I had spent two nights -one in Nairobi and another in Bangkok thanks to Kenya Airways great service. So I arrived in Yangon whn over 200 Young Global Leaders had already immersed themselves in great discussion and I had to catch up.
1: Learning about Turkey in Myanmar
On my second day in Myanmar we visited a training institute for young leaders to discuss public leadership. One of the great presentations came from Turkey. We were at an organization called Egress to exchange ideas on democracy and transitions. So I learnt that though Turkey has had free and fair elections, ethnic disputes and separatism have not gone away. Our presenter Umit left a couple of points for our hosts and I.
Transition doesn’t mean immediate consolidation with a few exceptions.
Elected governments are not necessarily much more liberal than military governments
Having elections and changing a constitution are not enough: authoritarianism may be in the society’s DNA so people might have gotten too used to it. There’s need for more work after those two processes.
Democracy and human rights do not often rank very high on the voters priority list.
I found these lessons not only relevant for Myanmar but also applied much to Uganda. I was amazed by the Myanmar youth who shared with us what they thought their government should make priority. Peace and security was high followed by education and political inclusiveness. Continue reading “Seven days in Myanmar”→
I got off the Bangkok Airways flight at Yangon International Airport. At the arrivals, the long line for visas on arrival welcomes me and after an hour i get my visa. Things are a little slower than most places I have visited. So much paper work!!
I am in Myanmar for the Global Young Leaders forum run by the World Economic Forum. The Forum will take place on the sides of World Economic Forum on East Asia both in Yango (Rangoon) and Nay Pyi Taw. I read in the Myanmar Times that the gathering of about 900 delegates will be the largest gathering the country has hosted in 20 years. I had read from ForeignPolicy a few days before that “between 1900 and 1990, gross domestic product (GDP) growth increased at no more than 1.6 percent a year — half of the rate of the rest of the world.”
From BBC I had read “from 1962 to 2011, Myanmar was ruled by a military junta that suppressed almost all dissent and wielded absolute power in the face of international condemnation and sanctions.” And i also have a Burmese friend who has been at the forefront working with dissents in the diaspora since late 1990s.
As I go deeper into the Myanmar Times pages, I find an MTN advert and all the talk is invest in this, invest in that. It’s a country that has been closed to the world for long and now everybody is rushing. Everybody talks of how much opportunity exists. MTN is here because for the first time the government is going liberalize the telecom sector.
US is about to pump in a lot of money after decades of isolating the country. Myanmar has oil, gas, timber and minerals. Its a market of over 60 million people.
As we drive past the Yagon University, the driver smiles brightly and tells me Obama came to the university on his visit recently.
As we close in to my hotel, I realize how heavy it’s been raining and it trained for most of my first 48 hours in Myanmar.