We visited Myanmar, formerly known as Burma (Birmania), before their independence from England. What an incredible and beautiful place. What untouched places we visited.
People? Out of this world – gentle, curious, smiley, grateful, respectful, strong, diverse….135 ethnic minorities in a salad bowl where ingredients do not mix but combine influences from China, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and the Middle East….
We have been mesmerized, our jaws dropped, our eyes filled with tears, our hearts pounded. We saw impossible places, untouched sacred sites, landscapes, laugh with locals and felt our kids were rock stars…
It is a wonder, still to be ‘polluted’ by an outside world willing to enter into a country which up until a few years ago was ruled by a military regime….and one can argue that they still cast a vert long shadow…..
Myanmar is the second largest country in Southeast Asia and boasts a population of more than 50 million. Myanmar emerged from British colonial rule in 1948, and has remained under military control since General Ne Win overthrew the civilian government in a 1968 coup. The country’s modern history has been marred by persistent human rights violations, ethnic strife, cronyism and failed Soviet-style economic management that has resulted in widespread poverty.
Myanmar’s military has made gradual moves in recent years toward relinquishing control of the government, releasing thousands of political prisoners. This reduced authoritarianism has prompted an easing of international sanctions and widespread hope of improvement in the country, though concerns remain. I was amazed by the fact that the same week we stayed in Yangon (former Rangoon), a festival on Human Rights was being held, and The Lady’s face was to be seen everywhere….
The first general election in 20 years was held in 2010. This was hailed by the junta as an important step in the transition from military rule to a civilian democracy, though opposition groups alleged widespread fraud and condemned the election as a sham.
It was boycotted by the main opposition group, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) – which had won a landslide victory in the previous multi-party election in 1990 but was not allowed to govern.
The picture below is from Aung San’s home, where she stayed 16 years in house arrest, defending democracy in her country. We wanted to visit it and get to know more about the woman whose father had been the man who engineered the independence of Myanmar from the British and who died when she was 2yrs old, but shaped her life so profoundly.
A nominally civilian government led by President Thein Sein – who served as a general and then prime minister under the junta – was installed in March 2011. However, a new constitution brought in by the junta in 2008 entrenched the primacy of the military.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a landmark visit in December 2011 – the first by a senior US official in 50 years – during which she met both President Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi. The newly re-elected President Obama followed suit in November 2012, and hosted President Thein Sein in Washington in May 2013, signalling the country’s return to the world stage.
The EU followed the US lead, lifting all non-military sanctions in April 2012 and offering Myanmar more than $100m in development aid later that year.
A largely rural, densely-forested country, Myanmar is the world’s largest exporter of teak and a principal source of jade, pearls, rubies and sapphires. It has highly fertile soil and important offshore oil and gas deposits. Little of this wealth reaches the mass of the population.
The economy is one of the least developed in the world, and is suffering the effects of decades of stagnation, mismanagement, and isolation. Key industries have long been controlled by the military, and corruption is rife, but hope is everywhere….
We LOVE YOU MYANMAR