Click here to Download The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book by Thant Myint-U Language English having PDF Size 2.7 MB and No of Pages 368.
The late morning hikes to lecture through the New England snow and slush, the long conversations over starchy dining hall meals, the spring garden parties, my friends off to medical school or their first jobs on Wall Street all seemed many worlds away. But at least for a little while I felt a sense of purpose, a sense that I was at the right place doing the right thing.
The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book by Thant Myint-U
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Everything seemed exciting, the atmosphere always vibrant. In August and September of that year, waves of antigovernment demonstrations had rocked Burma’s military dictatorship to its very foundations. When the uprising was finally and violently crushed, thousands of university students, from Rangoon and elsewhere.
Trekked over the mountains to the jungles near the border with Thailand, attempting not to flee but to regroup and restart their abortive revolution. They hoped for American support and American arms. There were rumors that American Special Forces were on their way. Some said an American battleship was already anchored offshore in the balmy waters of the Andaman Sea.
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Though I had largely grown up outside Burma, I wanted as much as anyone to see real and immediate change in a country that had been sealed off by an army dictatorship since before I was born, and I was happy to team up with others of similar conviction. But I was always against violent change, not so much on principle but because I didn’t think it could work.
And soon fell out with those keen on an armed revolt. I spent nearly a year in Bangkok, trying to help Burmese refugees, and then moved to Washington, where I worked with Human Rights Watch and lobbied for more effective U.S. action. I believed that maximum pressure would yield results and advocated economic sanctions. But then I had my doubts.
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I came to believe that using sanctions and boycotts to isolate further an already isolated government and society was counterproductive. I was no longer sure what the most appropriate answer was. And so I stopped lobbying, removed myself from the Burma scene, and began a career with the United Nations, then in its post–cold war heyday.
I served for a few years in peacekeeping operations, first in Phnom Penh and then in Sarajevo, places even worse off than Burma but where the international community would eventually take (at least in my mind) an altogether more complex and determined approach. General Sir Harry North Dalrymple Prendergast was born in India in 1834 to an Anglo-Irish family long familiar with service on the subcontinent.
His father, Thomas Prendergast, had been a magistrate in Madras and after a long spell in India had retired to Cheltenham, gone blind, and then made a small fortune writing a series of trend-setting handbooks entitled The Mastery of Languages or the Art of Speaking Foreign Tongues Idiomatically. Harry Prendergast himself was a distinguished soldier. The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book
During the Indian Mutiny he had fought with the Malwa Field Force. Ten years later he had taken part in the putative invasion of Abyssinia and was present when Lord Napier and his combined British and Indian army stormed and then destroyed Emperor Theodore’s mountain fortress of Magdala.
More recently he had become obsessed with the idea of himself commanding an invasion of Burma, personally leading reconnaissance runs near the long frontier. And now, after years of planning and bureaucratic scheming, his dream was coming true. His Burma Field Force consisted of ten thousand troops.
It included three infantry brigades, one from the Bengal Army, one from the Madras Army, and a third brigade under the command of fellow Irishman Brigadier George Stuart White. 2 Sailing from Rangoon, Prendergast arrived in Madras toward the end of October, just as the various parts of his new army were busy getting ready along the glacis of Fort St. George.The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book
It was to be a textbook operation. Plans and preparations would follow the latest thinking in military science, and nothing was to be left to chance. Torrential rains swept across the docks, and hundreds of Indian coolies labored to load big wooden crates, each neatly packed with supplies for any eventuality, onto the tall ships moored off the Coromandel coast.
On 2 November, as an enormous thunderstorm broke over the south Indian city, the governor of the Madras Presidency, the Honorable Grant Duff, hosted Prendergast and his senior officers to a lavish dinner in honor of the coming campaign. Everything was set. I was then twenty-two.
I had been born on a snowy January morning very far away from Burma at the Columbia-Cornell Medical Center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. At the time my maternal grandfather, U Thant, was serving as the secretary-general of the United Nations, a job he had held since 1961, since the death of his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, and would continue to hold until his retirement a decade later. The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book
He was presiding over the UN during a decade of considerable change. Dozens of newly decolonized Asian and African countries had recently filled the ranks of the world body, and their concerns—mainly to reduce the inequalities between rich and poor nations—fueled much of the organization’s quickly evolving agenda.
There were also political challenges during this height of the cold war, from the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Cuban missile crisis to Vietnam and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Then, as now, the UN was often marginalized and occasionally scapegoated. But perhaps more than now there was a recognized value in maintaining the secretary-general as an impartial arbitrator.
And neutral voice and as a backdoor channel when more public diplomacy proved impossible. Like today, there were calls for reform and many who would throw their hands up in despair at the inability of the organization to tackle this or that problem. But the 1960s were less than a generation away from the fifty million dead of the Second World War, and there remained. The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book
Perhaps, in every quarter a more heartfelt desire to make the UN work. Of course I knew none of this growing up in Riverdale, a solidly middleclass neighborhood about forty-five minutes by car or subway from midtown. My parents, both Burmese, had met and married in New York and were living with my grandfather and grandmother in what was then the secretary general’s official residence.
A rambling seven-bedroom red-brick house, partly covered in ivy and set on a grassy six-acre hillside along the Hudson River. On the map it was part of Riverdale, but in most other ways it was a small slice of Burma. In addition to my parents and grandparents (and later three younger sisters), there was always an assortment of Burmese houseguests.
Who stayed anywhere from an evening to many months, and a domestic staff (all Burmese as well) of nannies and maids, cooks and gardeners as one might expect in any Rangoon pukka home. Burmese dancers and musicians sometimes performed at parties on the lawn. A Buddhist shrine with fresh-cut flowers graced a special area on the first floor. The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book Download
And a constant smell of curries drifted out of the always busy black-and-white-tiled kitchen. The UN security guards at the gate—mainly Irish and Italian Americans—wore uniforms of light and navy blue, but inside the stone walls a Burmese sarong or longyi, even in the Northeast winter, was the more predictable sight.
Over the past seventeen years, interest in the country’s plight has increased significantly. That the military government held, lost, and then refused to respect the results of its own elections in 1991 only highlighted its venal nature. Burma is now of celebrity and political interest as a well entrenched second-order foreign policy matter.
With a small cottage industry devoted to ensuring that Western governments hold the line against Rangoon’s military regime. Norway’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991 propelled the opposition leader to international acclaim. And now the cause of Burmese democracy flutters consistently on the margins of high-level attention. The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book Download
With dedicated albums by U2 and REM, Prime Minister Tony Blair personally lending his name to a boycott of tourism in Burma, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice styling the country an “outpost of tyranny.” But over these same seventeen years prophecies of the regime’s imminent collapse in the wake of hardening international sanctions have proved, at least so far, fanciful.
The country has changed considerably, and the government itself has transformed, only not in the way that the growing legions of Burma campaigners would wish. For a long time all Burmese assumed that the death of General Ne Win would lead suddenly to change, positive change, but then in 2002 the old man died quietly in his lakeside bungalow, and nothing happened.
A fresh generation of captains and colonels had already taken charge, determined to act on their own dreams and nightmares. The mix of international policies in place—limited (American and European) trade and investment sanctions, a cutoff of most development assistance, including from the World Bank, and a steady stream of righteous condemnation, whether right or wrong—has not so far worked. The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book Download
Instead there is every sign that while millions remain impoverished, the regime itself has moved from strength to strength. What has had the force of clarity has not had the value of effectiveness. And so we must ask ourselves again: How did the country reach such a state? The Ming also traveled overseas.
A Muslim eunuch of Mongol descent named Zhang He, born in a border town not far from Burma, was one of China’s most distinguished admirals. Captured and castrated as a boy for service in the Forbidden City, he later studied at the Imperial Central University and proved himself both in battle and in the intrigues of the royal court.
In 1405, Zhang He, who some say inspired the story of Sinbad the Sailor in The Thousand and One Nights, led a fleet around the Indian Ocean that inspires awe even today. More than thirty thousand men sailed in three hundred ships on the first expedition alone (compared with a mere three ships under Christopher Columbus), and these ships were the biggest wooden vessels ever. The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book Free
Journeying as far from China as Egypt and the Red Sea and down the African coastline to Mozambique and perhaps beyond. Over the next quarter century there were seven expeditions in all, bolstering China’s political prestige while increasing the Middle Kingdom’s knowledge of the world.
Many of these ships were laden with porcelain, lacquer, silk, and other desired goods, and these were freely distributed as a demonstration of Sino superiority. After one voyage Zhang returned to Peking with a giraffe and other exotics for the imperial menagerie, and after another with envoys from no less than thirty countries, including a king of Ceylon, who came to render homage to the emperor in person.
The Burmese were no doubt impressed by the seaborne exploits of their Chinese neighbors. But they may have been even more impressed and alarmed by a more subtle change. Land reform, advancements in technology, and sustained political stability had come together in China to produce an enormous increase in the already giant country’s population. The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book Free
And this was no more true than in the southwest, along Burma’s border, where Ming China now appeared in all its size and confidence, just on the other side of the eastern hills. The Middle Kingdom cast a huge shadow over the Irrawaddy Valley, then and ever since. And this was what the young, nameless feringhi wanted as well, to be rich beyond his wildest dreams.
But his initial plan—to attack the sultan of Aceh from the Portuguese base at Malacca—was a stupid one. He had set off in many ships and with three hundred men. But this would have been a reckless gamble even in the best of circumstances. As it was, Aceh was then under the most powerful of its sixteenth-century rulers, Ala’ad-din Ri’ayat Shah al-Kahar.
The feringhi and his band were easily routed, and he was forced to flee to Martaban and from there was taken to the court of the new Burmese king. Tabinshweti was at the height of his authority and decided to allow the feringhi to be part of his retinue, and with his charming ways, the young man soon enjoyed considerable royal favor, to no one’s initial worry. The River of Lost Footsteps PDF Book Free
He was skilled in using the most modern firearms, and this skill impressed Tabinshweti. He went hunting with the king, and the king, in friendship, gave him as his wife a lady of the court. The young man taught his new bride Portuguese cooking, and before long she was preparing dishes from Lisbon and Goa. He also introduced the king to wine and then to stronger spirits, arak, mixed with honey.
This is when the trouble began. Tabinshweti, it turned out, had a weakness for wine and spirits, and soon the Burmese ruler cared about little else but drinking, “respecting not other men’s wives, listening to malicious tales, and sending men to the executioners.” His actions grew increasingly violent and unrestrained. Discontent grew, and distant provinces plotted rebellion. Tabinshweti, who had achieved so much, was leading his government into chaos.