A few months ago, we were watching Entertainment Tonight when all of a sudden Jim Carrey appeared talking all slow and medicated about Burma and how to remember how to pronounce "Aung San Suu Kyi." And we were like, "What's the big deal? That lady hasn't so much as left her house in years!" Um and if you get that joke you'll probably like "That's So Jane's", the feature formed from a pun on the old slogan of Jane magazine and the Pentagon trade publication Jane's Defence Weekly which we provide for those of you who need a breather from the harsh realities of the crippling addictions and vicious custody battles of Brit and Linds and that girl from Heroes. This week Wonkette's Anonymous Lobbyist talks Burma, TomKat, K-Fed and L'il Kim Jong Il with Dr. Jason Abbott, a lecturer in International Politics at the University of Surrey and "owner of one hot British accent."
Q: So, like, what is the difference between Myanmar and Burma? Because the newspapers all keep talking about the protests in Myanmar, but Bush and other people keep talking about Burma. Is Bush just confused again, or is it like how we all have to call Katie Holmes "Kate" because Tom Cruise says so?
A: Well for once Dubya hasn't misread his briefing notes and the Tom Cruise analogy isn't too far from the truth. The two terms have been used interchangeably for centuries within the country since Burma is derived from bama which is essentially a colloquial form of the more formal Myanmar. Some also claim that Myanmar is more inclusive since the country is home to 8 major ethnic minorities and 130 smaller groups. (So think Britain vs. England). In 1989 the Junta decided to align the international name of the country with the formal local name but the opposition refuses to accept this since they maintain that it was made by an illegal regime.
Q: So, why are all the monks protesting? Are they also mad
about that gay Last Supper poster thing?(Link: NSFW)
A: Two things basically turned the monks, who are Buddhist, into protesters. The first was a response to the economic hardship faced by ordinary Burmese upon whom the monks rely for daily offerings of food. Buddhist monks are supposed to have no material possessions so, as the economic situation worsened, they witnessed firsthand the growing poverty of ordinary Burmese. This situation deteriorated sharply in August when the Junta doubled the price of gas and diesel.
The second reason for the protests is that, at a protest in Pakokku at which some monks participated, the military smashed some heads and some of those happened to be bald.
As for homosexuality... Buddhists are generally not as hung up about homosexuality as Christianity or Islam, as long as the sexual act is an expression of love, respect, loyalty and warmth. So I'm not sure they'd be fans of Sado-masochism nor that they'd look good in leather.
Q: Wow, who knew that monks weren't all Catholic! So let me get this straight: they're protesting because they only just realized their country is dirt-poor. What have they been smoking? And if they're the last guys to notice this shit because of their detachment from material possessions or whatever, why were they the first to go piss off the government about it? Didn't someone try that before?
A: The government has basically kept an iron grip on society in Burma. It's an Orwellian nightmare that makes China look like a liberal paradise by comparison. For twenty years there has been nothing on this scale and when protests have been staged they have been in the order of hundreds and have been easily dealt with.
The monks posed a huge dilemma for the military since they initially felt that they could not simply resort to smashing skulls and opening fire indiscriminately. Buddhists believe that what you do in this life will determine how you come back next time. So massacring a few monks is more likely to see you come back as a cockroach than achieving nirvana.
Q: Oh man, isn't that what we all wish? That Clarence Thomas would come back as a 'Rock of Love' contestant? Anyway, memo to poor people: the world doesn't work that way. Especially when your rulers are military dictators!
A: Well they're not stupid, but you know how the Mafia wouldn't kill Mother Teresa? The reverence of ordinary Burmese for the monks galvanized protesters who had cowered in fear for so long, basically because they began to think, "These guys don't mind if they get reincarnated as a E. Coli." The military apparently decided in favor of coming back as cockroaches in the next life rather than potentially having to give up a modicum of power in this one.
Q: I've also read that Aung San Suu Kyi was elected in 1990 but hasn't yet taken office. Isn't that a really long time to wait for an inauguration? Even The Knot says the average engagement is only like a year, and a wedding is, like, really hard to plan.
A: She did, and it is, absolutely. In 1990 her party, the National League for Democracy, won 59 percent of the vote — translating into 392 out of 498 seats in the legislature. Problem was, this wasn't quite the outcome the Junta has expected. They thought their National Unity Party would win and provide them with democratic legitimacy; when, in fact, Ralph Nader probably won more votes in 2004 than they did. So their response? Well, they proved to be terrible losers.
Q: Well, but how hard can house arrest be? The judge made Paris Hilton go back to jail because house arrest was too cushy.
A: Well, if Paris thought conditions at Century Regional Detention Centre were poor, they look like a Five Star hotel when compared to prisons in Burma.
Q: Wow, you're so right. The before and after photos are not pretty. She should just live in a house
like Paris', if she's going to have to spend so much time there.
A: Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 12 of the last 17 years under house arrest. While for some of that period she was allowed visitors, the Junta have, when they felt it necessary, ratcheted up
the privations she has been forced to endure. Her British husband Michael Aris was diagnosed with prostrate cancer in 1997. Not only did the Junta make it clear that if she left the country to see him she
would not be allowed to return, they also denied him a visa. So she was forced to choose between never seeing her husband alive again or abandoning the people for whom she had become a beacon of hope. We all know that she stayed and in 1999 Michael died.
Q: Aw, that's really kind of sad, but I'm not sure it's fair to say we "all" knew that. Is the reason Burma gets so little press because the head dictator guy isn't as hot as some or as crazy as others?
A: Well Senior General Than Shwe hates the limelight. In fact he is almost never seen in public and rarely makes an appearance, let alone a speech, so he is no international playboy. As for whether he is a crazy... well he is incredibly superstitious, and I don't mean simply reading his daily horoscope (he's a Capricorn by the way).