His body abused but his mind is still free Are you so blind that you cannot see I say Free Nelson Mandela I'm begging you Free Nelson Mandela He pleaded the causes of the ANC Only one man in a large army Are you so blind that you cannot see Are you so deaf that you cannot hear his plea Free Nelson Mandela I'm begging you Free Nelson Mandela Twenty-one years in captivity Are you so blind that you cannot see Are you so deaf that you cannot hear Are you so dumb that you cannot spe

Bizarre remarks

From AFP Burma's police chief, Khin Yee's remark about the arrests of some activists: "They were not arrested. They are just being questioned." More remarks regarding deported journalists: "Some people enter the country with tourist visas and don't act like tourists." "Some people overstep the boundaries by working as journalists. Those who overstep the boundaries were deported. Actually, we should take legal action against them, but we didn't do anything to them." "About six people were deported because they overstepped the boundaries."


From New York Times regarding Barack Obama's victory for the Democratic nomination: "We as black people now have hope that we have never, ever had," Mr. Sam-Brew [an immigrant from Ghana] said. "I have new goals for my little girl. She can't give me any excuses because she's black."

Stand by themselves

Aung Hla Tun reports for Reuters : Myanmar's junta lashed out at offers of foreign aid on Thursday, criticizing donors' demands for access to the Irrawaddy delta and saying Cyclone Nargis' 2.4 million victims could "stand by themselves". "The people from Irrawaddy can survive on self-reliance without chocolate bars donated by foreign countries," the Kyemon newspaper said in a Burmese-language editorial. The Burmese people can always "stand by themselves" according to the junta. It doesn't matter how poor and helpless they are. The government just does not care.

Too little, too late

First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up, because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me. by Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1945 Parents Grief Turns to Rage at Chinese Officials From  New York Times : Bereaved parents whose children were crushed to death in their classrooms during the earthquake in Sichuan Province have turned mourning ceremonies into protests in recent days, forcing officials to address growing political repercussions over shoddy construction of public schools . The crowd grew more agitated. Some parents said local officials had known for years that the school was unsafe but refused to take action. Others recalled that two hours passed before rescue workers showed up; even then, they stopped working at 10 p.m.


Quote of the day To be very blunt, Asean is really just a club of generally un-enlightened regimes, headed by autocrats, feudalists, state-paternalists and militarists all sharing the worst strain of pathetic Asian paternalism. Zarni, a former Burmese activist who founded the Free Burma Campaign in the US

Diary by Andrew Kirkwood and unsung heroes in Burma

Burma diary - the relief effort Andrew Kirkwood, Burma director of Save the Children, has been keeping a diary of his life in Rangoon in the days following Cyclone Nargis. It's a good source coming from someone on the ground. Read his diary  here and  here . Burmese people helping each other out A few days ago, I wrote about DIY , in which I elaborated how we, the Burmese, have learned to struggle through hardships by being creative and innovative. That spirit is seen in the hard work of volunteers in reaching out to the cyclone victims. From the Irrawaddy : "Since I don't have the means to provide cash or kind, I contribute labor by helping distribute relief goods," said Nyi Nyi, a 21-year-old university student. "Whenever we distribute rice and clothing, I can see the faces of the cyclone victims light up. It is very rewarding to see them smile." "They are true humanitarian heroes," said Bridget Gardner, the International Red Cro


Photo from LA Times : the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis LA Times said: MAKING DO: Using basic hand tools, two men in Yangon, like many Myanmar residents, are performing much of the cleanup work themselves for lack of foreign or domestic assistance. DIY Way of Life We, the Burmese, are used to solving problems on our own because we all know our government does not care about us. Almost everything in Burma is DIY (Do It Yourself), to borrow a geeky terms. Electricity In our town in Southern Burma, the electricity from the government is not reliable at all (We honor Thomas Alva Edison every day by staying in the dark) Guess what the solution of the community is? A well-to-do family would buy a generator and install power line -- only the home-quality one -- to each house in the street, who wants the electricity. The family runs the generator, let's say, from 6:00 PM till 9:00 PM. The family then collects the fees every two weeks, based on the number of fluoresce

Emma Lazarus's The New Colossus

Emma Lazarus (July 22, 1849 - November 19, 1887) was an American poet. She wrote "The New Colossus" in 1883, that is now engraved on a bronze plaque on a wall in the base of the Statue of Liberty. The New Colossus Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Paul Auster wrote that " Bartholdi's gigantic effigy was originally intended as a monument to the pr

Burmese-English dictionary

I have been busy working with the visual input system for our dictionaries. Check out the beta version for Burmese at

A voter's experience in the Burma's constitution referendum

A funny account of a voter's experience in the police state of Singapore. [a first-hand account in Burmese]

Those who dare

The lights had gone down, the film was about to begin, and the young Thai couple were cosily ensconced in the big Bangkok cinema when the popcorn started flying. Most of it landed on the woman, hurled by a man to her right. Soon he was slapping her with a rolled-up film flyer, and screaming at her and her boyfriend to get out of the cinema. As the rest of the audience joined in, jeering, throwing water bottles and urging on the assailant, the two made their retreat. The incident reached its climax this week when the boyfriend, Chotisak Onsoong, was charged with an offence that could land him in jail for 15 years. His alleged crime was simple: during the playing of the royal anthem which precedes all films in Thai cinemas, he had remained in his seat. Mr Chotisak, a 27-year old businessman and political activist, is the latest person to be prosecuted under Thailands stringent lèse majesté laws, which make it a crime to defame, insult or threaten the King, Queen or heir to the thr

People as tourist magnets By Christiane Oelrich

The residents of the village of long-necked women in northern Thailand say they feel like prisoners in a human zoo. The government says that is absurd. Kayan Tayar, Mae Hong Son (dpa) - When Mu La talks, her voice sounds muffled because of the 27 heavy brass rings that the 44-year-old wears around her neck. But the message from the refugee from Burma - who lives in northern Mae Hong Son province in a mock village purpose-built for tourists - is crystal-clear: "We want to leave here, never mind where to, only away from here. We feel like prisoners." Visitors call the village a "human zoo," but Thailand's government rejects the term as "absurd." Mu La is a member of an ethnic group whose women wear brass rings around their necks as status symbols. For them, the longer the neck, the more beautiful the woman. Their rings can weigh 10 kilogrammes or more, and over the years, the weight pushes down the collar bones and shoulders, making necks appea

Illegal Burmese Labor Fuels Thailand Economy by William Boot

The deaths of more than 50 Burmese migrants last week in a sealed container truck transporting them to illicit jobs in southern Thailand starkly illustrates the growing reliance Thailand places on unofficial labor to help run its economy. The Thai authorities acknowledge that there may be 1 million Burmese migrant workers living in Thailand, yet Thailands Migrant Assistance Program recently recorded that only 367,834 were registered with work permits in 2007. Various NGOs campaigning for the rights of abused minorities and refugees say the number of illegal Burmese in Thailand is closer to 1.5 million. Many of them are children. The Migrant Worker Group, a coalition of NGOs pressing for human rights, documents many instances of abuse by employers. The MWG estimates that illegal Burmese laborers, especially in the booming construction industry, are paid up to 50 percent less than Thai unskilled labor and have no rights. Migrant workers are very badly regarded and very badly tr

A boom at the border By William Sparrow

I went to a "mom and pop" store for cigarettes. A very young woman was handling the transaction; thin, long hair, long legs, pretty face with no makeup. I wondered if she was 18. As she turned and descended into the dark shop, an elderly women, presumably a relative, emerged from the shadows. She lunged from her seat, sensing opportunity. "You want she?" the woman asked, meaning "her" - the young woman. I was shocked and caught off-guard and couldn't respond. In the silence, the elder woman continued "You want daughter? You take," she said, pointing. "Have hotel. Fifteen dollar." "No," I said firmly. With that, the old woman scowled and slunk back to her seat. The shop girl never met my eyes as she handed over the cigarettes. Still, I perceived a small smile. A sex slave working as a shop girl; a young woman being sold by her own mother. It was a sad situation that I won't soon forget. Sadly, scenes lik

Politicizing Olympics

The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude. George Orwell said those words in his 1946 essay " Why I write ." Pro-Chinese governments, including Burma, and the Chinese government have been saying that olympics should not be politicized. [Chinese] Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang says the Beijing Olympics is a grand event both for China and for the whole world, and that the Games should not be politicized. The statement by Qin Gang is in itself a political one, describing a "grand event" showcasing the "rich and powerful" China. Olympics have long been used by various governments to promote their ideology. Hitler used the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany as a tool to  promote Nazi ideology  by allowing only members of the "Aryan race" to compete for Germany. Looking as far back as ancient Olympics events, winning athletes were heroes who put their home towns on the map. Winn

Ludu Daw Amar's Funeral

Ko Hla has pictures of Ludu Daw Amar's funeral .

Web server upgrade

My site was down for a few days because of the server upgrade. I am still fixing some problems after the server is up again. Please bear with me :) I am sorry for the inconvenience if you receive some of the old posts, which were accidentally pushed up to recent dates during the upgrade process.

Thai Prime Minister's stupid comments regarding Burma

"Killings and suppressions are normal there, but we have to understand the facts," said Samak. "And Senior Than Shwe practices meditation. He said he prays in the morning ... and the country has been in peace and order." The Nation The Irrawaddy

Psalm 137

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?

Gambari in Burma

Kyaw San's words to Gambari Kyaw San is the information minister. "We are very astonished and dismayed for your involvement in this matter [releasing a letter on Aung San Suu Kyi's behalf in November]," Kyaw Hsan was quoted in the newspaper as saying. "Sadly, you went beyond your mandate. Hence, the majority of people are criticizing it as a biased act. Some even believe that you prepared the statement in advance and released it after coordinating with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," he said. "The statement was dangerous to the degree of hurting the prevailing peace and stability of the nation," the minister said. Read more

In Myanmar, a resistance hero on the run

"Somewhere in the dilapidated city of Yangon is a man on the run since August last year. He has sheltered in over 10 homes so far. But he expects to continue avoiding arrest by Myanmar's dreaded military or intelligence forces. When Tun Myint Aung shifts from one safehouse to another, he goes armed with two items that have become indispensable. They are a mobile phone and a portable, Chinese-made radio, to listen to such anti-junta stations like the Democratic Voice of Burma, based in Oslo, Norway." Read more at Asia Times

China importing cheap and unsafe materials to Burma?

Most of the Adidas and Nike shoes I bought in the US were made in China. The quality was good, at least, because of the quality control imposed by the US government. However, the products imported to Burma from China are dirt-cheap. There is also no quality control on both sides of the border. People with low income needs cheap and affordable materials. The following quotes are from Fires Continue to Plague Mandalay . A Burmese engineer now working in Singapore explained that the frequent occurrence of fires in Burma is largely due to the poor quality of materials used in the country. There is no quality control by authorities in Burma, and most of the electrical materials that Burmese people use are imported from China. These are very cheap and don't last very long, he said.

Injured Burmese from Mae Sot bomb blast detained and sent back to Burma

Eleven persons who were injured in a blast apparently caused by some kind of homemade bomb at the Mae Sot dump on Thailands border were themselves detained and then sent back to Burma on February 26 because they didnt have ID cards. Read more at Ratchasima

Mon National Day


Blessed are the meek --- the adventure of an unknown girl on a Sunday

It was a cloudy Sunday morning and humid outside as I got off from the sky train. I was on my way to Bangkok Christ Church. The church was founded by Burmese people who were working in Bangkok at various professions -- from housemaids to university professors. It was a hang-out for many Burmese who wanted to get away from work-related stresses. They wanted to be together with God and friends, seeking peace, serenity and a sense of family and friends in a land away from home and loved ones. Many Burmese came to church as Sunday was their day off. It was a relief for them to be away from construction sites where they worked and lived, from houses where they worked as maids, and from schools where they studied. Meeting and mixing with people who shared the same faith but came from different backgrounds was also a great experience of coming to church. My friend, Saw Chan Nyein Aung, was no exception. He was on a business trip to Bangkok and wanted to come to church. His Singapo

Burmese man slipped through the airport security and onto tarmac at Bangkok International Airport

A man from Myanmar who claimed to be a convict on the run was arrested on the tarmac at Bangkok's international airport after having slipped through security, authorities said Friday. Police said the man, who identified himself as 28-year-old Zu Aung, was found Tuesday aboard a Turkish Airlines jet .... Read more . This is a sad news, actually. It shows that ordinary Burmese citizens are not happy with their own country and are trying desperately to get out in search of better lives. Yet, they end up in jails in neighboring countries. Outgoing Myanmar envoy plans retirement life in RP And educated people do not even want to retire in Burma. How sad it is? The outgoing ambassador of the Union of Myanmar, Thaung Tun, said that he and his family plans to stay in the country [Philippine] once he retires. Read more .

New Year Wish

Greetings from across the ocean! I just want to wish you a happy new year! I am sending my greetings only now because I don't want to compete for your attention during around Christmas! The year of 2007 went past fine for me. Most of 2007 was spent writing my Master's thesis proposal. I am working on the task of aligning English sentences with their equivalent Thai translations using various approaches in computer science. (I don't want to elaborate on that :) I am still working at the Center for Research in Computational Linguistics ( ) in Bangkok. I am learning so much about the field that I want to go on to a PhD program. If I ever do a PhD, I would like to work on Burmese word segmentation. I also travelled to Chiang Mai (a northern Thai town). I visited Saw Htaw and Kelly, my college friends, who are now living there and working for the Summer Institute of Linguistics. I had a wonderful time there with them and their adorable son, Jeremiah.