Creating a sustainable democracy in Myanmar

Creating a sustainable democracy in Myanmar
Supporters react as Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi gives a speech during her campaign rally for the upcoming general elections in Toungup, Rakhine state
PHOTO: Reuters

As Myanmar heads toward a historic general election in November, many will be judging the pace and scope of the country's democratic reforms.

We need first to compare the Myanmar of today with the Myanmar of just four or five years ago, when the country was under military dictatorship, with severe restrictions on the media and on Internet access; when gatherings of more than five people were prohibited; when international trade was tightly controlled; and only a tiny fraction of people had access to mobile telephones.

Now there is a substantial political freedom, to a degree unparalleled over the preceding half century. People's living standards are rising; a peace process with the country's many ethnic armed groups is underway; and mobile telecommunications are spreading faster than anywhere else in the world.

The difference between now and then is stark, and the big changes that have taken place are all pointing in the right direction. A fundamental shift away from authoritarian rule has taken place in Myanmar's politics and economy, without bloodshed and without the descent into chaos we have seen in other countries such as Syria and Libya.

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