July 19 – Martyrs' Day in Myanmar / Burma

Posted on July 19, 2017

Today is a sad commemoration for the people of Myanmar - the remembrance of nine people who were assassinated on this date in 1947. 

The people who were killed included General Aung San, who led the interim government that was supposed to provide a transition from the British rule to full independence. The assassinated also included seven other interim government leaders and a bodyguard.

Aung San is considered the Father of the Nation. Can you imagine if, in U.S. history, someone assassinated George Washington just after the Revolutionary War but before the first election of the new nation?
As I explained in an earlier post, the nation that most of the world calls Myanmar is called Burma by the United Kingdom, the United States, and apparently most of the Burmese people themselves, when they are speaking and not writing for publication. 

A Teak Connection

Myanmar / Burma is the home to many teak forests. Teak is a kind of wood that is naturally resistant to water, so it is very desirable for many projects including furniture making and ship building.

Of course, locals have used teak wood forever, but the export of teak became an important thing for the British colony of Burma. After a few years of holding a monopoly over all Burmese teak, the British government bowed to pressure from wealthy teak merchants and opened up logging to private industry. But, with no regulations, the loggers ended up decimating the teak forests in only a little more than a decade. 

A more careful development of teak forests included what is called "shifting cultivation," planting crops for human use for a short time in a particular field, then allowing that field to go back to its native plant life while a nearby field is farmed. 

There were many arguments and strains between the Burmese people, their British rulers, and minority ethnic groups such as the Karens - and some of the strife was about teak.

Myanmar / Burma has the longest teak bridge in the world.
The U Bein Bridge is about 3/4 of a mile long!

After independence, the teak forests went back to being unregulated and over-harvested. But now, finally, Myanmar has started to reform the logging industry. Hopefully teak will continue to be a resource for the nation for generations to come...

Teak carvings have been a part of Burmese culture for centuries.

Also on this date:

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