Xenophobic nationalism: Myanmar’s curse

    With the corpses piling up in Rakhine State and the number of Rohingya refugees fleeing into Bangladesh eclipsing the 400,000 mark, international good will toward Aung San Suu Kyi appears to be hemorrhaging by the minute. The whole world, it seems, is piling on Myanmar’s former beacon of democracy, blaming her for a crisis the UN describes as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. And with good reason. Once celebrated for her steadfast courage, dignity, and…

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An Independent Newsroom Where Self-Censorship Rules

  With the state once again targeting journalists, press freedom in post-dictatorship Myanmar remains elusive. But it’s not just the government that inhibits free expression: the country’s leading independent news daily routinely betrays the ideals of press freedom by promoting hatred against a persecuted minority. Two years ago, Myanmar’s quasi-civilian government officially lifted pre-censorship rules governing domestic non-state media. This was a good sign: after half a century of military dictatorship, a new era of…

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So Long, Myanmar—and Au Revoir, Burma

  Back in February, while sitting down for lunch in Mandalay with Karen Connelly, I reminded the award-winning author of The Lizard Cage of something she had said while promoting her 2009 memoir, Burmese Lessons. Connelly had told an interviewer that, after finishing her epic novel, she thought she was “done with Burma”—meaning as a destination, as place to live, and as a subject for writing. However, having found that she had much more to say…

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The Lady, the Cult, and the Dented Halo

  YANGON—Last month, while I was up in Mandalay for the Irrawaddy LitFest, I attended my first public event in the presence of Aung San Suu Kyi. Yes, “The Lady”: Burma’s democracy icon, Nobel laureate, and living legend. Scion of legendary independence hero/martyr Aung San. Exemplar of peaceful, non-violent resistance who spent the better part of two decades under house arrest. Heroine who left behind her family and comfortable life in the West to pursue…

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The Elephant in Myanmar’s Room

YANGON—Last week, Myanmar was officially handed the chairmanship of the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a one-year term that begins on January 1. Myanmar waited longer than any other member state for this honour—the first seventeen years of its membership, to be precise. There are those who would argue that it should have waited even longer, given the slow pace of reform under the former military dictatorship. Still others would say that Myanmar…

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