The Gap

By Julien Moe


Burma is Myanmar today. Myanmar is the new name given by the military junta led by General Than Shwe. But what is going on in Myanmar today?

I interviewed three Burmese citizens who just came back from Myanmar. The interview took place in Washington D.C.  I will protect their identities and call them Interviewees 1, 2 and 3.


Interviewee 1 is a 45 year old-lady who went to visit Myanmar two weeks ago. She said here is a big gap between the have-nots and the rich. There is no such thing as a middle class any more. The rich are too rich and the poor are too poor to feed themselves. There are more homeless and beggars in Myanmar than before. She said, “I went to visit Pagan, the ancient historic Burmese city. I saw homeless beggars everywhere. I bought a bag of rice and curry with a soda. I gave it to one of the beggars and she thanked me as if she won a lottery.” Food in Myanmar is scarce and all the military regime cares about is their hold on to power.

I asked Interviewee 2 a few questions about the rich in Yangon formerly Rangoon.  Interviewee 2 is a 45 year-old business woman who has just come back from the Golden Valley, after visiting her relatives.

She said, “Property inside Golden valley costs a fortune these days. A brick house with a 100 ft x 80 ft square fenced yard is about US$1 million. A brick house with a bigger compound on the Golden Valley main Road is about US$10 million in the market now. People have too much money. They are the rich.”

Interviewer 3 is a 43 year-old Burmese student who took part in the 1988 uprising and he went to visit Myanmar last month and he said, “The rich in Burma are the authorities and the officials from the army and the drug traffickers. The authorities get paid by the drug traffickers. They get paid by illegal loggers. The drug business and the illegal logging business are booming in Myanmar.”  He went on talking about politics in Myanmar. The regime has bribed the farmers and the citizens in the country, by paying each one US$5 to vote for the party members from the USDA Party and the National Unity Party, the political parties whose members are from the military junta.”

He went to visit Bago, a city 2 hours away from Yangon by bus. He saw the people starving there. “Many people there can afford to eat only one meal per day and they keep the Sabbath. It’s like shooting two birds with one stone. They get a good merit because they keep the Sabbath and don’t eat dinner. In fact, they cannot afford dinner.”

He went to visit Pioneer, a nightclub and saw army officials drinking Chevas Regal, Black Label and tequila. They were having fun with prostitutes there throughout the night. They seem to have forgotten they are Burmese and they are from the Burmese army founded by General Aung San.”

This is Myanmar today.