Myanmar, we need to talk*


If you were wondering where I was on Valentine’s Day, I went to Thailand. I needed to renew my visa, but I also deserved a spa weekend at Hua Hin, away from you. The thing is, I’m not happy, Myanmar. And don’t you bring up your elections or some sort of economic reform this time.

This is about you and me. But especially me.

When we first met, you looked so cool and exciting on my organisation’s website. I knew about your spotty past, but I thought under that rough and dangerous exterior was a heart of gold. I thought I could help you change. But now it’s like you don’t even want my help anymore.

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I started to suspect as much when it took more than three weeks just to process my visa. And then the real estate agency messed up my lease agreement. Then there was time the taxi driver got lost and tried to charge me an extra K1,000 for the delay. Typical.

That’s what I told my friends over drinks at that trendy bar. One of my friends said, “Welcome to Myanmar!” and we complained about Yangon, about its officials, how the city’s infrastructure will never get fixed because of all the crony companies. Wouldn’t happen anywhere else.

None of us knew the name of those companies of course, but we didn’t need to! I don’t need to keep up-to-date with your news to know what’s really happening. I don’t need to name specific names, or know specific information about this place to know that I’m right. It’s enough that all my friends agree with me.  

That’s not fair? You want the benefit of the doubt? Too bad. You blew it when you woke me at 6am, blasting music over loudspeakers. You blew it when that immigration clerk lost my forms. You blew it that time the internet cut out for a full hour and I couldn’t catch up with the latest Netflix.

I’m not even mad anymore. Welcome to Myanmar!

That has become my catch phrase. No I don’t read those articles you sent me about your healthcare or education reform plans, or that ceasefire you keep bringing up. I was too busy. And anyway, if you really wanted peace, why is there still fighting going on? You tell me it’s a start; that it’s going to take more than one election to undo 70 years of isolation and war. Blah, blah blah. But if you were really changing, why did the air-con repairman show up two hours late last week?

I missed my Zumba class waiting for that guy. Oh well, welcome to Myanmar!

I don’t want to leave. You still make me feel special, like a big fish in a small pond. But you should know that I can make tonnes of money elsewhere, and there are loads of countries just begging for me!

Which ones? Well there’s…. er…

You know what, stop trying to turn this around! You’re lucky to have me, and if you want me to learn your language or about your customs, you’re going to have to start showing ME some appreciation. If you can’t handle me at my worst, Myanmar, you don’t deserve me at my best.

*Delivered with a copious amount of salt. 

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