Monday 23 May 2022 | 06:18 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 May 2022 | 06:18 | SYDNEY

Myanmar: Change express


Fergus Hanson


14 November 2012 09:43

I've spent the past week in Yangon, Myanmar. It's a country where you can almost see the change happening.

Take the headlines from The New Light of Myanmar ('The most reliable newspaper around you') on Monday 5 November: 'Denmark Opens Embassy in Yangon'; 'Norway Embassy established in Yangon'; 'President U Thein Sein holds talks with Finnish PM in Vientiane'; 'Myanmar, Luxembourg keen on economic cooperation'.

In other areas, too, change is evident. The cost of mobile phones is steadily falling from completely unaffordable for the average person to increasingly accessible (I bought a temporary SIM for about $20, while a permanent one costs around $250, down from over $3000). Business leaders talked of fatigue from meeting all the incoming foreign business delegations. In meetings with government, officials are impressively frank about all that still needs to be done. There are pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi everywhere, from taxis to cafés.

In the past year restrictions on importing new cars have been lifted, with predictable consequence for traffic. The Monday paper carried an article that made traffic sound like it is still a novelty: 'Traffic Rules Adherence in Yangon Questioned'. The article offered a range of speculative explanations, from speed to corruption.

Unsurprisingly, the changes are winning the Government praise abroad and at home. On the home front, there may also be a tendency towards overly favourable coverage of the Government*. Thursday's paper carried just two articles on the front page. The lead was 'President U Thein Sein Arrives Back in Nay Pyi Taw'. Nearly an entire column of the story was devoted to a list of all who had farewelled the President at Laos airport. The minor article, below the fold, was 'Obama Wins Re-election as US President'.

Photo by Flickr user avlxyz.

* This sentence added later for clarity.