Poets were holding court on the street this week in Myanmar’s largest city, laying down satire as thick as the tropical humidity. “All the forests and jewels are gone, all good things will be smuggled,” they chanted over a drumbeat — a subtle dig at the military that dominates Myanmar’s political life and has enriched itself for decades by pilfering natural resources. “Thinking about selling the whole country!”
The satirical slam poetry known as thangyat is typically delivered in public during Myanmar’s new year holiday, in April. The tradition, which has roots in the 19th century, was banned for more than two decades when in 1988 the ruling military junta killed thousands of pro-democracy protesters to stay in power.