Fight to save Orwell’s Burma house

Updated 14 September 2013

Fight to save Orwell’s Burma house

Cobwebs cover its furniture and its rooms are long deserted, but a crumbling house in northern Myanmar is at the center of a conservation battle by locals who say it was once home to George Orwell.
The remote trading post of Katha on the banks of the Irrawaddy — and the house lived in by Orwell in the 1920s — were immortalized in the acclaimed British author’s first novel, “Burmese Days.”
Decades later, as the country emerges from nearly half a century of harsh military rule, a group of artists has launched a campaign to protect the legacy of one of literature’s most scathing critics of dictatorship.
“I am trying to do what I can to restore all the buildings in the book and to attract attention to the country and to the town,” said artist and Orwell fan Nyo Ko Naing.
The two-story house stands abandoned in an overgrown tropical garden in the remote town which lies about 250 kilometers — or a 13-hour train ride — north of Mandalay.
The campaigners want the home and nearby European country club turned into a museum, in a country where many colonial-era buildings have already fallen victim to the wrecking ball as investors flock to what they hope will be the region’s next hottest economy. A young Orwell, then known as Eric Blair, arrived in Burma — now called Myanmar — in 1922 and stayed for five years, working as a policeman in the country, which was under British rule at the time.
In the novel, Katha is called Kyauktada, but everything else is the same.
“The Tennis Court, British Club, jail, the police station and the military cemetery are in the book and really exist in the town.” said Nyo Ko Naing.
The wooden and brick house has been empty for 16 years.
Some old pot plants have withered and died and the upstairs balconies are too unstable to stand on. The empty rooms echo with Nyo Ko Naing’s footsteps, which leave prints in the dust that has built up over the years.
“Orwell took many raw materials for his book ‘Burmese Days’ from here,” Nyo Ko Naing said. “I think this house and all the other places in Orwell’s book should be turned into a museum.”
“Burmese Days” is a scathing critique of British colonial rule, with the European characters’ constant drinking and poor treatment of the Burmese locals a running theme.
The Burmese characters also come in for harsh criticism, with the magistrate portrayed as scheming, obese and corrupt.
Myanmar is now opening up and over the past couple of years more and more tourists have come to Katha, on the trail of Orwell.
“The country is open now. It is no longer isolated,” said Oo Khinmaung Lwin, the headmaster of the local school. “I will teach my students so that they know more about George Orwell.”
Although long thought to be Orwell’s home, there is some doubt whether a policeman would have lived in such a grand house.
Across the road from the house lies the tennis court, and beyond that the European club.


Europe’s ‘most wanted women’ targeted in new campaign

Iveta Tancosova. (Europol)
Updated 20 October 2019

Europe’s ‘most wanted women’ targeted in new campaign

  • The wanted suspects face a range of charges including murder, and human and drug trafficking

THE HAGUE: Europe’s policing agency Friday rolled out a new campaign to catch the continent’s most wanted female criminals, saying their crimes were just as serious as those committed by men.
Called the “Crime has no gender” campaign, Europol’s new website reveals the faces of fugitives wanted by 21 EU countries in an interactive way, Europol spokeswoman Tine Hollevoet said. Of those, 18 are women.
“People think that usually these crimes are not being committed by women, but they are and they are equally as serious as those committed by men,” she told AFP.
The wanted suspects face a range of charges including murder, and human and drug trafficking.
The interactive campaign first shows the suspects hidden behind spooky neon masks, before their faces are slowly revealed as viewers read the stories behind their crimes.
“After the last time a viewer scrolls, the face of the wanted fugitive is revealed and they will be able to see if it’s a man or a woman,” Hollevoet said.
“The idea is to attract as many visitors as possible, with experience showing us that the more eyes that look at the wanted fugitives, the higher the chance to locate and arrest the wanted person,” she said.
For instance, France is looking for Jessica Edosomwan, a Nigerian citizen who escaped after police raided a prostitution ring in the Lyon region in late 2007 and arrested 26 people.
The ring exploited some 60 prostitutes who were lured to France with the promise of a better future and were smuggled there through Libya.
Once in France, the destitute women were subjected to voodoo “juju” rites and their families threatened, French police told AFP.
The case against the suspects are expected to start in Lyon on November 6 and Edosomwan is the only suspect still outstanding.
She is believed to be either in the Benelux countries, Italy or Germany, police said. Another wanted suspect is Hungarian national Ildiko Dudas, 31, who is wanted for drug trafficking and child abuse. “Very often the suspect’s children were brought along to the drug transactions,” Europol said of Dudas.
Dudas was sentenced to six years in prison for crimes committed between 2011 and 2012 but her current whereabouts are unknown.
Europol’s “masquerade of crime” can be viewed on the following website www.eumostwanted.eu/crimehasnogender — along with instructions on how to send a tip-off to police.