President Obama of the USA on a visit to Yangon in 2012. Photo by Pete Souza.
Myanmar is one of Asia’s poorest countries due to its large and undeveloped rural economy, but it’s beginning emerge from international isolation.
The first general election in Burma in 20 years was held in 2010 but widespread fraud was claimed by opposition groups and Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) was not allowed to govern. ￼
A supposedly civilian government arrived in 2011 led by President Thein Sein (once a general in the army, who would guess? ) but according to a new constitution a quarter of all parliamentary seats are reserved for military personnel and three top ministerial posts – interior, defence and border controls – must be held by serving generals.
However some useful reforms have been made and consequently the government is now recognised by the USA, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making baby steps on a visit in 2011 followed by President Obama’s bigger steps on a visit to Yangon in late 2012.
The EU lifted non-military sanctions in April 2012 and offered Myanmar more than $100m in development aid.
Good news for Burmese people, bad news for tourism as the wonderfully tranquil sights will soon be overcome by tractors, buses, 4x4s, plastic bags, traffic jams (already in Yangon) and all the other delights of newly modernised developing countries, including mass tourism.
Get to Burma soon before it modernises!