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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Yangon Diaries III – The Post-Dictatorship Newsroom

YANGON—The independent newspaper I’m working for is located in a six-storey low-rise just two blocks from our apartment. The English edition is on the fifth floor, where foreign staffers enjoy an air-conditioned room while local reporters and translators share a long, two-sided bank of open cubicles in the main hallway. The locals use decrepit PCs that seem ready for the dust heap—but at least they have computers. It was only after I got here that I…

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Good Morning, Myanmar!

YANGON—Well, it took a quarter of a century, but I’m finally here. Finally seeing a country that, ever since that certain famous uprising in 1988, has captured my imagination, altered my thinking about things like freedom and dissent, and even gifted me my life partner—all without the benefit of once having visited. Myanmar is a country whose history, politics and ethnic makeup I knew more about—with the exception of the United States and England—than those…

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