Top critical review
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Don't forget that it's a "personal" history
on May 16, 2008
This is a well written book and a very informative one for the Western society to have a broader picture of Burma. However, as one other Burmese reviewer said, the book carries an elite view of history and lack grassroots dimension. I have no problem with highly educated elites that love Burma, as we need them to rebuild our country. In fact, being about the same age, I share a similar sentiment with the author about Burma's future.
The author spoke against economic sanctions and its ineffectiveness to stimulate transformation in Burma. While he made his point well and some other reviewers resonated with him, the author failed to study the drug history in Burma that played a major role in triggering the existing sanctions.
My father was imprisoned a few years back for his successful effort in drug rehabilitation in Burma. Can you imagine a government that would imprison someone for saving the lives of many young people, my age and younger, that buried their lives in drugs because the government didn't give them a hope for a future. It was then I happened to dig into the Amnesty International and U.S. State Department's reports to find out, with much surprise, that the Burmese government was heavily involved in drug production and that 70% of the heroin sold in the U.S. came from Burma; I thought it came from Columbia. To make the long story short, by doing business in Burma, the American companies were helping the junta and their associated drug producers turn their drug money into legitimate white money--the money that came from destroying American young people.
The drug history is an example of the grassroots history of Burma that is missing in the book. The history of unfortunate foreign encounters should not be used to justify the government's trampling of the grassroots using different forms of systematic torture, or to justify the removal of sanctions.
However, as a "personal" history, it is a good read, and we need more books and more authors like him to provide wider windows to look into Burma, so that the world can make informed decisions.