SPORTS IN MYANMAR: SOCCER, OLYMPICS AND TRADITIONAL SPORTS

SPORTS IN MYANMAR

Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Burma. Chinlone is an indigenous sport that utilizes a rattan ball and is played using mainly the feet and the knees, but the head and also the arms may be used except the hands. Burmese kickboxing called Lethwei is popular and tournaments may be seen at pagoda festivals. A form of Burmese martial arts derived from the Shan called thaing, divided into bando (unarmed combat) and banshay (armed combat), rather similar to Chinese Kung fu, is also practised. Of the twelve seasonal festivals, regattas are held in the month of Tawthalin (August/September), and equestrian events were held by the royal army in the time of the Burmese kings in the month of Pyatho (December/January). During British rule, the game of cricket was played by the ruling British, with the Burma national cricket team playing a number of first-class matches. The team exists today, although no longer of first-class quality and is an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council. [Source: Wikipedia]

The government allows WWF professional wrestling to be shown on television. The second Southeast Asian Body-Building Championship was held in Rangoon in the late 1990s. To publicize the event billboards were erected that showed the heads generals of the Myanmar regime on bodies with huge rippling muscles.

Myanmar hosted its first-ever official marathon in January 2013. The inaugural Yangon Marathon was won by Kenyan Joseph Kariuki with a time of 2 hours, 19 minutes and 12 seconds. Eighty locals and 220 foreigners competed. Over 1,000 runners took part in all the events—the marathon, a 10-kilometer run and three-kilometer run. The races started and finished at Shwedagon Pagoda. The top three finishers shared $10,000 in prize money. [Source: AP]

Chinlon—Myanmar’s Traditional Sport

Chinlon is regarded as Myanmar’s national sport. It is a hacky-sack-like game in which a woven ball is kicked around in a circle by several participants. The competitive version of the sport, according to the New York Times, “mixes dancelike acrobatic movements with what might be described as soccer juggling skills. There is no opposing team, and competitors are scored in a manner similar to those in gymnastics.”

Chinlon also refers to the wicker-work ball, composed of cane or rattan, used in the game. Rattan is a wild creeper which grows profusely in many forests of Myanmar. It is a very resilient fiberous gift of nature which Myanmar people have been using for various purposes since time immemorial. In olden days houses in rural areas were mostly built of bamboo, thatch or palm leaves and rattan was used instead of iron nail for tying the structure together. Strips of cane or rattan are interwoven in bands into a ball of four inches. a little more or less in diameter leaving twelve pentagonal holes. Very light but resilient chinlons are cheap and easily available at any village stall and a chinlon lasts quite long. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information ~]

Traditionally playing chinlon was strictly a man's pastime for exercising the body when the back and limbs got cramped due to long sitting, standing or working. But since post-war times women have begun playing it in greater numbers. Because chinlon is played basically with foot and other parts of the body—head, shoulder, elbow, knee, heel, more or less everything except for the hands—sort of like soccer, foreigners have referred to the sport as Myanmar football. However, there is no goal to shoot at in chinlon. No fixed number of players needed to play it. The main object of chinlon playing is to keep the ball as possible in the air without touching it with the hand or letting it hit the ground. It may be played by a single individual all by himself or by a team of players in circle. In Myanmar, players usually play with bare feet and have their waistcloths (longyi) tucked up close round the middle. But the game is also played with shorts and sport shoes. For men, it is said, chinlon playing provides a good opportunity to show off their masculine bodies and the tattoos on their body, thighs, hands and chest. ~

It is fun and exciting to watch a good player or a team of players in circle: standing on one leg all the time, taking every possible posture and movement to keep the chinlon in the air, giving one another difficult strokes. If chinlon is played as an entertainment at a festival it is accompanied by music. A band of percussion and wind instrumentalists continuously play while the chinlon play is on. The music changes its tempo in harmony with the movements of chinlon and players. A skilful player can play with four to eight chinlons using all possible tactics to keep them on or around his or her body. ~

The origins of chinlon are not clear. A silver chinlon was discovered enshrined in the relic chamber of Baw Baw Gyi Pagoda at an old Pyu City "Sre Kestra," which was at its height in the A.D. 8th and 9th centuries. There are references to chinlon and chinlon play in folk songs and literature. A number of books on chinlon and techniques of chinlon playing have appeared over the years. In the British colonial days an account of chinlon play was given by C.A. Gordon in 1874. Foreign travelers mentioned the apasstime. The high-ranking British official and writer J.G. Scott had his thighs tatooed and played chinlon with Burmese. In his book “The Burman. His Life and Nations,” which he wrote under the nom-de-plume "Shway Yoe", Scott said chinlon was not a game between two or more competitors aiming to win but rather was designed simply to exercise the body. ~

In 1908, chinlon was first introduced as a game and competition with a scoring system at a sports competition held at the Rangoon (Yangon) Government High School. In 1940, the All Burma (Myanmar) Chinlon Competition was held at the BAA (Burma (Myanmar) Athletic Association. In 1953 the All Burma (Myanmar) Chinlon Conference was held at Rangoon (Yangon). Delegates from 33 districts attended the conference and they unanimously laid down and approved the game’s rules for different events: 1) Individual competition for chinlon tossing; 2) Doubles competition for chinlon tossing; 3) Chinlon competition for a team of players in circle; and (4 Chinlon competition by team of players in circle for displaying skill, posture and beauty of style. ~

All together 15 styles were registered by the game law according to the movement of chinlon: 1) fall; 2) rise; 3) give; 4) take; 5) control; 6) toss; 7) turn-up; 8) coming in; 9) going out; 10) cornering; 11) attack; 12) cut; 13) support; 14) touch the ground and; 15) up lift. There are many details regarding grades of competition. size of chinlon. measurement of circle for team players. terms for postures. styles and tactics and chinlon jargon. Burmese are football enthusiasts but chinlon is still in their heart. ~

Sepak Takraw

Myanmar has a good sepak takraw team. Sepak Takraw is an interesting sport that you see played all over Southeast Asia. Essentially it is volleyball played without using your hands and arms. It is very exciting to watch a good player leap high into the air, flip around and spike the ball with his foot at 60 miles per hour and then fall on his head and shoulders without hurting himself.

Sepak Takraw is played with a special rattan bag in a badminton court. It is known by different names in different countries: sipak in the Philippines, takraw in Thailand and sepak raga in Malaysia. Sepak Takraw was coined in 1965 at the Southeast Asia Games by combining the Malay word for kick (“speak”) and the Thai word for ball surprisingly “ takraw”). Malaysia has lobbied to get sepak takraw accepted as an Olympic sport

The origin of Sepak Takraw is not known. Malays claim it was invented in Malaysia while Thais claim it was invented in Thailand. The game was reportedly played in royals courts in feudal Malaysia an is associated with the great Malayan hero Hang Tuah. In this version of game participants gathered in a circle and tried to keep the ball from hitting the ground. During the British colonization period, it was played mainly in villages as a s lunchtime pastime by working boys.

Competition sepak takraw is played with three players on a team and has rules similar to volleyball and badminton. Play begins with a served (kicked) and each side is allowed three hits (the same as volleyball) before it is delivered over the net to the other team. The scoring is like badminton. The first team to 15 wins.

Myanmar Thaing (a Myanmar Martial Art) and Burmese Kick Boxing

According to Myanmar.cm: “Like many Asian countries, Myanmar has its own martial arts that have been well established for centuries and handed down though from generations. Myanmar Thaing, or Myanmar traditional martial arts, originated more than two thousand years ago during the reign of King Okkalapa, who ruled Dagon, the old city of Yangon. Myanmar Thaing has been an official art of self-defense cherished and practised among warriors of the royal army through different eras and dynasties. It was one of the eighteen compulsory specializations of royal princes in ancient times, and it served well in nation building and defense but it declined during the colonial days after the country had lost its independence. [Source: Myanmar.cm ++]

“After independence Myanmar Thaing was revived by patriotic professionals and the Myanmar Thaing Institute in Yangon was established in 1958 by the world-class weight lifter U Zaw Wait. The aims of the Institute are to preserve and promulgate the methods, techniques and characteristics of Myanmar Thaing, to provide training to younger generations so that they can defend themselves as well as their country, and to promote the health and self-confidence of the individuals. The Institute provides training to members of the People's Police Force, the Armed Forces, and students in primary and secondary schools. It also organizes competitions at the ministry level, state and division level, and the national level with the support and encouragement of the Government. ++

“Kickboxing - a form of Myanmar martial arts - has been preserved over the centuries land still remains a favourite traditional game of the people. Although superficially similar to Thai kick boxing and Western-style boxing, it has retained a more traditional down-to-earth directness. Myanmar kickboxing is closer to street fighting than Queensberry boxing. Though Myanmar kickboxing has its own set of rules, fundamentally the target is any part of the opponent's head or body, and the weapon is any part of the body especially the head, fists, knees and elbows. The result is a fight not for the squeamish. The best blows include high kicks to the neck, elbows jabbed into the face and head, knees thrust into the ribs, and low kicks to the calves. It is an art in the truest sense of the word in that skill, technique and other attributes come into play. While mere punching with the fists may seem tame, it certainly is not when there are no gloves and hands are only wrapped in strips of cloth. However, to protect the boxers from accidents, there are rules against scratching, biting, hair pulling and hitting or kicking an opponent in the groin. A boxer who is down may not be kicked or hit in any way. ++

“Before major bouts or any other matches begin at the National Stadium in Yangon, the contestants perform a ritual of boxing-type movements to pay respect to their instructors and the audience. Previously, kickboxing matches could be enjoyed only by country folk at seasonal pagoda festivals in smaller towns or cities. They have, however, come in the limelight recently thanks to the promotion by the government and recognition by the public. Now the best matches are often staged in Yangon and broadcast throughout Myanmar via TV. ++

“The competitions at the National Stadium are in weight divisions ranging from Light Flyweight to Light Middleweight. Novice boxers fight three rounds while others fight four or five rounds depending on the class. Points are allocated for the number of good kicks. A KO occurs if the contestant cannot rise after the count of eight, or goes down three times. The match is also decided on the sight of blood. Each boxer is allowed to wipe away the blood three times before he is declared a loser. ++

Boat Racing in Myanmar

Because Myanmar is geographically endowed with many rivers and streams, boats have been used for thousands of years. During the reign of the ancient Myanmar kings, royal armies used fleets of ships and boats either in warfare or in official ceremonies. The monarchs also sponsored boat races which were usually held around September because of the favourable weather and river conditions, and that tradition has been handed down through the ages. [Source: Myanmar.cm ++]

In boat-racing, there are usually two contending boats with a set number of rowers in each boat. Each rower uses a single oar to propel the boat along the river or lake until the finish line is reached. One of the rowers sits at the bow and tries to reach out to grab the bouquet on the finish line to become the winner. ++

Tawthalin is the sixth month in the Myanmar calendar (August- September). At the end of the wet season, it is time when fields and rivers are flooded and palmyra trees are full of sun-ripened, shiny jet-black fruits. As the wet season ends sometimes the continuous days of sunshine warms the water in the paddy fields so much people say: "The sun in Tawthalin kills off land crabs " As there is no rain and not windy, water surfaces in rivers are very still and smooth. The condition is compared to the smooth mats used in Myanmar houses and since the reign of Myanmar kings it has been a time for boat races and royal regattas. During royal regattas and processions, the king surrounded by his entourage watched the event from his royal barge called "Pyi Gyi Mon Barge". Regattas were held not only for fun but also as a test for improving the skills of the Royal Marines.

Bullock Cart Races

According to PortalKBR.com: Bullock-cart racing in Myanmar is a traditional sport that goes back centuries. Over time the sport has declined in popularity and it’s rare to see in the country now. But the bullock-carts are still a big part of rural life – they are used for farming and transport. And processions of bullock-cart caravans are the main feature in annual pagoda festivals throughout Myanmar. One village in central Myanmar that is keeping the dying sport of bullock-cart racing alive. In the fields surrounding Thar-ze township in rural Mandalay a procession of caravans pulled by oxen make their way to Ywa Gyi village. Every year families in the area drive their oxen and come together to celebrate the local pagoda festival. [Source:PortalKBR.com <>]

The Shwe Yin Maw festival is a week-long event held in the summer. The festival is celebrated on the full moon day of Da Bound – which is the 12th month of Myanmar’s lunar calendar. Residents from neighboring villages travel by bullock-cart in groups. Many families set up camp near the pagoda during the festival.The good spots in the shade get taken quickly. “My family came here a few days earlier to get a good shady place, for us and also our oxen. All of my family members come together and they will stay here for six days,” says this woman. The festival is a chance to catch up with old friends and lovers, to enjoy food, trade and have fun. But the main event is the bull cart race. “I am from Nyaung Bin Thar village. We will go home in the evening of the full moon day.”Others have come from further afield to take part in the races. “We bought our cart all the way from Kyaukse in Mandalay.” <>

“Throngs of people line the race course in anticipation for the races. In this village, bull-cart racing is a tradition attached to the festival that goes back many years. There are various kinds of contests throughout the festival but the highlights are the cart race – and the beauty contest. “The carts races are held for three or four days prior the Pagoda Festival. We have divided into three groups depend on the ages of animals -- young, medium and adult,” explains U Kyi Hlaing, judge of the competition. “The 'beauty contest' scores on the manner-- how the oxen draw the card properly, how harmonious the four legs are on the run.” <>

In the beauty contest one man races his young ox down the track and pass the red flags. Judges score points for how well the ox runs. “We have four judges at four points along the running way. They score on all manners -- the beauty, the balance and the harmony. So the faster is not always the winner. To win in the game, the wisdom of drivers is also the key. The owner should know the manner and character of his own animals and how to treat them wisely in the game.” <>

“Next up is the event that everyone has been waiting for. “The cart race – it’s all about the speed, the fastest is the winner.” It’s fast and exciting…and participants sometimes take a month before the race to practice and train their animal. The owners are proud to show their strong oxen off so they decorate the carts with coloured ribbons. “This is our tradition, our culture and we are trying our cultural beauty alive as ever.” Though it’s in decline elsewhere in the country, in Ywa Gyi village, the bull-cart races are thriving. <>

Soccer in Myanmar

Soccer is popular even though the Burmese national team is terrible. There are 30 or so sports journals, many of which follow the English Premier League. Soccer was introduced by the British adventurer Sir. J. George Scott in 1879. The first match was played with the bladder of a fish.

Myanmar has never come close to participated in a World Cup. Myanmar withdrew from the qualification stages of the 2002 World Cup.

In October 2011, Myanmar was banned from taking part in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers by FIFA and fined $28,000 after crowd trouble halted their Asian qualifying match against Oman the previous July. Myanmar, already down 2-0 in the first leg match, was losing 2-0 in the second leg match in Yangon when fans began throwing stones, shoes, water bottles and other objects onto the pitch and at Oman players and officials just before the end of the first half. At least one Oman player and one official were struck by objects as dozens of police tried to control the crowd. Appeals by Myanmar football chief Zaw Zaw for calm fell on deaf ears. The violence started after Oman striker Ismail made the score 2-0 from with a kick from the penalty spot in the 39th minute, midfielder Amad Al Hosni having put Oman ahead in the 23rd minute. FIFA gave Oman a 2-0 victory which saw through to next stage,[Source: AP]

Wikileaks Cables: Myanmar General Considered Buying Manchester United

Former Myanmar leader Than Shwe once considered spending a billion dollars to buy Manchester United as a gift to his grandson, a soccer fan.

Robert Booth wrote in The Guardian: “The leader of Burma's military junta considered making a $1 billion (£634m) bid to buy Manchester United football club around the time it was facing rising anger from the United Nations over its "unacceptably slow" response to cyclone Nargis.Than Shwe, commander in chief of the armed forces and a fan of United, was urged to mount a takeover bid by his grandson, according to a cable from the US embassy in Rangoon. It details how the regime was thought to be using football to distract its population from ongoing political and economic problems. The proposal was made prior to January 2009; only months earlier, in May 2008, the Burmese junta had been accused of blocking vital international aid supplies after Nargis struck, killing 140,000 people. [Source: Robert Booth, The Guardian, December 6, 2010 ^]

“Than Shwe reportedly concluded that making a bid for United might "look bad" at the time, but the revelation that the proposal was even considered is likely to fuel criticism of the regime's cruelty. The senior general instead ordered the creation of a new multimillion dollar national football league at the same time as aid agencies were reporting that one year on, many survivors of the cyclone still lacked permanent housing, access to clean water, and tools for fishing and agriculture. ^

“The mooted price tag for Manchester United was exactly the same as the aid bill to cover the most urgent food, agriculture and housing for the three years after the cyclone, as estimated by international agencies including the UN. The proposal revealed that the regime, which is increasingly exploiting its oil and gas reserves, felt confident of finding such a sum. According to Forbes magazine's valuation of the club at the time, $1 billion would have been enough to acquire a 56 percent controlling stake. ^

"One well-connected source reports that the grandson wanted Than Shwe to offer $1 billion for Manchester United," said the June 2009 cable to Washington. "The senior general thought that sort of expenditure could look bad, so he opted to create for Burma a league of its own." Than Shwe then reportedly coerced and bribed eight leading business and political figures to establish teams and ordered them to spend large sums on imported players and new stadiums. ^

“The cable revealed that in January 2009, selected Burmese business people were told "that Than Shwe had 'chosen' them to be the owners of the new professional soccer teams. [The informant, a top executive at one of the sponsor companies] said the owners are responsible for paying all costs, including team salaries, housing and transportation, uniform costs, and advertising for the new league. In addition, owners must build new stadiums in their respective regions by 2011, at an estimated cost of $1 million per stadium." ^

“The Magway team was spending $155,000 a month on salaries while the Kanbawza team, linked to a bank, had budgeted $2 million for the 2009 season. Rangoon United hired five players from Africa and Delta United recruited several Argentinians. "When asked why the owners would participate in such an expensive endeavour, [an executive with one company sponsor] observed that they had little choice," the embassy reported. "'When the senior general asks someone to do something, you do it with no complaints,' he stated." ^

“He added that several of the business people expected to receive incentives from the regime, such as construction contracts, new gem and jade mines, and import permits, which would more than offset their costs. The owners of the clubs in the Burma national football league, which launched on 16 May 2009, include "regime crony" Zaw Zaw, who also chairs Burma's football federation and drew up plans for the league with the senior general's grandson. "Zaw Zaw hired Senior General Than Shwe's grandson to play on the team," a separate cable adds. But according to the dispatch, "many Burmese businessmen speculate the regime is using it as a way to distract the populace from ongoing political and economic problems or to divert their attention from criticism of the upcoming 2010 elections". ^

Asian Games and Olympics and Myanmar

Myanmar has yet to win its first ever Olympic medal. In 2012 it was the third most populous nation (53 million people) to not win a medal afer Bangladesh (159 million) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (72 million). At The Athens Olympics in 2004, Nan Aye Khine placed 4th in 48 kilogram weightlifting but then was booted from the Olympics after testing positive for steroids.

Myanmar won a gold medal in wushu and a silver medal in men’s sepak takraw in 2002 Asian Games. It finished 22nd out 44 countries with one gold, five silvers and five bronzes. Oo Maya Sands won a silver medal in the women’s 75 kilogram weightlifting event at the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar and then failed a drug test, testing positive for a banned metabolite. Another female weightlifter, Than Kyo Kyi, in the 48 kilogram division, tested positive for a banned diaretic.

Myanmar competed at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. This was the nation's sixteenth appearance at the Olympics. Myanmar Olympic Committee sent a total of six athletes to the Games, an equal share between men and women, to compete in 5 sports, tying the record with Beijing at a single Olympics. Among these athletes, archer Nay Myo Aung and single sculls rower Shwe Zin Latt competed at their second consecutive Olympics. Pistol shooter Maung Kyu, who competed at his first Olympics, was the oldest member of the team, at age 41. Meanwhile, track runner Zaw Win Thet, the youngest of the team, at age 21, was appointed by the committee to be Myanmar's flag bearer at the opening ceremony. Myanmar also marked its Olympic return in judo after a twenty-year absence. Myanmar’ Soe Min Thu ran in the 5000 meters in Beijing in 2008. He finished at about two minutes behind the leaders in his qualifying heat but received a big ovation from the crowd at the Birdnest stadium. [Source: Wikipedia]

Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar in December 2013

Myanmar will hosted the Southeast Asian Games in December, 2013. Hosting the Southeast Asia in Naypyitaw has been compared to the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which marked post-war Japan's re-emergence on the world stage.

At the end of the games, AFP reported: “A spectacular fireworks display and thousands of dancers brought the curtain down on the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar. The closing ceremony, held at Naypyidaw's 30,000 capacity stadium, marked the end of 11 official days of competition which saw Thailand topping the medals table with 107 gold medals. Myanmar came in second with 86 gold medals, followed by Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia making the top five. [Source: December 23, 2013]

The event marked the country's return to the international stage after decades of isolation. It has been hailed as a 'coming out' party and was given to the hosts as a reward for reforms overseen by President Thein Sein, who was present at the closing and opening ceremonies. Concerns over Myanmar's readiness to host a large international standard event had been raised ahead of the Games, while the distances between venues in the vast capital also raised eyebrows. But Myanmar has basked in its host status and a rare moment in the international limelight after years under military rule. "Some local and international observers thought Myanmar could not host the SEA Games," said the president's spokesman Ye Htut on his Facebook page. "They were wrong."

The closing ceremony saw thousands of dancers perform scenes from Myanmar's history to an animated background broadcast on vast screens flanking one side of the stadium. At one point hundreds of teenage boys and girls delighted the crowd with a synchronised demonstration of chinlone - a local cane-ball game - which was followed by scores of elaborately-dressed drummers pounding a rhythm for an array of dancers. The opening and closing ceremonies were supported in cash and know-how by China, which confirmed its own re-emergence onto the international platform with the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. A SEA Games official thanked China at the closing ceremony for its "tremendous support" which officials said amounted to $US 33 million.

While little known outside the region, the Games are a source of local bragging rights for the 11 competing nations and give athletes from lesser sporting nations the chance to shine. Thailand's athletes picked up medals in track and field events as well as the flagship men's football gold. Myanmar came in a respectable second with 86 gold medals and it had been accused of cherry-picking non-Olympic sports such as chinlone to ensure a strong showing on home soil. Singapore will host the 2015 event.

Myanmar’s Sports Choices for the Southeast Asian Games Raise Concerns

Some questions were raised about some of the sports that were chosen for the event, with some accusing Myanmar of stacking the deck in its favor. Thomas Fuller wrote in the New York Times, “It has been promoted as a showcase for the new Myanmar, a regional sporting event that will celebrate the country’s embrace of democracy and the end of a hermetic and oppressive era. But the Southeast Asian Games, which will be held in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, and other sites throughout the country, is causing acrimony long before a single athlete has competed. Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, which all intend to participate in what are known as the SEA Games, have sent separate letters to Myanmar protesting the way the event is being organized, according to Gen. Yuthasak Sasiprapha, the president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand. “These games are supposed to bring unity, but they are causing divisions instead,” General Yuthasak told the Thai news media last week. [Source: Thomas Fuller, New York Times, January 27, 2013 ==]

“The main complaint is that Myanmar has stacked the competition with obscure sports that Myanmar’s athletes have a good chance of winning. Charoen Wattanasin, the vice president of the Thai National Olympic Committee, said that the SEA Game regulations allowed for 8 traditional sports but that Myanmar had put 14 on the roster. “Nine out of the 14 are martial arts,” he said, struggling to describe them. “They are — well, I can’t even remember their names.” ==

“One is called chinlone, a traditional Burmese game that mixes dancelike acrobatic movements with what might be described as soccer juggling skills. There is no opposing team, and competitors are scored in a manner similar to those in gymnastics. Myanmar has dropped tennis and table tennis from the games, even though both have been played in all SEA Games since the competition began in 1959. Gymnastics is out, as is badminton, Thai and Philippine officials said. ==

“The Singaporeans are lamenting the loss of water polo, in which they do well, and the Philippine Olympic Committee has threatened to send a threadbare delegation if the roster is not changed. Malaysia and Indonesia, which have strong badminton traditions, are urging that the sport be reinstated.The Nation, a Thai daily newspaper, reported Sunday that Myanmar had also dropped beach volleyball because “the sport’s outfits were not suitable for Myanmar culture.” Myanmar circulated the roster of events to representatives of participating countries last week and for now is defending its selection. ==

“Every host country has the authority to decide which competitions should be included and excluded,” U Htay Aung, a director in Myanmar’s ministry of sports, said. Mr. Htay Aung said he recalled previous games in which Myanmar’s requests “were ignored.”“There are always complaints at these games,” he said. “Myanmar will make the final decision.” Myanmar’s ability to organize the games smoothly will be closely watched by officials in the region, because in some ways it will be a test run for a much more ambitious project. Next year, Myanmar will hold the chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a responsibility that involves playing host to countless regional meetings and dealing with thousands of visiting diplomats and journalists. ==

“It is a challenging task for a government that is only now breaking from its inward-looking, military past and its history of antagonistic relations with the outside world. Myanmar appears eager to reassure its neighbors that it is ready to host the games. U Naw Tawng, a Burmese official quoted on Myanmar’s official SEA Games Web site, predicted that the games would be better than those held in 2011 in Indonesia. Myanmar has played host to the games twice — in 1961 and 1969 — but this is the first time the games are to be held there since the brutal suppression of the democracy movement, including a bloody crackdown in 1988. ==

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Travel Information Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, burmalibrary.org, burmanet.org, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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