Burma Enters a New Era

 Chinthe statues in front of a Buddhist temple, Mandalay Hill, Myanmar

You may have learned about a brave woman, Aung San Suu Kyi, in your world geography classes. Suu Kyi leads the National League for Democracy (NLD) party in Burma, also known as Myanmar, a small country in Southeast Asia that has been oppressed by a brutal military dictatorship since 1988. Suu Kyi endured years of abuse by the government as a result of its attempts to silence her and crush calls for democracy. In fact, she was kept under house arrest for almost 15 years.

Change is happening in Burma. Following a national election in November 2010, Burma’s military government formally ended. The president who took office soon after, Thein Sein, is seen as a moderate willing to support reforms. In an election held on April 1, the NLD won almost all of the 45 open seats in the country’s parliament. Among the new members of parliament will be Aung San Suu Kyi herself. She won her seat easily. However, the military and its allies still hold a large majority.

The thaw is affecting Burma’s relationships with other nations. For example, the British prime minister has recommended lifting economic sanctions against the country. The European Union will consider allowing trade restrictions to expire, and the United States will soon name an ambassador to the country.

Tourism is also increasing. Burma has many attractions, including beautiful shrines, gardens, and beaches. In years past, even Suu Kyi discouraged tourism. She has changed that position, though, and now encourages tourism if it helps the common people and broadens appreciation for Burma’s rich heritage.

Another sign that Burma is now a different sort of place is its first all-girl pop band. The members of Me N Ma Girls (a wordplay on “Myanmar Girls”) sing about freedom in a mix of English and Burmese. As one of the “Girls” said, “We want to show people that things are changing.”

Image Credit: © Liquidlibrary/Jupiterimages/Getty Images

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One Comment

  1. anonymous says:

    Burma enters a new era? Do you realize that you are saying good things are happening in Burma? Have you heard of all the people being killed by the Buddhists? There is brutal ethnic cleansing going on and you are telling people that there is a new change in a good way? It is just pitiful that no one acknowledges all the murders, children being burned, and acts of violence. What a shame.