Author: Victoria Cuartero

IN REVIEW: Finding Humor in Myanmar

Zarganar, a famous Burmese comedian who was recently released from prison last year, is set to appear in a popular UK comedy show, “No Pressure to be Funny.” Since the late 80’s, Zarganar has been in and out of prison, persecuted for speaking out against the oppressive rule of the military government. As a pro-democratic activist, his last offense back in 2008 was to criticize the government for neglecting to aid victims of the cyclone Nargis, which in its wake left 140,000 people. “No Pressure to be Funny” co-creator, Nick Revell, gives credence to Zarganar’s appearance in the show, which is performed in front of a live audience at the London Soho Theater and there afterwards can be heard as a podcast. He points to the nuances of being a comedian. But where most comedians’ greatest fear would be telling a dead joke, Zarganar has to face the possibility of imprisonment for telling a political gag. He was sentenced to 59 years in prison until Amnesty International relentlessly advocated for his release. To express his gratitude, Zarganar appeared in the Amnesty’s Secret Policeman’s Ball in New York City, where he thanked the international organization for their enormous efforts and overwhelming advocacy on free speech and human rights. Zarganar is set to make an appearance at a concert in Dublin held in honor of National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi, where Bono,...

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MYANMAR: Headlines Capture Essence of Political Change

Recent headlines in the Myanmar media are a clear indication of a polarized country. Some articles touch on Japanese plans to develop the Myanmar Stock Exchange. Others describe the plights of 471 confirmed political prisoners in Myanmar, with 465 more awaiting confirmation. Looking at the Myanmar headlines on Mizzima News, an online magazine specializing in Myanmar/Burmese issues, one would be confused on where exactly Myanmar is heading. It would appear that there are two captains manning a single political ship, one yelling for change and the other fighting to stay the course. Myanmar suffers from a severe case of bipolarity. Such friction might be natural, however, when development clashes with human rights abuse. The tension can be tied to Myanmar’s recent open elections, held at the beginning of this year when the military junta government relinquished power and the nation’s beloved Aung San Suu Kyi won a seat in the parliament. To the international community, such bold change was a sure sign that Myanmar’s sails are catching democratic winds. So what is really happening? The military junta government opened talks with democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi, released some political prisoners, and signed a ceasefire with the oppressed rebels. But who is running the show? Although the National Democratic Party took 43 seats in the recent elections, the majority of the parliament seats belong to previous junta leaders who...

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MYANMAR: Caution Signs on the Road to Burma

The country of Burma (but these days Myanmar, in the official UN nomenclature) is suddenly receiving a lot of positive press, and rightly so. The military junta has released a record number of political prisoners in recent months, opened dialogue between the government and ethnic minorities, and even held some elections. None of this would have happened without immense foreign (and commercial) pressure – and of course, the effect of the charismatic Aung San Suu Ki. Lately, Burma’s seclusion seems more and more inappropriate, as its 2012 by-election hints of further democratization. One by one embargoes and sanctions are...

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PAKISTAN: Forced Conversions or Cultural Assimilation?

Of the 180 million population in Pakistan, little more than one percent are Hindus. But increasingly they are said to be fearing for their religious identity — and lives — as more and more coerced conversions have been reported. The Independent Human Rights Commission in Pakistan (HRCP) claims that the kidnappings of Hindu girls for forced conversions into Islam is increasing week by week. Amarnath Motumel, a senior lawyer with the HCRP who has represented numerous Hindu families on these conversion cases, says that figures on these kidnappings run to 20 to 25 Hindu girls a month; and, what’s...

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QATAR: Journalism Students Fight Obesity—Fat Chance?

Journalism students at Northwestern University, Qatar, have created a website to combat the alarming rate of obesity plaguing the country, as well as the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The website, Sweet Epidemic (http://qatarsweetepidemic.org), aims to raise awareness of the cause of obesity, using a mix of media tools such as video documentaries, investigative articles, audio podcasts, and visual stories. About 75% of Qatar’s population is overweight and 40% are obese or morbidly obese, according to the recent figures from National Health Strategy 2011-2016. This compares to the U.S. obesity figure of 35.7 %, while the health...

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Asia Media International Staff

ASIA MEDIA INTERNATIONAL is a student-driven publication of Loyola Marymount University’s Asia Media Center – a vital part of LMU’s Department of Asian and Asian American Studies (AAAS), in an alliance with the university's award-winning Dept.of Political Science, and with the influential Pacific Century Institute.

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