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Uploaded:2009-05-17
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In which John discusses the political situation in Burma and the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi by the military junta.


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A Bunny
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Good morning Hank, it's Sunday.

It's News Day. Today we're gonna talk about superstitious generals, Mormons, long-distance swimming, and the Nobel Peace Prize. Can you guess the country to which I'm referring?

Can ya? Can ya? I'll give you the entire intro to come up with your answer.

That's right, Hank, Burma! Okay, Hank, first a quick background of Burmese history, including a justification of why I'm saying "Burma" and not "Myanmar". Burma is a nation in Southeast Asia bordering Thailand, China and India.

Burma was a British colony, then it gained its independence in 1948, and then from 1948 to 1962 it had a kind of British-style democracy. And it was the wealthiest nation in Southeast Asia. And then in 1962 there was a military coup and Burma got overtaken by crazy people.

Hank, have you ever noticed that what happens after the words, "there was a military coup," is generally pretty bad? I wonder if there's any way we could get a memo out to, you know, like, military's, explaining to them that "couping" is bad. So now, after 47 years of military rule, Burma is one of the poorest and most oppressive places in the world.

Okay, so in 1989 the crazy military rulers of Burma decided that they were going to rename the country "Myanmar". And now lots of people refer to it as Myanmar, but I don't. Because if there were a military coup in the United States of America and our new military rulers announced that the new name of our country was going to be "the Democratic Socialist Republic of Poopyface Funnypants," I wouldn't want people to call my homeland "Poopyface Funnypants".

So anyway, that's why I call it Burma. So the original crazy Burmese general was a guy named Ne Win, who bathed in the blood of dolphins because he thought it would keep him young, and who famously tried to change the Burmese currency from base 10, like all other currencies in the world, to base 9 because 9 was his lucky number. So for a while, all the currency in Burma was issued in multiples of 9.

When it finally came time for Ne Win to resign, he decided to do it on the astrologically auspicious date of 8/8/88. Immediately after Ne Win resigned in 1988, there were these huge student protests, to which the Burmese government responded by killing more than 10,000 protesters. One of the leaders of those protests was a made-of-awesome woman named Aung San Suu Kyi, and in 1990 when the military government of Burma finally bowed to international pressure and agreed to have elections, Aung San Suu Kyi won.

And everyone was like, "This is great! We're gonna have this awesome lady as our Prime Minister!" But the military was like, "No no no no no, we said that we would have elections, we didn't say we that we would honor the results of those elections." So Hank, the next year Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize. And I'm sure you know what the Burmese government gives you if you win the Nobel Peace Prize: house arrest.

In fact, Hank, Aung San Suu Kyi has been stuck inside of her lakefront house for most of the last 20 years. Aung San Suu Kyi is seen by the Burmese people in much the same way that Gandhi is seen by the Indian people. She's so popular that the Burmese generals are scared of killing her.

But, Hank, a condition of her house arrest is that she's not allowed to have foreign visitors. Enter mentally disturbed Mormon evangelist American, John Yettaw. Okay, Hank, so earlier this year an American named John Yettaw abandoned his family and flew to Burma.

He then swims across the large lake in front of Aung San Suu Kyi's house and shows up at her doorstep. Apparently he was almost dead from the swim, so Aung San Suu Kyi, being the compassionate person she is, let him stay for a couple of days and recover. Then he got caught when he was trying to sneak back out, and now Aung San Suu Kyi has been arrested and faces five years in prison for violating the terms of her house arrest.

So you get arrested and you go to prison because somebody swam to your house? How can the government get away with that, Hank? One of the answers is that Burma's neighbors refuse to tell them, "Hey Burma, stop being so crazy." Now obviously it's hard to get a country like China fired up about human rights.

But Burma's other neighbors, specifically India, need to put much more pressure on the Burmese government to really reform. Otherwise, Burma will never have the opportunity to be led by its Gandhi. Hank, you'll see me on Tuesday, when Nerdfighters, I will be answering your questions.

Please leave them in comments. By the way, Australian Nerdfighters, if you wanna see me in Sydney on June 3rd, there's information in the sidebar about how to book your spot.