Myanmar Coup — Life There for Locals vs American Freedoms + Free Speech [Rare Footage]
What Myanmar (Burma) was like when they first opened the country, how speech is prohibited against the government, the use of gold and cash versus storing money in the bank, the distrust of government, and how that compares to the United States citizens willingly giving away their freedoms to fight “hate speech,”
video: Myanmar Coup — Life There for Locals vs American Freedoms + Free Speech [Rare Footage]
What Myanmar (Burma) was like when they first opened the country, how speech is prohibited against the government, the use of gold and cash versus storing money in the bank, the distrust of government, and how that compares to the United States citizens willingly giving away their freedoms to fight “hate speech,” and how the powers that be are slowly classifying anything they don’t like as hate speech. Also, clips of the Mustache brothers comedy show in Mandalay, and what the edgiest free-speech show is like in Burma. #MyanmarCoup #hatespeech #MustacheBrothers
I went to Myanmar in 2012.
Not long ago, the dictatorship had a problem with one of the banks, and shut it down, causing many of these impoverished people to lose their life savings. They only trust two forms of currency, cash, and he even more so- gold. The radio turns on without either of us touching it. “Oh good, today is working,” my driver states with an enthusiastic smile.
“People in Myanmar are very friendly and honest. We very much value tourists here, and if you ever have any questions you can ask anybody and they will do their best to help you.”
Average salary here I am told is just a little north of $100 per month. The security guard working in front of the building gets paid less, $50 a month.
“Where do you put your money?”
“We keep at home.”
“Not in a bank?”
He laughs. “No! No one puts their money in the bank.”
Not long ago, the dictatorship had a problem with one of the banks, and shut it down, causing many of these impoverished people to lose their life savings. They only trust two forms of currency, cash, and he even more so- gold.
“The price of gold always goes up,” my friend states, perhaps tapping into the consciousness of the sweaty, overworked printing presses magically creating paper money for the economic powers of the world. Gold, another currency used by man for thousands of years, has a much more fixed supply. Along with most other commodities, gold will, according to many, increase in nominal value as paper currency is devalued from its rapid printing.
You know how you buy a house for a car here in Myanmar? Cash. Not a check mind you, we’re talking cash. When someone purchases the house, they literally bring over wheelbarrows of cash, and considering the largest bill in Myanmar is worth $6 US, you can imagine how much time and effort it must take to count out the equivalent of say, twenty five thousand US dollars.
Seeing Myanmar as it is right now is a little bit like time traveling back thirty years.
Mustache Brothers, two Burmese political dissidents of Myanmar who have been arrested by the regime multiple times for speaking out. One spent six years in a forced prison labor camp. Although technically banned by the government from doing so, they bravely perform a show nightly, catering almost strictly to tourists, where I’m told they do comedic political commentary. I’m interested, and agree to go. The ticket costs $10, and there are 15 of us there meaning they are raking in a tremendous amount of money (for Burmese) on a nightly basis, though I suppose it doesn’t make up for six years spent at a labor camp.
The show opens with one of the brothers, a small, thin man, with his trademark long white moustache brimming down to the sides of his face, speaking to us about his country. He has the confidence and delivery of a comedian who’s been on stage every night of his life. He’s good.
“I went to Thailand to go to the dentist,” he explains, “and the dentist is surprised when I tell I’m from Burma and asks me whether or not we have dentists in my country. Oh yes, but in our country we are not allowed to open open our mouth.”
Though amusing and interesting, I am waiting to hear more from him. He’s spoken only a few minutes so far, and he brings out his wife to show us an old, traditional Burmese dance. After she is done he explains, “I have a cousin standing outside, looking around in case somebody is casing our show, if we see him talking on a cell phone or something, my cousin will give me the warning, and we run,” he says as he does the running man dance.
He’s amusing, but deadly serious.
“I’d say that I was dissapointed,” says Shannon from New Zealand, “but to look at the bright side, I wouldn’t have been able to experience this anywhere else.”
For a few steps as I walk outside, I also feel let down. Why did he show us the videos? Why all the dancing? And the thought hits me, just how brave and cutting edge this show is.
He CAN’T say anything else. He is pushing the limits as it is right now. He let’s the Hollywood celebrities say what he cannot, or would certainly end up back in prison. Even letting them speak for him, he runs serious risks.
Burma is a police state. Government informants and spies are omnipresent. Average Burmese people are afraid to speak to foreigners except in most superficial of manners for fear of being hauled in later for questioning or worse. There is no freedom of speech, assembly or association.
Several hundred thousand men, women, children and elderly people are forced to work against their will by the administration. Individuals refusing to work may be victims of torture, rape or murder.
The Burmese media is tightly controlled by the government. Newspapers, journals and other publications are run under the Ministry of Information and undergo heavy censorship before publication.
In all the time I was in Burma, I don’t think I once heard someone raise their voice in anger. No one got mad when I wouldn’t buy from them.
Newly made Burmese friends at a wedding we crashed
In Brazil, if you show any signs of wealth, or even are recognized as a tourist, you are instantly targeted for mugging/ robbery. In Myanmar, where the average person has far less than their Brazilian counterparts, there is zero crime.
For sure it is partly the draconian penalties imposed by the military junta government for even petty theft. There are rumors of tourists accusing Burmese of ripping them off, and the military throws the offending party in boiling water.