Mar 13th – Stranded in Burma

March 13th – Stranded in Burma

20.55-21.05

I was going to write something amusing.

A British civil servant, perhaps, in the pre-war years, hopelessly out of his depth and struggling with the heat, the culture, the natives and an arcane filing system.

Or someone trapped in a restaurant, improbably named ‘Burma’, after it has closed, trying to work their way out.

But I’m not.

Because Burma, or Myanmar, as it is now called, sometimes, is not amusing. It’s not funny. Burma is not a good place.

So I’m going to write about the Rohingya. Because for the ones who can’t escape, the Rohingya are literally stranded in Burma. And they are being slowly and systematically wiped out by a brutal and callous regime. And Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, darling of the west, is complicit in her silence.

For those of you who don’t know, first of all – you should, and secondly, if the shitstorm of Brexit has blinded you to the fact that there is, in fact, something beyond British shores, or if the shitstorm of Trump has you looking for Mexicans scaling your garden walls, then this is something you should know about. And care about.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in a mainly Buddhist country.

Buddhists. Nice, peaceful, chanting Buddhists. All ‘Om’ and zen. Maybe I’m generalising. But you know the stereotype. And stereotypes work because we like to put people into boxes: it makes them easier to work with, easier to understand. It’s a simple way of seeing a complex world. but we like simple, because simple lets us get on with things without worrying too much about what might actually be going on. So we allow ourselves to be scared by a force-feeding media that tells us that Muslims are terrorists, while leaving us oblivious to the atrocities being dealt to the Muslim Rohingya on a daily basis by a Buddhist country with an abysmal human rights record.

There is nothing amusing about Burma.

The Rohingya mainly live in Rakhine State, where they have lived for generations, descendants of Arb traders who settled hundreds of years ago. And there they have stayed, generally peacefully, until the Burmese government decided they wanted them out.

The Rohingya have been denied citizenship, with the venerable (and feted) Aung Sun Suu Kyi even going as far as to deny their existence. They are not Burmese, she says, so they are not entitled to be in Burma.

Since the 1970s, the Rohingya have been slowly moving out of Burma into neighbouring Bangladesh and beyond, complaining of abuses from the local Burmese police and security forces. This has steadily escalated, and in 2017 the Burmese military undertook a state-sanctioned ethnic cleansing, purportedly a move to drive out militants, but in reality a wave of aggression designed to remove the Rohingya from the land they have, as far as they can remember, always lived on. Villages have been burned to the ground, the fleeing Rohingya cut down in a massacre by Buddhist militias for whom justice is a blank script that they write with their own bullets.

This has led to what the UN have called the world’s fasted growing refugee crisis, as those that can have fled into massive camps across the Bangladeshi border. Those unable to escape are still subject to terror attacks and atrocities as the Burmese government look the other way and pretend that there isn’t a problem. The Rohingya remain, stranded in Burma, and there is nothing amusing about that at all.

 

Inspired by a prompt from here.

Silver Sand – Dead Deer

Silver Sand

Many years of solid service is what had secured his reputation, his status within a community. There was, I suppose, an element of irony around his downfall.

Irony, not meaning something having the quality of iron, was a good example of why he never bothered. Even during the long years, mourning his son, he never bothered.

It ought also be stated that downfall is a word that is too strong here. Mr. Breven continued his work as the only pharmacist in the town and always enjoyed the custom of many people in that town. Not everyone, of course, but many. Enough for him to see out his active years behind the counter, and even eek out a modest retirement. A retirement of reflection, during which he still did not concern himself to learn.

A medical man (or sorts) who cannot read, nor write, is not quite the problem you may imagine. Certainly on arriving in this town I suspected nothing and then, some years later, arriving upon the knowledge of Mr. Breven’s lack of knowledge I was surprised. Dismayed maybe. I even offered, obliquely, to teach him. He misunderstood my overture however, and thought I had invited him to lunch.

Thus it was that he and I enjoyed lunch every third Thursday, at my expense, for some thirty years until his timely death .

We never once spoke of the fateful day that his potions were muddled and his illiteracy led to him selecting ‘Silver Sand’ in error, whilst making up a delicate prescription.

This substance is, of course, a fatal poison to all, not least to Mr. Breven’s only son, the late Ernest Breven.

Today I wrote  between 18:11 and 18:21. I was prompted by an idea here. My other writings here. All my prompted writing here, my tweets here, and my book here.

cover

If you enjoyed this short writing, a whole load more are available in paperback, and kindle editions in your local Amazon site