I'm back in Thailand, in the lovely, seedy border town of Mae Sai. I'll be heading back to Chiang Mai in a few hours. I have lots of photos and stories to put up, but I'm going to wait for a better internet connection to do so.
Let me just say that Burma is a strange, strange place. When you step across the border, you set your watch back 30 minutes, and move back in time a half a century. It's a dictatorship, but one held together with carbon copies, handwritten account books and library paste. The streets are dirt, the houses bamboo and thatch, the vehicles improvised, held together with hope and wire. More than anywhere else I've ever been, it's a place apart. And yet...the thing I've come to understand, above all, is that Burma's isolation doesn't --as it were-- happen in isolation. The life is being sucked out of the country, and that's very, very good for the rest of the region. Whether their interests are in gas, oil, timber, hydropower, gems, drugs or labor, powerful people in the surrounding countries benefit from Burma staying exactly as it is. The chaos in Burma allows for ruthless extraction of its resources in a way that would never be possible in a country where the government bears any accountability to its people. Thailand benefits, China benefits, India benefits, the Burmese junta benefits -- and the Burmese people are left to pay the price.
This, I think, is the most important story about Burma, and I'm working on how to communicate it through the frame of the issue I'm focusing on.