In the past two decades, Burma/Myanmar has become a front-page topic in newspapers across the world. This former British colony has one of the most secretive, corrupt, and repressive regimes on the planet, yet it houses a Nobel Peace Prize winner who is and in and out of house arrest. It has an ancient civilization that is mostly unknown to Westerners, yet it was an importantand legendarytheater in World War II. A picturesque land with mountain jungles and monsoon plains, it is one of the world's largest producers of heroin. It has a restive Buddhist monk population that has captured the attention of the west when it faced off against the regime. And it recently experienced one of the worst natural disasters in modern times, one effect of which was to lay bare the manifold injustices and cruelties of the regime. Burma/Myanmar: What Everyone Needs to Know offers a concise synthesis of this forbidding yet fascinating country. David Steinberg, one of the world's eminent authorities on the region, explains the current situation in detail yet contextualizes it in a wide-ranging survey of Burmese history and culture. Authoritative and balanced, it will be standard work on Burma for the general reading public.
The title itself suggests the confusion we have about this troubled nation—Burma is the traditional name still used officially by the U.S. government, while most other nations have adopted Myanmar, as specified by the country itself. Whatever you call it, the country does matter to world stability because it occupies a key strategic and economic position between the rising powers of China and India. Steinberg (Asian studies, Sch. of Foreign Service, Georgetown Univ.) is well qualified to shed light in a balanced fashion on the complex issues that plague the country, including human rights, the role of Aung San Suu Kyi (who remains under house arrest), the continuing impacts of the Saffron Revolution in 2007 and Cyclone Nargis in 2008, the role of minorities, oil and gas prospects, international drug trafficking, and the growing influence of China. Its extended question-and-answer format makes this a handy quick reference source for those wanting to cut straight to the main points. VERDICT This is a top choice for students and those with a probing interest in world affairs. Whatever we call it, we are certain to be hearing more about this country. —Harold M. Otness, formerly with Southern Oregon Univ. Lib., Ashland