Taipei’s Little Burma and the Legacy of the KMT ‘Jungle Generals’

Burma-Taiwan ties enter a new phase.

The News Lens
Date: 2017/01/03
By: James Baron

The distinctive red and yellow paving of Huaxin Street has been uprooted since my last visit. It’s one of

Photo Credit:AP/達志影像

those head-scratchers that define local government decision-making in Taiwan. “Why would they do that?” asks my younger son. Why, indeed? The design gave the road a pedestrian-friendly feel, a refreshing contrast with the rest of New Taipei City’s Zhonghe District – one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

It gets worse: My favorite buffet joint is out of my favorite spicy, dried deer meat. A triple whammy: “No pink drink!” declares the elder lad in disgust. He’s referring to this restaurant’s version of Falooda – or Indian ice, as it’s known in Chinese – gelatinous odds-and-ends swimming in a bright-pink, condensed-milk gloop. The grub is still decent, mind, if you can handle the oiliness of the curries; and the conversation alone is worth the trip from town.

Like most of the 40,000-plus residents of Little Burma, as the area is known, Audrey Chen ended up in Taiwan as part of the Nationalist government’s drive to “repatriate” Chinese-Burmese, most of whom had

Ms. Yang and her daughter.

never set foot in Taiwan before. “I came here as a student in the 1970s,” she says. “The ROC government paid for everything. I was actually born in Guangdong, but my family went to Burma during the Chinese Civil War. When I arrived in Taipei, I already spoke Cantonese, Burmese and some English, but not a word of Mandarin.”

It doesn’t take a lot of cynicism to view the program of incentives that encouraged Chinese-Burmese to relocate to Taiwan as an attempt to bolster KMT support – kind of like a large-scale version of the voter bus-ins that political parties accuse each other of during elections. That this practice petered out at the tail-end of President Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) presidency is unsurprising. The staunchly Nationalist bent of the Chinese-Burmese meant that the Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) Democratic Progressive Party administration, which came to power in 2000, was unlikely to continue bolstering a community that was ipso facto anathema to its very existence.   [FULL  STORY]

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