‘Burmese Cultures and other Trivia’ by Ko Ko Thett and ‘Burma: My Friend’ by Timo Virtala at Arkadia on Wednesday 21.1.09 at 18:00

Dear friend of Arkadia,


On 21 January 2009, Ko Ko Thett, a Burmese activist-scholar and a long-term resident of Helsinki, will introduce a tiny slice of Burmese cultures to interested Finnish and other friends with his talk ‘Burmese Cultures and other Trivia.’  Burmese ‘coarse tea’ and Burmese delicacy ‘pickled tea salad’ will be served.  Ko Ko Thett‘s talk will be visually enhanced by the opening of the photo exhibition titled Burma: My Friend’ by Finnish photographer Timo Virtala, who had visited Burma two years ago (you will find both their biographical details below). This is your chance to find an answer to the following questions:


-why Burma and not Myanmar ?

-should I visit Burma?

-what’s behind a Burmese smile?


Warm regards,




Here are a few words of introduction by Ko Ko:


Burma (Myanmar) being located very far from the Nordic zone and having no historical relations with Finland, the Finnish people are forgiven for not having a clue about Burma or Burmese cultures.  The isolation of the country, resulting from the international sanctions against the Myanmar military regime, does not help the matter.  Yet more than 1, 000 Burmese people have been ‘resettled’ in Finland as quota refugees since the late 1990s.  The Finnish people have also shown an increasing interest in Burma since the tragedy of Cyclone Nargis in May 2008. 


Ko Ko Thett was born in Rangoon (Yangon) in 1972. His studies at Rangoon Institute of Technology were cut short following his involvement as a leader in December 1996 student uprising. He left Burma after a spell of detention in July 1997. In Bangkok, he worked for Burma Programme at Jesuit Refugee Service-Asia Pacific until his resettlement in Finland in December 2000. He also set up Aid for refugees in Thailand (ART) which helped Burmese asylum seekers in Bangkok from 1998 to 2000. As an independent researcher Ko Ko Thett has taught, written and commented extensively on Burma since 1999. At the same time he has been reading peace and conflict studies at the University of Helsinki since 2002, while keeping his ‘dream of return’ alive.


Timo Virtala is an Education Manager at Lapinjärvi Educational Centre (currently on parent leave), a private entrepreneur, a travel guide writer and General Secretary of Loviisa Peace Forum. He visited Burma in August 2005.