Monday, 17 March 2008

Why I read 'The New Light of Myanmar'

Is it wrong to enjoy reading the online issue of the The New Light of Myanmar: the state-run daily newspaper of the Burmese Tatmadaw (junta)?

Why do I read it? Because its so damn surreal - that's why. Firstly, there's the state's four political objectives, four economic objectives and four social objectives, recapped everyday beneath the nameplate. These include:

  • "The initiative to shape the national economy must be kept in the hands of the state and the national peoples"
  • "Proper evolution of the market-orientated economic system"
  • "Uplift of the morale and morality of the entire nation"
  • "Uplift of health, fitness and education standards of the entire nation"

Try reading them while flicking through any of the UN reports, the Free Burma Rangers website or one of dozens of human rights reports. It makes for some hilarious compare and contrast.

Then there's the mind-numbing lead story. With its mile-long headline, this usually finds one of the top military brass – usually Than Shewe - heading a nebulous draft-constitution meeting, hosting a meeting for one of the country's obscure civic organizations (the Myanmar Pulses, Beans and Sesame Seeds Merchants Association anyone?), or shaking hands with the latest voracious foreign diplomat out to do business. PM Samak, seen here looking noble in Friday's issue, was the latest. Such a nice man.

Today, though, its the opening of a new piece of infrastructure that makes the lead. Not a bridge or road, but the opening of a paper machia mock-up of a Chamber of Commerce office, with PM Thein Sein in attendence. Nice one! Such progress!

Note how dour everyone looks, as if the faintest trace of a smirk would mean a indefinite spell in Insein, the country’s most notorious jailhouse. That's, erm, because it does.

Next, I click to page 2. Here, everyday, there's a diminuitive column entitled 'People's Desire'. At last, the man on the street...

... but there's something awry here - the 'People's Desire' hasn't changed in the couple of years I've been reading it. Also, judging by the pugnacious tone, everyone in Rangoon talks like a bellicose, card-carrying Maoist at the height of the Great Leap Forward.

However, it’s the daily diatribe, usually on page 7, that I always make a beeline for. Usually it’s directed against Aung San Suu Kyi, the ethnic minorities, or the Western powers of which the preceding are just "stooges"...

The current fashion, though, seems to be for turgid, lets-hype-the-upcoming constitution tirades. Todays its a piece entitled 'If in no mood to help, do not disturb' written by journo, Pauk Sa. In it the National League for Democracy is accused of "practising one-party dictatorship", trying to prevent the Tatmadaw from building a "discipline flourishing democractic nation", and "provoking riots".

It ends by trying to assume the moral highground, with a warning: "I do not think it is wise that NLD is criticizing that holding new elections is not legitimate and persists in making demands that are no longer in line with the present time and present way of life of the people. So, I would like to say that if NLD is in no mood to extend a helping hand, it does not matter, but it is requested not to disturb the processes". If only the party hadn't been emasculated, if only it could.

The New Light of Myanmar looks like a shitty socialist student rag. But it is, in fact, a carefully state-monitored 16-page web of deceit, fabrications and ego-stroking, blended with syndicated international stories to give a gossamer-thin veneer of credibility. It is propaganda of the most derisory sort. It is the world’s most Orwellian newspaper. If you want to know why I read it, you can find out here.

Know your enemy.

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