February 12 – Union Day in Myanmar

Posted on February 12, 2017

This holiday is Myanmar's version of Independence Day - because on this date in 1947, the Panglong Agreement gave Burma (now known as Myanmar) its full independence from Great Britain (aka the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

Since independence, there have been decades of civil war - harsh military rule - no democratic elections - violent repression of protestors - human rights violations. Some of the decisions made by the military juntas / top generals still affect people today, even though Myanmar is (thankfully) finally moving toward free elections and a better human rights record.

Here are some interesting, somewhat strange things about Myanmar that came out of bad decisions by military dictators:

Burmese people drive cars that, like British vehicles and cars driven in many former British colonies, position the driver on the right side of the vehicle. In Britain and many former British colonies, vehicles drive on the left side of the street, and so these sorts of vehicles make driving on the left side of the street safer....

But, in Myanmar, people now drive on the right side of the street. So...having the driver on the right side makes it more dangerous (and confusing)! Especially more dangerous is a right-side bus letting off people into the middle of the road instead of onto the sidewalk or edge-side of the road.

I am not positive that this sudden change-for-the-worse was made by the military junta, but all the evidence I could find points to that probability.

Motorcycles and scooters were outlawed in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon. It's said that that was because a motorcycle once ran into a top general's car. At any rate, now that speedy, maneuverable vehicles are outlawed, traffic jams are legendary. 

And I don't know if all the overheating vehicles is because of the traffic jams -- sitting around with an idling engine seems to me to be a problem! -- but apparently cars overheat ALL the time, and trucks often have no hood. I guess having no hood means you can slosh water onto the hot engine more easily! Or maybe it helps heat dissipate more easily.

Speaking of Yangon, this largest city used to also be the capital city. However, one of the military juntas decided to move the capital city hundreds of kilometers -- and to build a new capital by scratch, even though of course that cost a lot of money -- and this at a time when so many Burmese were living in poverty! The old government buildings in Yangon are said to be deserted and starting to crumble away.

Now, enough of bad decisions and problems! Let's celebrate some of the amazing temples Myanmar has to offer!

Some people call these stone slabs the world's largest book.
I would argue that stone slabs aren't pages in a book!

Also on this date:

 Youth Day in Venezuela

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