Burma

A decent place to live

Like the ancient city of Bagan (pictured above) Burma is an old and treasured civilization that has undergone much change. Yet perhaps the most significant point in the nations's long history was the political reforms of 2011-2012. Indeed, by 2030 Burma has become a thriving new democracy making its first steps into the international community.

Democratic Reforms:

Burma, once ruled by an oppressive military junta, made its first steps towards democracy in 2012 through gradual, yet significant reform. These reforms included releasing pro-democracy political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi who, after spending a total of 15 years under house arrest, had her right to travel domestically and internationally restored, allowing her to travel to Oslo to accept her Nobel Peace Prize. Aung San Suu Kyi was a prominent and popular opposition force to the ruling military government both domestically and abroad[1]. Thus her release signified a political turning point and indicated genuine democratic progress. In 2011 Burma made further progress towards democratic reform by addressing the country's various human rights violations. This included the government establishing an independent  National Human Rights Commission consisting of 15 retired bureaucrats and academics[2]. Its independence was demonstrated when the commission challenged the President's claims that there were no political prisoners in Burma, calling for all political prisoners' release. This serious attempt to reverse the nation's human rights track record then provides further evidence to Burma's progress to democracy and civil society. As well, in October 2011, the government further indicated its pivot towards democratic reform by addressing the exploitation of Burmese workers in the economy. The government passed new International Labour Organization approved legislation that allows for labour unions with the right to strike. This law also allowed for the punishment of employers that dismissed workers because they strike or unionized, and also outlined punishment for workers who stage illegal strikes[3]. Thus the economic reform provided further indication of democratic reform as worker exploitation and human right violations were addressed, with the economic protection of the working class being a notable component of a democratic society. So it can be seen that Burma took its first steps towards the democracy that exists in 2030 through gradual political reform in 2011-2012.

Economic Reforms:

Following the significant governmental reforms of the early 2010s, Western countries began scaling back economic sanctions in Burma[4]. The reduction of sanctions signified the rebirth of Burma as a democratic and internationally recognized nation. The US appointed its first ambassador to Burma in 22 years to show its support of reform. Several high-profile visits to Burma in 2012 were further aimed to show support for ongoing changes, including visits in by US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron[5]. The international recognition of Burmese reform then provides further indication of the scale and importance of the political change that swept Burma as world leaders heralded it as significant change. As well, Burma enacted several economic reforms to further bolster its standing in the international community. Starting in 2011, Burma enacted strict policy involving anti-corruption laws, currency exchange rates, foreign investment laws and taxation. Foreign investment reacted positively with investment increasing from US$300 million in 2009-10 to a US$20 billion in 2010-11[6]. The economic interest in Burma at the time provides further justification that the ruling government was committed to reform. Investors are good indicators of a country's stability, and by investing in Burma they showed that there was international support and belief in the country's progress towards a stable and economically viable democracy, willing to invest in Burma's budding future. The Burmese government also made economic progress by unifying the countries multiple exchange rates. From April 2012 to April 2013, the Central Bank of Myanmar floated up the official exchange rate of 6.4 kyats to $1 USD to foster an inter-bank money market. The government also made it a goal to eliminate the country's more widely used black market[7]. These economic reforms further indicated the government's desire to enter the international community as the government was making the market place more transparent and attractive to the international economic community. Therefore it can be seen that Burma, through international recognition and economic reform, had intention of becoming the democracy it is in 2030.

Media Reforms:

Indication of Burma's desire for true democratic reform can be seen once more with the government's tackling of corruption and censorship. The government relaxed press and internet censorship laws, for example allowing photographs of Aung San Suu Kyi to be published on the front page of local newspapers. In September 2011, several banned websites including Yotube, Democratic Voice of Burma and Voice of America have been unblocked[8]. This showed further indication of reform as a free press is a crucial aspect of a successful democracy. By allowing websites like Democratic Voice, which was critical of the military government, to operate, the reforms showed a new, open direction of Burmese politics. Further indication was seen when in 2012 the Minister of Information, Kyaw Hsan, said that the country was undergoing the process of reforming the media. This involved the relaxation of media regulation, allowing individual publications to exercise self-censorship and accountability[9]. By allowing for freedom of expression through an independent media, the government reinforced its commitment to creating a stable democracy in Burma. As well, the in 2011 the government stated that new media laws would avoid the extremes of the past, would detail journalists' rights and responsibilities and that UN experts on free press were being consulted[10]. The legal framework constructed to allow for a free press showed the desire to maintain the reforms in the future, thus again indicating the strength of Burmese democracy. Therefore the move towards an open, free media industry in Burma helped provide the basis for modern Burmese democracy.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, by examining the Burmese political reforms and consequential international reaction in 2011-2012, it can be seen how Burma transitioned from a military dictatorship to a flourishing democratic nation in 2030. It can only be hoped that similar South-East Asian nations will follow the democratic path that Burma took.

Works Cited

"Karen General – Constitutional Reform ‘Our Greatest Concern’." KarenNews.com. Karen News, 3 June 2014. Web. 5 June 2014. <http://karennews.org/2014/06/karen-general-constitutional-reform-our-greatest-concern.html/>.

"Politics in Myanmar: Not so Fast." TheEconomist .com. The Economist, 8 Feb. 2014. Web. 5 June 2014. <http://www.economist.com/news/asia/21595920-aung-san-suu-kyis-road-presidency-grows-longer-and-more-winding-not-so-fast>.

Reuters, James."Obama Extends Some Sanctions Against Burma Despite Reforms." irrawaddy.com. DVB, 29 May 2014. Web. 04 June 2014. <http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/obama-extends-sanctions-burma-despite-reforms.html>.

[1] "Politics in Myanmar: Not so Fast." TheEconomist .com. The Economist, 8 Feb. 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] "Obama Extends Some Sanctions Against Burma Despite Reforms." DVB, 29 May 2014.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Reuters, James."Obama Extends Some Sanctions Against Burma Despite Reforms." DVB, 29 May 2014.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

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