Watch moment appalled ambassador stops Boris Johnson reciting colonial poem in Burma's holiest site

'Not appropriate,' says diplomat Andrew Patrick

Will Worley
Saturday 30 September 2017 13:11
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Boris Johnson 'recited colonial poem in Burma's most sacred Buddhist temple'

This is the footage which shows the British ambassador to Burma cutting off Boris Johnson's recitation of a colonial-era poem in the country's holiest site, in what has been labelled a “stunning” gaffe.

Visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon earlier this year, the Foreign Secretary began quoting the opening lines of Rudyard Kipling’s Mandalay.

The poem is written through the eyes of a retired British serviceman in Burma and also references kissing a local girl.

During the visit, after describing a golden Buddhist statue as a “very big guinea pig”, Mr Johnson burst into prose.

“The temple-bells they say … Come you back, you British soldier," the Foreign Secretary said.

Standing next to the ambassador, Andrew Patrick, Mr Johnson continued: “The wind is in the palm trees … the temple bells they say” – before Mr Patrick interjected.

"You're on mic,” Mr Patrick said, looking tense. “Probably not a good idea."

Mr Johnson replied: "What, The Road to Mandalay?"

“No,” the ambassador said, “not appropriate.”

The footage was shot by Channel 4 as part of a documentary on Mr Johnson’s fitness for Prime Ministerial office.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office declined a request for comment from The Independent.

Mark Farmaner, director of the Burma Campaign UK, told the Guardian: “It is stunning he would do this there.

“There is a sensitivity about British colonialism and it is something that people in Burma are still resentful about. British colonial times were seen as a humiliation and an insult.”

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