One of our readers in the US, Ezra Steinberg, provides this comment on the situation in Myanmar.
“There was a lively discussion on the USMA mailing list about Burma and whether they have finally converted to metric. One writer who publishes a column in the UK (Peter Hitchens blog, Mail on line, 11 February 2010. Ed) stated flatly that they have converted based on what he observed from his last recent visit. He also excoriated those who suggest that the UK should abandon Imperial weights and measures in favor of metric, which presumably makes his assertion about Burma all the more credible.
So, to get more information, I just bought and downloaded the Lonely Planet guide to Myanmar (Burma) or at least the chapter on practical matters. (It cost me less than two bucks for just the one chapter and my curiosity got the better of me). Here is what they say about weights and measures:
1 Burmese viss or 100 ticals = 3.5 lbs; 1 gaig = 36 in; petrol is sold by the gallon [sic]; distances are in miles, not kilometres.
Since I believe the books are published in the UK, they must be referring to an Imperial and not a U.S. gallon.
I noted in one of their (free) excerpts from another part of the book that they referred to the length of a particular railway journey in kilometres, which I presume was done for the benefit of their (UK) readers.
In the chapter I downloaded they also refer to customs regulations as follows (in part):
Visitors are permitted to bring in the following items duty free:
400 cigarettes, 100 cigars, 250 g of tobacco, 2 L of liquor and 0.5 L of perfume.
While these values may be conversions to metric for the UK reader, I suspect that the rational amounts listed indicate that these are the values announced and enforced by the customs authorities, which I presume means the officers look at the metric values listed on the labels of the goods brought into the country and ignore any Imperial or USC indications. But of course I cannot know this for sure just from this excerpt.
I also learned from this chapter that Myanmar has one of the highest rates of death by snakebite in the world. Be careful!
They also say that the local Myanmar Standard Time (MST) is 6.5 hours ahead of GMT/UTC (1 hour ahead of India and half an hour behind Thailand). And they say that twenty-four hour time is often used for train times.
I won’t reproduce what they say about toilets. Suffice it to say it’s not up to North American or Western European standards.
Most Myanmar Buddhists use an eight-day week in which Thursday to Tuesday conform to the Western calendar but Wednesday is divided into two 12-hour days (Wow! Ezra).
All Myanmar traffic goes on the right-hand side of the road. This wasn’t always so. In an effort to distance itself form the British colonial period, the military government instigated an overnight switch form the left to the right in 1970. By far, most cars either date from before 1970 or are low-cost Japanese models, so steering wheels are perilously found on the right-hand side — this becomes particularly dicey when a driver blindly zooms to the left to pass a car!
There was no mention of whether Fahrenheit or Celsius is used … or something else altogether!
Oh, and last but not least, the Burmese word for “help” is “keh-bah!” (They also list many other useful phrases in translation, including “I’m lost’, “I’ve been robbed”, and “Go away!”)”
MetricViews is curious to know if any of our readers have first-hand experience of metrication progress in Myanmar, or Liberia for that matter. We suspect that both countries, like the UK and the US, have made progress along the continuum from customary to metric measures; the crucial question is “How far?”