What running in Rangoon taught me about the city under the Burmese junta

What running in Rangoon taught me about the city under the Burmese junta
What running in Rangoon taught me about the city under the Burmese junta

It’s 4:30 p.m. in Rangoon. The oppressive heat has subsided just enough to allow us to go out and do sports. I leave my apartment and rush down the dark staircase. In the absence of electricity, I guide myself only by the light of a ray of sunlight, which filters through the front door, three floors below.

I trot back up the street, amid the roar of the generators flooding the city with their toxic fumes. They run for hours every day, to supply the Muslim tea room, the computer shops, the hair salons. But the exorbitant price of gasoline is taking a toll on merchants’ revenues. When I moved here, there were no beggars on this street. Now, we come across women sitting alongside parked cars, one arm tight around their sleeping children, the other desperately outstretched towards passers-by.

This is number 158e time I have completed this ten kilometer loop since the beginning of 2020. Over the months, I have seen the city transform under the effect of political upheaval. I walked deserted streets during the pandemic, I slalomed between the barricades of demonstrators during the weeks following the February 2021 putsch. Since the police and the army tightened their grip on the city, I navigate between the rusty fences that defend the fortified headquarters of the junta.

Under my feet, the asphalt is cool. I arrive at the corner of Anawrahta Street and Pansodan Street, where the jubilant crowd had gathered three

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