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Hello, this is your tour guide speaking. I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome
you all to Burma. As you travel through our beautiful country please do not look beyond
our glittering pagodas, do not talk about politics, and please ensure that you do not
leave the clearly defined trail. Please acknowledge that our government is working
hard to improve the state of the nation and that we do not abuse human rights.
Should you not appreciate this, you are a neo-colonialist axe-handle
who works for the CIA. Thank you for your attention and please enjoy your visit.
REVIEW: MR GARRY WOODARD
Emeritus Professor, University of Melbourne
former Australian Ambassador to Burma, China, and Malaysia
In his first book, ‘Welcome to Burma and Enjoy the Totalitarian Experience’ Timothy Syrota ventures beyond Asia’s bamboo curtain into a country from a bygone era which, at the time, had only recently opened to foreign travel. With a goal of going from Rangoon to Putao, Syrota’s travels soon became much more about the people of Burma – and their predicament under the military regime – than about the places that he visits.
‘Welcome to Burma’ is written with a sense of integrity, simplicity, humanity and has an almost beatnik rhythm to its text. It provides one of the more accessible introductions to the machinations of totalitarian rule and important insight into the realities of life under one of the world’s harshest and most enduring military regimes. In this context, ‘Welcome to Burma’ is a relevant piece of literature today, tomorrow, and, sadly, perhaps every day until the Burmese Government genuinely respects human rights and democracy.
In having ‘Welcome to Burma’ published, Syrota gained the best of support when Aung San Suu Kyi’s late husband, Dr Michael Aris, took a liking to the original manuscript; a manuscript at the time rough, raw, full of expletives and written by a self confessed beach-loving-back-packer of the Pulp Fiction dance-party generation. It was, nonetheless, a manuscript with an important place to fill in the body of literature concerning Burma under the military regime.
The wise counsel and sunny optimism of Dr Aris is greatly missed.
The sun is briefly visible as it climbs above a mountain. Too early, too vivid, too harsh,
and a cloud Intervenes to mask its brightness. The sun burns from behind and the
upper rim of the cloud becomes a strip of glowing white light, like an angelic halo.
The cloud is saying to the sun, "No, not yet. Let the land, let the river wake up slowly,
gently, let the mists rise. There will be plenty of time for you to burn later, but not now."
It feels as if I am travelling to somewhere very far away, an outpost buried in a primitive
wilderness. In once sense I will be days away from Mandalay but in another I am travelling only
a few hundred kilometres. But in this instance, perhaps days are the better measure of distance.
REVIEW: ABE BOOKS
Rating 5 stars
Welcome to Burma and Enjoy the Totalitarian Experience' shares penetrating and empathetic insights into the daily lives and trials of the Burmese people as they eke out an existence under the ever watchful gaze of their oppressive military government. Syrota, spent months roaming the cities and countryside meeting and chatting with citizens from all walks of life. Highly readable; a 'must' for all with interest in Burma and its political situation.
I am introduced to the owner of the house. He is a General of the Shan State
Army North, Mr Ghee to me on account of never quite having caught his name.
Mr Ghee - you can see it in the way he sits, you can see it in the angles of his body. They say,
‘I am in charge.’ Confidence and control. You see it in the way he looks and in the way he watches
people - attentive, composed and comfortable. His eyes do not flit from one thing to another
and rarely do they settle on inanimate objects. They always watch people, watching and taking in.
Eyes in command. But his welcome to me is warm, as are his handshake and smile.
‘The Shan are strong people and the Burmese government are scared of them.
But we must be humble. If we are not, the government will kill us,’ says Mr Ghee.
‘The government wants to make peace with us, we make peace but we do not lay
down our arms. The government gives rice and oil and money to us because
we have made a ceasefire but what they want are the rubies from the mines
and the teak from the forests. Before, if they want to go to the forest in Shan State
they know that our soldiers will kill them.
REVIEW: MR DOMINIC RILEY
Human Rights Documentation Unit, Myanmar
Syrota takes his reader on a Kerouacian journey of discovery through the military controlled Burma, simultaneously absorbing and exposing the country’s multitude contrasts and contradictions. His spontaneous prose and genuine concern for his subject perfectly captures the appalling predicament and masked spirit of a people continuously in fear of military spies, incarceration and torture. For anyone who has ever taken a cursory interest in life in other countries, ‘Welcome to Burma…and Enjoy the Totalitarian Experience’ provides a welcome and enlightening snapshot into one of the world’s most inaccessible regimes.
PURCHASING WELCOME TO BURMA
Welcome to Burma can be purchased from the publisher, Orchid Press, online through Amazon and its affiliated book shops, or copies are available directly from the author (almost certainly the cheapest option and definitely the most supportive of the author! - AUD$30 + postage) contact Timothy.