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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Welcome to the Post-Totalitarian Disneyland

NAYPYIDAW—Ever since arriving in Myanmar back in September, I have harboured a nagging desire to visit the country’s new capital city. Naypyidaw, unveiled by former dictator Than Shwe in November 2005 (although not actually given its name until four months later), has become somewhat legendary for all the wrong reasons. Apparently it was so unattractive a place that, when the regime invited foreign embassies to relocate from Yangon, Bangladesh was the only country to take…

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Yangon Diary: Bomb Blasts a Dark Omen

  YANGON—On Tuesday morning, I received a message from a friend in Vancouver I had just wished a happy birthday. “Thanks Dan,” she said, “I hope you’re having a blast in Yangon.” I winced at the unintended irony: my friend had no way of knowing that Yangon had just been shaken by a series of bomb blasts. Minutes before receiving her note, I learned that another bomb had exploded just before midnight on Monday at…

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Yangon Diaries II: Take a Pill

YANGON--A few nights ago, I didn’t sleep very well. When I began to shiver, Lune checked my forehead and wrapped an extra blanket around me. He said I had a fever. The next morning, I woke up with a low-grade headache. “This is it,” I thought, my Woody Allen-ish hypochondria going into overdrive. “Cerebral malaria. Encephalitis. Dengue. Or that other thing you get from mosquitoes. I’m a goner for sure, and I’ve only been here…

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