Unmasking Burma's 'Democracy'
covering burma and southeast asia
Sunday, December 10, 2023

Unmasking Burma's 'Democracy'

By BENEDICT ROGERS Monday, April 4, 2011

A foreign tourist exermines at a souvenir shop in Rangoon's Bogoke market. (Photo: AP)
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“But democracy gives al-Qaeda opportunities,” he said.

“I disagree. Democratic, open societies are a better way to challenge extremism and terrorism than dictatorship,” I said.

On that note, the two agents told me I could go through to the gate for boarding. But I reminded them that they still had my passport, which their colleagues had taken along with my air tickets the night before.

After watching them engage in a few minutes of confused conversation over what to do, I said with a smile: “No passport, I stay in Myanmar—OK?”

We all burst out laughing, and then they gave me my passport, shook my hand and said goodbye.

Then looking them straight in the eye, I uttered my last words before leaving Burma: “Thank you for treating me well. I know that your government does not treat your own people well at all, but I am grateful that at least you treated me well.”

I was aware that if I had been Burmese, I would have been treated far worse. Undoubtedly, the late-night knock on the door would have been far more frightening—I would have been hooded, beaten, tortured and jailed. It is possible that I might not even have survived.

Within hours of my deportation, the news somehow reached the media despite the fact that I did not seek publicity. I initially refused requests for interviews, wanting to keep it low-key for the sake of friends in Burma. It was only after the media started running the story that I decided I should speak in order to ensure that the accounts did not descend into wild rumors, which could make things worse.

In addition, people inside Burma asked me to speak out. They wanted me to let the world know that nothing has changed.

Benedict Rogers, the East Asia Team Leader at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, was deported from Rangoon on March 23 after being identified by secret police. He contributed this article for The Irrawaddy.

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