Beyond the headlines, the war

Economic growth and freedom of speech, but in the northern provinces the civil war is back as fierce as it has been since the ’80s.

“The democratic process in Myanmar is real”, said US President Barack Obama in 2014. “We recognize change is hard and you do not always move in a straight line, but I’m optimistic”. It was not a groundbreaking statement: optimism concerning Myanmar has spread like wildfire since 2011 when the military junta handed over power to a government that is nominally civilian but largely still composed of former military personnel.

Much has changed. The pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has been freed from house arrest and thousands of political prisoners have been released from jail. The near complete elimination of international sanctions is underpinning an economic miracle: according to the World Bank, Myanmar’s GDP grew by 8.5 percent in 2014.

However, the notion that Myanmar will move inexorably toward peace and democracy might still be premature. Under pressure from the military, the government is reluctant to tolerate dissent.

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