BEFORE I left Rangoon this week a Burmese friend thrust a box of pickled tea into my hand. 'You will enjoy it,' he said. Back in Bangkok I discovered he was right: the roasted peanuts, sesame and peas nicely set off the soured green tea and chilli. I would guess the Burmese instructions on the box urge the new owner to mix the contents of the two bags inside (nuts and tea) together. But one cannot be sure: perhaps the regime insists that manufacturers of sour tea print 'oppose those relying on external elements, acting as stooges, holding negative views' on their boxes? This is one of the slogans that the junta has printed on huge signboards around the town and is one of several in English at the entrance to University Avenue, where opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has her house. My efforts to differentiate the culinary from the Stalinist on the tea box were defeated by a written language originally created by people writing various types of circle and broken circle on palm leaves. But however you analyse the New World Order this must be late autumn for the kind of corny totalitarian sloganising that the junta still indulges in. Can you imagine the committee which dreamed up the billboard on University Avenue: 'Tell you what, Maung Maung, I see a big red sign. I mean big. And we'll have 'Oppose those trying to jeopardise the stability of the State' and, er . . . 'and progress of the nation' painted on it. Yeah, that'll tell the foreigners what we are about.' The 'retired' dictator Ne Win once reintroduced English into schools throughout the nation after his favourite daughter Sanda Win failed the English test for a British medical college. Sanda's obviously improved. The snappy Zawgyi lounge notices in her Nawarat Hotel offer a two-for-one happy hour: 'Who needs Heineken and Carlsberg to have a good time?' - a reference to the European beer companies that recently abandoned image-denting projects in Burma. A former policeman, thrown out of the force for showing democratic leanings in 1988, told me he has avoided all contact with the democracy movement ever since. 'I do not want to waste my time in prison,' he said. This is Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's problem: the bulk of the population does not dare, or will not, show overt support now for the democracy she calls for. But the junta's bag of dictatorial tricks does not seem to be working: like sour tea, unaccountable government alone is too strong for most people to swallow.