POPULATION: 53.4 million
LIFE EXPECTANCY: 64.52 years
ETHNIC GROUPS: Burman 68%, Shan 9%, Karen 7%, Rakhine 4%, Chinese 3%, Indian 2%, Mon 2%, other 5%
RELIGIONS: Buddhist 89%, Christian 4% (Baptist 3%, Roman Catholic 1%), Muslim 4%, animist 1%, other 2%
LANGUAGES: Burmese is the official language, but there are approximately 106 others spoken
On 7 November 2010, Burma held their first national elections for 20 years. International media were banned. The elections have been strongly criticized as the two military-backed parties stand virtually unopposed and the military has been guaranteed 25% of the seats in the new parliament. The prospects for the ordinary citizens of Burma are not good.
Last Thursday I watched a wonderful documentary called Burma in Pieces at the Nordic Institute for Asian Studies (NIAS) in Copenhagen. Click here to watch a clip. We were fortunate to have the British director, Arun Sharma, who is resident in Denmark present at the showing. Arun stated very clearly that he is a film-maker above all else and so the documentary was not made with political messages in mind; however, it is clearly impossible to shoot a film on Burma without it being political. As the title suggests, the footage was in pieces – snapshots from different daily scenes of the life of ordinary citizens in Burma jumbled with interviews and reflections by individuals who have suffered at the hands of the military dictatorship. When asked if he actually thought Burma was in pieces, Arun replied a resounding yes. Furthermore, he made it clear that from his experience, the Western version of democracy may not necessarily be what the people of Burma need or want.
We had some great discussion after the film about the military dictatorship, Burmese refugees, refugees and their treatment by the Danish authorities, the role of children in Burma and much more. Here are some links if you want to read more about Burma:
- NIAS Asia Portal http://www.asiaportal.info/ (see the In Focus blog entry on the election in Burma)
- Country profile: http://www.who.int/countries/mmr/en/, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bm.html
- News reports: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11595983, http://www.dvb.no/elections/china-hails-burmas-step-forward/12711, http://www.mizzima.com/,
Burma and Arun’s Indian heritage were my inspiration for dinner for three on Friday night, which consisted of a mild tiger prawn curry, okra and potatoes and basmati rice. I was so engrossed in the cooking, the chatting and the eating that I only remembered to take a picture after we had emptied all the pans of food (I like bringing the food to the table and serving up), and I was half way through my second serving! My apologies – I’ll try to be a bit more blog-conscious next time.
You can go to the recipes page to read how I made this delicious meal, an adaptation of the following three recipes: Burmese Beef and Potato Curry, Burmese Shrimp Curry with Gravy, North Indian Okra with Potatoes. I should mention that I always adapt recipes slightly to suit my and my guests’ tastes.
Blog tip: post your comments about Burma-related issues here and about the food on the recipes page.