Sunday, September 30, 2007

Myanmar Update ... 3, the whole world is watching

Extreme left photo:from feedblitz com. Sr General Tan Shwe alias" the Castro of Burma" . From most net accounts he was the one who gave the order, the "OK" to shoot monks, torture monks, jail monks and other heinous crimes not just recently but eversince he and his sycophants came into power illegally.
Photo of junta soldiers: from New Paper / Reuters
Their professional soldiers do not look like this at all. These discrepit looking characters look more like an unruly mob themselves. Some wear face scarves while others do not. They are likely not recruited from Yangon but from far it, so that revenge or reprisals against their families cannot be exacted, in case they are ever identified in the unfolding aftermath.
Another point....most of these men will receive harsh punishment if the orders to shoot and wallop innocent monks are not carried out. Obviously such orders must come from the very TOP...the evil Generals themselves.

The entire world has called on India and China , 2 superpowers that have a close relationship with the evil junta to apply pressure on them to stop the killings.
There are many dictators within the ruling junta. But the MAIN ONE is Senior General Than Shwe. If you want to see how TOTALLY CORRUPT this evil man is....just go to Youtube, type his name under "Search" and you can see for yourself.
The wedding extravaganza of his daughter has been highlighted by many submitters as a TOP CASE of the very WORST CORRUPTION. It costs millions! Amid the abject poverty and misery of the people, this is too much. I have seen it all and am totally appalled and disgusted by the sheer BRAVADO of this foolish man's act.
What do I mean? Let me explain.
His position as the main evil dictator is NEVER SECURE. He relies on other ruthless cronies to spy on, check on, keep tabs on his FELLOW junta clique. You can be sure they are doing the same with him too. So, to be so bold as to openly advertise this wedding biggie makes no sense. UNLESS....he thinks or he concludes that any and all possible opposition have been accounted for in his personal agenda to secure his TOP position for 10-20 years.
That's the reason why these generals do not worry about what ASEAN, USA, EUROPE or the UN say. They can't be bothered as they are too busy enriching themselves and their families with never-ending "tatmadaw" imposed cuts, commissions, fees, etc. which normally amounts to 20% of any transaction.
Just imagine....a few cronies, corrupt, evil men bleeding their people and country dry.
Burma has more than 50 million people.
Burma also has about 1/2 a million soldiers.
But all the arms and weapons and everything else are controlled by this evil junta.
The 50 million.....they have no weapons.
That 's why since 1962, after Gen Ne Win staged the military coup, the military dictatorship has cowed the country. And the evil Generals led by Than Shwe today are not going to let go.
They know the day that happens, especially after a successful peoples' uprising, their heads may literally roll! Thus, they will stop at nothing to cling on to it wholesale slaughter, inhuman torture, killing monks ( No need to ask if they are Buddhist )..etc.

Wise Owl's Perspective of how this may unfold

1 Unlike in the Philippines when people power toppled the dictator Marcos by storming Malacanang Palace in Manila, it won't happen here. The Generals are all safely hidden in their specially built enclave in the far north, near Naypyidaw. ( Anyone can see this on Youtube. There is a clear satellite footage video pictures and much like SADDAM HUSSEIN, they are protected by special storm troopers....Saddam's version of the Imperial guards ). At their finger tips and command are more than 500,000 armed military men all dependent on their system of "tatmadaw" for survival. The rank and file men are poorly paid but are allowed to take a cut on practically everything that passes through their control. And they have TOTAL CONTROL!!
All these info are not borne from my own vivid imaginations but from easily available books on Myanmar's military at any library. There are more things and worse things that I have not put here. The human rights abuses are REAL and HORRIFIC !

So 1st scenario....I predict is this.
Among the elite inner circle junta clique, some may read the current situation as pretty dangerous, reaching a point of diminishing returns. They may begin to feel insecure about their eventual safety and that of their family and ill-gotten gains( They are all FILTHY RICH ...these evil men ). In such a situation, some will make a quiet, clandestine re-location of their LOOT and BOOTY out of the country first. That may be then followed by moving out entire families to prevent them from being captured or taken hostage or as reprisals.
But they may not give in that easily until the very last moment....where like Marcos, waiting planes or helicopters, ferry them to another "rogue" country that will accept them as they have millions, if not billions of $US and large amounts of the BEST BURMA GEMS in their possession.

2nd Scenario
The majority of UN members agree to boycott the 2008 Olympics unless China puts direct pressure on the evil junta to stop their nonsense and India too follow suit.
China will not want this to happen and will exert the "right pressure".
The people and monks are emboldened and take to the streets again.
This time they may have weapons to resist the demoralised soldiers, should they reappear.
Where can the weapons come from.?.....where there's a will, there's a way.

3rd Scenario
The main dictator , Than Shwe, comes to his own conclusion that ,since he has amassed not only enough but the most of the LOOT, he decides better to be ALIVE and enjoy his loot elsewhere forever...than to test his luck and remain and he just might lose it all....his life,loot and everything else. So he flees, with his family and loot. ( Marcos also fled in the nick of time ) That will startle the other criminals and it will be one BIG, MAD RUSH out of the country.
Ps: I hope that the UN and other world agencies have the courage to label this man and the others as "terrorists". They terrorise their own people. They are actually worse than the common criminals found in the worst jails. How so? Criminals are in jail, suffering or executed.
They? They are FREE and living the HIGH life and continuing in their terror actvities daily.
Something must be done to stop such men!!!

Myanmar Update ... 2, a country is crying !

So, the killing of innocent monks, ordinary citizens of the country and even a Japanese TV journalist have started. The press reported upto 13 killed. But inside sources said more than 200 have been cruelly shot or bashed to death.

The only foreigner killed so far is Kenji Nagai from Japan,aged 50 (see Photo at top from REUTERS ). At first, the junta said that he was killed by a stray bullet in a melee when riot police, hell-bent on charging at the protesters, started firing "over their heads"( WHAT A TERRIBLE,EVIL LIE !!). Last night, I saw the actual video footage which was shown on our media network, BBC and CNN. It CLEARLY SHOWED THAT MR K NAGAI WAS SIMPLY TRYING TO RUN AWAY AND HE WAS PUSHED DOWN. WHILE HE LAY SPRAWLING ON THE GROUND ,STILL VERY MUCH ALIVE, A HELMETED SOLDIER WENT UP TO HIM, POINTED THE RIFLE AT HIS BODY AND PULLED THE TRIGGER. HIS BODY JERKED ONCE AND HE DIED INSTANTLY.

The autopsy confirmed that he was shot through his heart. This, to me, is nothing but COLD- BLOODED MURDER. He was massacred scare other " hidden" reporters to back off.
There is simply NO EXCUSE for such WANTON murder by supposedly "law abiding" govt troops on innocent civilians. But we know they were targetting foreign least make a cruel example out of one! Same tactics used by the evil regimes and terrorists elsewhere....the Taliban( Korean hostages recently), Saddam's henchmen, etc..

In our recent visit there, in June, I noticed there were very few westerners there. Most probably heeded the call by Aung San Suu Kyi not to visit Burma as a protest of sorts to the regime. D2 and I went for a simple reason. We have not been to Myanmar before and we wanted to see for ourselves how we may help the poor, the orphans, the down and out. What we SAW shocked us! What we DISCOVERED we could not believe easily! There are far too many things that are repressive, negative and plain wrong in this once mighty nation.

Let me give some examples here.

1. Look closely at the photos here. They are scenes of public roads. From the 20 minute ride it took us from the new Airport to our residence, we did not see a single motor-cycle or scooter on any road. WHY? Before I give you the most UNBELIEVABLE yet TRUTHFUL answer, just ask yourself where in ASEAN can you find a similar situation? No motorcycles in the country...except for the junta's own police and military use. WHERE? NONE!

Here in Myanmar, these vehicles have been banned because the ruling Generals are afraid they may easily be assassinated by bike-riding assasins!!! So fearing for their own safety, they outlawed motorcycles. That was the explanation given to me over there. But I believe it is also quite likely the regime is fattening their own pockets. Most services and businesses are heavily dominated by so called govt-linked companies versus privately run types. These military controlled businesses are everywhere and in every thing imaginable. The local term is the............TATMADAW. So, Tatmadaw- controlled vans, taxis,buses, lorries, etc. ply the roads.

Diesel and petrol is one item controlled and monopolised by the military. The people are already so poor and brutally oppressed. Yet, they raised the fuel price by 500 %.

Just stop and think for a moment. If our own petrol prices were to increase, without justification, by the same measure (and you know the Generals and their cronies are laughing all the way to the bank ) what would you do? What would I do?

2. Yangon ( Rangoon ) has always been the capital of Myanmar. Size-wise, location-wise, and other strategic considerations makes it the ideal site as the nations's capital for as long as we have all come to know. But sometime recently, the ruling junta, in order to prolong and extend their illegal and evil rule, consulted their inner circle's top fortune-teller. This same soothsayer impressed upon the generals that for their own survival, they must shift the capital to................

NAYPYIDAW, an inaccesible, dead place, up in the north, far away from all the hustle and bustle of Yangon which is the business,political,economic,commerce,transportation and communications centre of the country. Apparently, the ruling generals agreed and were convinced. They issued orders even to the foreign embassies to relocate there!!!

As far as I know, none has OBEYED this IDIOTIC , RUDE, MINDLESS order!

Even the US embassy, the largest one of all, is still being built in Yangon. We passed by several times there.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Myanmar Update ... 1, blood will soon be shed !


1. Orphans we visited 2. Peaceful street scene. 3. Novice monks on alms round

The expected crackdown by the ruling junta has started. Apparently, the regime had used the so -called riot police to fire tear gas and even shot at the protesters. Latest news reports confirmed that at least 4 monks have been killed and hundreds more were brutally beaten up and arrested. The next scenario may even be worse. According to former '88 activists now in exile and other news reports on the internet..........

if the regime decides to use the military, especially the previous battalion that spearheaded the crackdown on the 1988 uprising , then things would be most ominous for the protesters.

This regime has been known to use various devious, evil tactics to provide themselves an excuse to crack down on the monks. How so? In the past, they ordered hundreds of their soldiers to shave off their hair, adorned them with monk's garb, infiltrated these fake monks into the ranks of the protesters with orders that they use violence to create trouble. That gave them the EXCUSE needed to use "live bullets" on the protesters ! More than 3000 were killed in 1988. ( As I've said, all this information I've gleaned from the net. ) Latest news reports leaked from within stated that orders have been issued along similar lines. The regime has ordered hundreds of saffron robes from a factory, for the chosen unit which has been recalled from the on-going battles with the minority rebel groups, in the jungle areas to the north.
So, history may be replicated here.

My observation and experience is that the Burmese people are generally a most peace-loving people. People I met were friendly, cheerful despite living under one of the worst corrupt rulers in the world. Myanmar has just been ranked as the 2nd most CORRUPT country in the world by Transparency International this week.

But the spirit of the people are truly admirable! I salute them!

For over 4 decades, they have been living under a totalitarian regime. While the generals and their cronies live in luxurious homes and enjoy the high life.....the rest of the huge population are mired in poverty and a never-ending struggle to simply survive from day to day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

MYANMAR ( Burma )

I have been watching the news and the current development in Myanmar with great concern. The street protests which started about a week ago in several cities across this tightly-controlled nation have now spiralled into mega-protests involving more than a 100,000 people. Led by the country's revered Buddhist monks, the huge movement is the biggest world news at the moment. A short while ago, US President George Bush expressed his anger and outrage at the UN 62nd General Assembly against the ruling military junta. Many other world leaders did the same. But ASEAN seems pretty muted.

The situation is approaching critical point...for the regime as well as the protesters.
My wife and I spent a week there in June this year.
The Shwedagon temple is the single most revered landmark in all of Myanmar.
It is now sealed off by the military to prevent the monks and protesters from using it as a focal point in their struggle for democracy.
The other picture is the entrance of the Singapore Embassy. Further down this stretch of road is
the villa where Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is kept under house detention and where she appeared at her main gate to acknowledge the monks a few days ago.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Traveller's Tales..Travelling on Greyhound buses.

This segment was aired on 20th August 2007 on the RSI 93.8 Live programme, Travellers Tales. In this segment I was asked by Yvonne Gomez whether I had experienced any potentially dangerous or difficult situations during my extensive travels. Well, there really were quite a few stretching all the way back to the mid 60's in Bangkok ,then later in Medan,Indonesia and elsewhere. ( I will cover these in future posts )
But owing to the lack of time, I recounted one particular encounter I had with a rough and tumble character who was seated behind me in the Greyhound coach in December 1992. My wife D2 and younger daughter D4 were seated in front of me. I was alone in a double seat similar to this huge caucasian who looked pretty much like one of those bad men from western movies. As soon as the journey began in the night,I settled into my seat comfortably. We were heading to the Grand Canyon area from Las Vegas. I was hoping to catch some 40 winks as we would soon be in near desert country...pretty dark outside and nothing much to see anyway. As I leaned back to rest my head on the seat top, I found to my utter shock and dismay that the guy behind had placed both his legs and smelly boots over my seat ,on either side of my ears ! It was obviously an act meant to provoke a confrontation.
I turned sideways to have a glance at him . He had a kind of Texan hat pulled low over his forehead, perhaps pretending to be asleep. After assessing the situation, I discounted complaining to the driver as that may be the start of an explosive incident that can only end in any number of ways.....and all bad, may even be fatal in the extreme scenario.
But I had to do something out of respect to myself. I have never in my entire life run away from
louts and bullies, no not even to this day. And I've encountered many, both home and abroad.
So, I whispered to my dear ones not to worry, whatever will happen. I will "handle him properly".
Greyhound coaches make intermitten stops for toilet breaks and some for refreshments lasting about 15-20 minutes. At the next refreshment stop, I exited the coach and waited for this chap at the doorway. Once on level ground, I introduced myself in my most charming,friendly manner, " Hi there! I'm from Singapore. My name is Dicky." As I spoke gently I offered my hand in handshake. He took my hand and shook it warmly. Good sign, I heaved! " Can I buy you a coffee or something?", I asked.
Then he spoke, "Sure!" Another Good sign, I breathed easier.
And we began to chat over coffee.
I asked if he had ever visited Singapore. No, never.
I told him if he had any questions or comments to just shoot.
He said," You speak very good English for a Chinese person. Where did you learn to speak such good English? Do all the people in your country speak like you? "
When we returned to the coach, we chatted a little more ,having opened up.
He was no longer the brutish lout earlier but was a perfect gentleman!
I recounted this story many times in many sharing sessions.
All it took to turn a potentially ugly situation around was my offering of warm,genuine,open friendship over a cup of coffee.
He had no reason to decline as I wasn't his enemy and a total stranger from a faraway land.
I opted for the non-confrontational approach that time.
It worked.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Traveller's Tales...Ukelele: One man's faithful travel companion

The 2nd episode of Travellers Tales was aired on 13th August 2007 at 8.50 pm on 93.8 Live. In this segment,Yvonne Gomez asked about my faithful ukelele on my travels.
The very 1st time I saw someone play the uke was around 1960. He was from the Geylang Methodist Church and had brought along the uke to a picnic. I was about 12 years old then. There is nothing quite like the soothing strains of a ukelele being strummed by a good uke player, by the sea shore and accompanied by the sea breeze, sand and gently rolling waves.
I was mesmerised.
Until then, the only other musical instrument I had tried was a small, cheap Harmonica which I experimented with and taught myself some tunes.
All that changed in 1963 when a classmate of mine sold me his ukelele. It was a gift from his pastor father but he could not play it.
That was how I started on with ukelele playing. I bought a chord book and invented my own strumming style. Over the years, my uke collection increased. Today, I have a handmade
genuine Kamaka ukelele made in Honolulu, Hawaii which is more than 25 years old.
You can hear the sounds of it as I play and sing " The Hukilau" from this segment.

Friday, September 21, 2007

My Very 1st Trip

Singapore joined the Federation of Malaysia on 16th September 1963. That year I was still a Sec 3 student of Victoria School then located next to the Jalan Besar Football stadium.
Towards the end of that year my late father, a typical Chinaman who spoke no English, had requested for me to accompany him to Kuala Lumpur. He had started a specialist roofing business and managed to secure a potential contract in the Malaysian capital with William Jacks & Co.
He needed me to act as an interpreter and translator at meetings as he only spoke Cantonese and read Chinese.
We departed by train from Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.
It was my very 1st train experience and also the one and only
overseas journey I ever made with my father
. Perhaps as a token of his appreciation, he presented me with a Parker pen just before the trip. It could have cost him around $ 8, a big sum in those days. And we were not well to do people. That gift surprised me as it was the most expensive present I had received upto that time. I proudly put it at my crisp shirt pocket.
The train soon got underway and our journey began. I felt terribly excited and even exhilarated leaving the safety of our beloved shores for an adventure to the unknown. The train picking up speed moved very fast, swaying from side to side. Not long after, I had to go to the loo.
I found the loo which had an opening through which you could actually see the rushing tracks beneath. Then disaster struck!
Just as I was hovering over the opening, the train rounded a bend and went over some bridges, swishing from left to right. I was suddenly jolted, nearly losing my balance. I saw the Parker pen fly out from my shirt pocket right into the latrine opening. That was the last time I had seen my pen. I had not even used it yet!
And I wondered what and how I was going to tell my dad, sitting pensively at the nearby cabin. Much of it was recounted in my radio interview recently, recorded at Media Corp's Studio in Caldecott Hill.
I was interviewed and featured on Radio Singapore International ( RSI ) 93.8 Live on the segment "Travellers Tales" by Yvonne Gomez, the producer, on 6th Aug 2007.
Those who missed it can still hear it. Just visit the site,locate the date and search it at Archives or podcasts.

ps: What unforgettable lessons did I learn from the pen incident?
1. Expect the unexpected in any situation.
2. Every piece of important thing must be kept in a pouch around the waist.
3. Carry inexpensive items when travelling where possible.

Interesting English in Thailand

On a visit to Wat Po located in Bangkok, the Thai capital, in June 1996, we came upon these two eye-catching signboards. One said simply, "SOFT DRINKS" inside Toilet " followed by an arrow pointing the way. Can anyone guess what it really meant?
The 2nd sign stated clearly and again simply," Massage Toilet"
and followed by the arrow pointing the way.
It sounded pretty much like a new proto-type toilet that had been invented over there with massage capability. To take it literally would mean there really was such a toilet offering a massage service within.
To solve the mystery ( or was there one in the first place? ) we simply followed the arrows....and had a good laugh !

Interesting English in China

Hi to one and all visiting this site. This is my first personal Blog site I'm trying out.
On this site I intend to capture in pictorial format my journeys and travel around the world amongst other things....over the last 4 decades.
I am no expert in the technical aspects of working the formattings of a blog.
So do pardon me if the page arrangements looks untidy. I hope to improve as I progress along this sharp learning curve.

On a trip to China in June 1996 my wife and I stayed at the Qian Mien hotel in Beijing.
After checking in we went for a stroll to get to know our surroundings. That was when we came upon some of these interesting English used on signboards.
The "otice to tourists " was embedded in the wall at the entrance to the Summer Palace.