Letter: Burma: cruelty and kindness

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The Independent Online
Burma: cruelty and kindness

Sir: I recently returned to Burma after a 54-year absence (travel column, 25 May). I had agonised over whether or not to go; whether it would be colluding with an odious tyranny or whether the increasing presence of foreigners might give hope to a cruelly imprisoned people. In the end, I went; not with a tour but travelling by myself. I squashed into sardine cans of trucks, met ordinary Burmese and used my eyes and ears.

During the month I spent in Burma, people risked imprisonment - and probably torture - to talk to me about the military regime and the crimes it had committed: its cruelty, its ruthlessness, its stupidity. All loathed and despised the thugs who oppressed them.

The much-vaunted stability of the country is a sham. It's about as stable as the old buildings in Rangoon, spick and span painted in front and filthy and falling to bits at the back. Burma is a country of chain gangs, torture and corruption. It's also a potential tourist gold mine which is why the Japanese and Chinese are pouring money in. While the American State Department complains about human rights abuses our government remains silent.

If Aung San Suu Kyi had said four months ago "Please don't go to Burma" I wouldn't have gone. I was a small child there and had memories of kindness, laughter and warmth. Those qualities - incredibly - are still evident, but I won't go back until the National League for Democracy is in power.


London W8