Skin Deep
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BARBER'S CHAIR

Skin Deep


By SHWE YOE Friday, February 13, 2009


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Smartly dressed in a traditional Muslim gown and a brimless cloth hat, a new customer took a seat in the barber’s chair and picked up a copy of The New Light of Myanmar to read as the barber sharpened his scissors to give him a haircut.

“Let’s see what has been going on these last days in our learned government’s standoff with the Rohingya,” the man stated boldly.

The barber stopped for a moment and looked squarely at the Muslim man. “The Rohingya?” he said. “Have you been following the news about the boatpeople?”

"Of course," the customer said. “But I have been upcountry for the past few weeks and didn’t hear any national news. This military government of ours may not be able to export any products, you know. But it can certainly produce exports—human beings!”

The barber smiled wryly and began cutting the man’s hair. “Indeed,” he said.

“This is a diabolical problem,” continued the customer, becoming more animated. “The issue of boatpeople is really an issue of a deteriorating domestic economy. Why else would everyone be running away to other countries?”

“Or sometimes even paddling away in an ice box,” the barber muttered.

“Exactly!” nodded the Muslim.

"Calm down, my friend. Let me cut your hair first," the barber whispered, patting the man on the shoulder.

"Thank you,” he replied. “But don't shave my moustache and my beard. That's part of my Muslim identity."

"Do you think that’s why our consul-general in Hong Kong commented that the Muslim Rohingyas were different in appearance from the typical Burmese?"

“What?” the customer said. “I didn’t know about this. I’ve been out of town for a while. Tell me what happened?”

"He said that the Burmese government has never accepted the Rohingyas as one of the ethnic groups of Burma,” explained the barber. “Then he said that the poor Rohingya boatpeople on the news were—and I quote—as ugly as ogres.”
 
“What!?!” exclaimed the man in the chair, his voice rising. “What a disgusting, racist thing to say. And this is a Burmese diplomat???”

“Yes, very diplomatic indeed,” replied the barber. “Ye Mint Aung is his name. He went on to say that the Rohingya couldn’t be from Myanmar, because they have brown skin and were not—in his words—fair and soft like Burmans.”

"Fair and soft?” exclaimed the Muslim. “What is this guy? A model for skin creams?”

“No, just your average xenophobic Burmese ambassador,” said the barber with a shrug.

“Maybe we should stick him on a boat and cast him adrift for a few weeks and see how fair and soft his skin is after that?” sneered the Muslim.

The barber nodded. “Now I understand why Mr Gambari says he doesn’t get a chance to meet with the government officials," he said.

"Precisely!” cried the customer. “They’re probably too afraid to shake hands with him in case he dirties their soft, fair skin!”

They both laughed for a minute and then fell silent. The barber finished off the man’s haircut.

“I just can’t understand why so many Burmese hate people from Bangladesh and India,” said the barber sadly, shaking his head. "Why can’t we live in harmony just as the Buddha told us?”

“Maybe because the Buddha came from India too,” said the Muslim, and he shook hands with the barber.

COMMENTS (8)
 
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Mr True Wrote:
09/03/2009
Burmese people - including me - don't hate any people from India or Bangladesh. But Burmese people don't like lying. Some Bengali migrant workers from Bangladesh who live in the Western part of Burma created a name and pretended to be an ethnic group of Burma. That is why they are angry at these people.

So The Irrawaddy and other Burmese media should not support them because of dollars. The country is more important than any other case. And our religion is more important.

naingmya Wrote:
05/03/2009
Maung Zaw,

Do you want to know that the KNU, SSA, etc. terrorist groups have committed numerous killings, rape, forced recruitment in Shan, Karen, Karenni states for over 50 years? They have committed several crimes which you cannot put in one book. See the big picture to understand the reality.

a Global Burmese Wrote:
05/03/2009
The best satire I have read in ages. Jolly Good!

Myanmar Think Tank Wrote:
02/03/2009
We, Burmese Buddhists, used to call those with brown skin "kalar," even if he is a Buddhist. And we also called "kalar phyu" to white men, or Westerners. Moreover, we call "kalar" to Muslims, Hindus and Indians. If a girl is beautiful, has fair skin, dark brown eyes and a lovely shaped nose, we used to say "Kalar ma lay lo chaw dae."

So, how funny we are! Does the brown skin belong to only Muslims or Indians? How about the Burmese from Midland, "A nyar-thar"? How is the skin color of Than Shwe, Shwe Mann, Kyaw Hsan?

yarz ar Wrote:
25/02/2009
I am half-Burmese and half Indian and I live in Rangoon. Come on guys! There are always misunderstandings between Burmese and Burmese-Indians. The media should approach this kind of issue in a sensitive manner. Otherwise there will be blood on the streets of Rangoon. I used to hate Burmese-Indians, but now I have more good Burmese-Indian friends than Burmese, even through I feel that I am 100 percent Burmese as well.

Maung Zaw Wrote:
25/02/2009
It is very easy to say that Rohingyas are not our people. If so, what about Kokang Chinese? They are our people because their appearances are like ours. What about rape cases by the Burmese Army in Shan and Karen states? They are excused.

Irene Wrote:
25/02/2009
The crude remark made by Ye Myint Aung is deplorable. However, we must not forget that Rohingyas are not our people - they are refugees from Bangladesh and thus should never have been accepted to be part of our ethnicity. Speaking of living in harmony from the Barber’s Chair is easy, but in reality these Muslims from Bangladesh only brings atrocities. Look at what happened in Pyi and the rape cases where our girls fell victims to those polygamous [people].

Maybe the Thai Navy was trying to send them back to where they belong -Bangladesh.

ZAW WIN Wrote:
22/02/2009
Very good!

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