Author Thant Myint-U‘s objective in writing his book, River of Lost Footsteps, is to try to answer why Burma is in such a bad situation today. He examines modern day Burma by tracing its past. He also has a unique vantage point in tracing the history of Burma. His maternal grandfather, U Thant was the secretary –general to the UN during the era when Burma was first seized by military takeover. The author retells numerous personal stories that capture the gregarious personalities of many powerful diplomat of the time. The author himself was born in the U.S. and attended Harvard and later Cambridge College. He worked for the UN in Burma and in Sarajevo in his own lifetime. His vast knowledge of Burmese history and his outside objectivity makes him an interesting critic of the issues both past and present.
Myint-U believes that the start of the Burmese problems originated when the Burmese king was removed in1885. That monarchy had been supported by the British since ancient times. But Britain decided it would not keep Burma as a protectorate. Instead the British made Burma into a province of India. This sent Burma into a frenzied modernization era for which it was not ready. The author says that this left Burma “adrift without an anchor.” Soon after, Burma was occupied by Japan during WWII. Post WWII, it began its independence movement, which never actually resolved itself since 1948. Civil war and unrest has continued there between the government and different ethnic groups for more than 60 years. It seems that the rest of the world has basically given up on Burma since it
In my opinion, Thant Myint-U explains all of these developments well. I found the book to be so interesting since his perspective was truly from an insider’s point of view. What I really liked about his style was that he retraced the history of the Burmese independence movement and wove it together with his own personal story of his family’s history with many of the famed leaders of the time. However, I think that his analysis falls short. Although the removal of the monarchy more than 100 years ago was the catalyst for the sad situation in Burma today, clearly the country lacks the wherewithal to organize effectively and turn itself right. There are numerous countries