Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Review : Burma - A Nation At The Crossroads

Title : Burma - A Nation at the Crossroads
Author : Benedict Rogers
Publisher : Random House
ISBN : 978-1-84-604346-8

Author Benedict Rogers gives detailed account of the trials and tribulations of a nation - Burma, based on his 12 years of persistent research and more than three dozen visits to Burma as well as to its neighboring countries.

A nation of approximately 55 million people, Burma is one of the most ethnically diverse in South East Asia. Besides the Burmans - the Burmese speaking majority, there are seven major ethnic groups - Karen, Karenni, Shan, Mon, Kachin, Chin, Arakan or Rakhine. The country which struggled to bring her name in the list of independent nations hasn't seen her woes ending even after the colonial rule of British ended in 1948. After a very short lived democracy of almost a decade, Burma has been ruled by succession of brutal military regimes for more than 50 years now. Some wrong policies and short-sightedness of the leaders during the ten year democratic stint worked as fuel to the fire and led Burma into the clutches of brutal military dictatorship. The combination of a brutal military dictatorship which ranks among the very worst in the world, and the apathy and inaction of co-inhabitants of the same Earth have reduced the country to a burning nation. Burma has witnessed the tragedy of being the potentially richest country of Asia to being the poorest, being the rice bowl to having to face rice shortage.

In 1990 Aung San Suu Kyi became the face of  Burma's democracy movement. She is the daughter of Aung San - the leader of Burma's independence movement who is regarded to this day as the father of the nation. The democratic movement supporters and the leaders of ethnic resistance want to build Burma of peace and equal rights whereas the military regime is working towards imposing Mayanmar on the natives through their dictatorial inhumanity and brutality.
After having endured 15 years of house arrest, Aung San Suu Kyi is leading the democratic movement.
In the course of past few months, the changes have been very positive which are bringing back the lost faith and hope in people. The path is not devoid of huge amount of challenges but as Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said -  'A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step'.

Aung San Suu Kyi is an able and wise stateswoman who has inherited political wisdom in her genes. With a lot of uncertainty in the minds of inhabitants of the country, the apprehensions and fears are looming large and staring on their faces. People are torn between either of these three states as Aung San Suu Kyi points out - first, euphoric and enthusiastic about the process of change, second, supporting her decision to engage with the regime and in the political process, but are cautious, skeptical and weighing the evidence, and third, not wanting to even try the process.'

Benedict Rogers skillfully makes readers understand the tumultuous past of the country as well as the complicated present where the nation stands today. The details do get a little too overwhelming in some chapters, however, I feel the same is required for complete understanding of the situation. Besides reporting the facts, Rogers assesses the situation logically and insightfully and that I consider is the commendable part of his writing.
Through this book the author does much more than what he was requested to do by a young Shan boy in Burma - 'Tell the world not to forget us.'

This book reminds me of the adversities of Tibetans as narrated by Dalai Lama in his autobiography  'Freedom in Exile'. The countries, cultures and beliefs may differ but the basic needs are the same all across the world. 


  1. A very interesting and comprehensive review of the book, but not one I will find the time to read I am sorry to admit.


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