Showing posts from April, 2008

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 .