By William Walker
Burma has had a troubled history: from intense civil war, successive invasion from both Eastern and Western powers, colonial dominance by the British to the brutal oppressiveness of the military junta. But all of that seems set to change if the positive vibes following the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s visit earlier this month are anything to be believed.
The impending path to a more free state has been long and arduous. A path some thought impossible following the disastrous, Soviet-inspired Burmese Way to Socialism project in the 1970s, which catapulted the country into the echelons of ‘World’s most impoverished country’ lists.
This together with it being ranked fourth from bottom in the world’s Corruption Perception Index, and its poor human rights record particularly in quashing dissent, have led to much international frowning on what was, for many, perceived to be a country without hope for a better future.
Recent reforms in the country came as great surprise then to an international community who saw the re-election of the military backed USDP as tantamount to fraud. Indeed the reforms which relaxed press censorship, released many political prisoners including pro-democracy leader Auung San Suu Kyi, the establishment of a Human Rights Commission, and allowing the right to strike among others have had a far-reaching impact on a region of the world where corruption and freedom of speech remain a contentious issue.
Suu Kyi herself is the timely subject of upcoming Luc Besson film The Lady, to be released at the end of the month, as she bids for election in a state that is craving new leadership. US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton met with her in a move that many see as hugely symbolic: the world’s greatest proponent of democracy giving its blessing to a state marred by oppression. Although the US maintains tough sanctions on the country there is a swathe of optimism in Burma that democracy can one day be achieved but as Suu Kyi reminds us Burma is “not on that road yet”.