This week saw the first ever TV broadcast from inside Burma, by a Voice of America newscaster.
In living memory, at least in my living memory, this has not happened openly before. Foreign correspondents routinely need to enter Burma (oops, the official name is Myanmar, often mispronounced “Mee ahn mar”) declaring themselves paint salesmen or just plain tourists, on their visa application forms. So it was with surprise and some incredulity, that I watched the videos posted U Tube style at the VOA link above.
What’s this thing with international women correspondents and jump suits?
Technically, a jumpsuit is all one piece, and so makes peeing in a developing country which might have challenging toilet arrangements, well, challenging. You have to virtually undress to pee and do more called Number Two, in Burma, in a jumpsuit. The late dictator, General Ne Win, was known as Number One – no, seriously, he was.
Harpers Bazaar says what Amanpour wears on air is a safari jacket (which has two separate pieces which aren’t sewn together). Believe me I know the difference. In Burma I sewed all my own clothes and still make all my own tops and jackets.
So we see this VOA correspondent with short, black, probably black-dyed hair, and in a white western-style pants suit in the new Burmese (since 2005) capital of Naypyidaw (King’s Royal City) in the middle of Burma, which is very dusty and hot. Burmese, who are known for their wit and insouciance, call Naypyidaw – “Nay poo daw” – the royally hot place, and it sure is.
Here is an internal monolog, imagined, of what might have gone through the correspondent Khin Soe Win’s head as she packed and waited for her Burmese visa, which was late, so she was not in time for new special envoy Derek Mitchell’s press conference, just before he left, at Rangoon International Airport:
“It’s hot – my legs need to be covered or other Burmese will consider me a fallen woman. I can’t help it about my short hair. I need to be properly dressed as a U.S. government employee. I need to be up to international standards.”
Khin Soe Win is a VOA News Editor a former Burmese diplomat who defected during the 1988 uprisings, and a daughter of the late Colonel Htun Aung Gyaw, a well-known colonel from the Ne Win era. There is no doubt that her family connections, Department of State intervention behind the scenes, and Derek Mitchell, helped get her and her videographer Zin Latt Aung their coveted Burma visas and entréz to Naypyidaw.
In the interview, the democracy leader and 1994 Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, continued on the theme of “there is potential for change, but I would not say we have changed already”. The newswoman tried to put words into Daw Suu’s mouth – saying “as we now have a civilian government –”
Daw Suu looked sharply at KSW, known in Maryland as Aunty Lone or Roly Poly, and then apparently decided to let it pass. It is after all a Potemkin capital, a Potemkin “democracy” and a fake everything else, and the photo opp has all the ambience of a western movie set, complete with youngish army officers leering at KSW and empty roads waiting for a high noon shootout.
But at least VOA knew to treat Daw Suu with respect. The reporter changed into a conservative Burmese skirt when interviewing Aung San Suu Kyi at her home and didn’t try the rapid fire hard ball questions that other ill-advised Burmese of questionable loyalties had tried in the past.
Copyright Kyi May Kaung
As for the rest, we will see what we will see.