Burma Day 1: The Waiting Is Over

The most dangerous part of this project is working inside Burma. The risks are huge if caught – maybe not so much for me although you can’t be sure, but for anyone I’m with or is associated to me then it could mean paying the ultimate price and a very heavy prison sentence and all that comes with that. For these obvious reasons there is very little that can be talked about in this blog about the trips inside Burma (as with the trip last year) other than to state that no matter what these risks are, there are some very, very brave people indeed inside Burma who are willing to take them in order to tell the world what’s going on and in this case to tell the world that their colleagues currently detained in prison MUST be freed immediately. We take these risks because the message is too important and that is why I report back in a limited sense about what we are doing to let the world know that despite the risks we are doing what we can – there is nothing to be gained in staying silent. That’s what the Generals want.

This time I have a Visa-on-Arrival. It’s a new system introduced by the regime to try to lure more foreign visitors by making the visa process more simple – plus of course it costs more so they make more money… but I felt I might as well give it a go and on arrival at Rangoon airport, other than a few nervous moments when two military officials march across the waiting area with my passport in their hand and disappear into a small room, everything goes smoothly and I meet my official tour guide who has arranged my visa and we head into town – chatting about my forthcoming trip to Inle Lake, beautiful Bagan and all that wonderful Myanmar has to offer the newly arrived tourist. Of course I have no plans to go to any of these places and I’m purely going through the motions. I feel really sorry for her, knowing that deep down I know she hates her government as much as I do, but like so many, she is trapped here, unable to speak, unable to live an ordinary life. I get dropped off at my hotel by my guide and immediately jump in another taxi to another hotel once she is out of sight. Whilst your every move may be tracked by the regime and its intelligence officers, you might as well make it as hard for them as possible to know your exact whereabouts whenever you can. It’s a game of cat and mouse that you may not need to always play, but you can never be sure.

It’s incredibly hot here (40 degrees today) and everyone is gearing up for Thingyan next week. The rest of the day is spent taking in a few of Rangoon’s sites and several hours at the most beautiful of them all late into the evening – the Shwedagon Pagoda – one of my favourite places on earth.

A day being a tourist… after all that’s what I am aren’t I?!

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