Burmese crossroad?

, by Himal Southasian

Burma is doing both better and worse than is often discussed – a lack of information that makes it difficult to ascertain how the progressive and human-rights concerned international community should now be dealing with the country.

A number of recent events in Burma have created a guarded optimism that the country is starting to witness at least a marginal opening or political softening. Examples include the release from house arrest of the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, elections and the convening of a national Parliament and regional and state-level legislatures, the appointment of a new, notionally civilian, president, and the disclosure of the annual fiscal budget – which previously was a secret document. These have in turn reopened debates on the role of internationally imposed sanctions as a means of supporting democratisation and human rights. But to what extent a shift away from decades of political and social repression could actually be taking place is difficult to judge, since data are inconsistent and information sparse and often biased.

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