Change in Burma

Half-way through my first visit to Burma since 2000. In some ways, it’s a transformed country, even over the last few months since the election. Flights from Bangkok full, using much bigger planes now. Very hard to get hotel bookings, even weeks in advance. So the international community is rushing in, including us now!

And the space for open discussion seems dramatically changed, people much less guarded, photos of Aung Sang Suu Kyi everywhere here in Rangoon, former political prisoners with booths near the Schwedagon across from an NLD booth. Amazing.

Yet levels of poverty are still very high, and one wonders how fast the changes to the political environment will translate into better lives for the people. And internal conflict festers, with serious hostilities in Kachin State and elsewhere.

But the mood here in Rangoon is very positive. And the international community seems to be rallying, which is a good thing I think. I keep asking people here in Rangoon why change is happening so quickly, and nobody really seems to know, just dizzy with the velocity. Is it that the sanctions are biting? That the new constitution created a safe exit? An aspiration for chairing ASEAN in 2014? Who knows.

Whatever it is, we should celebrate the changes here, support progress, and think about helping sustain it.