It was only four years ago that President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit Burma. This followed Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” campaign promise, and has since led to an easing of sanctions against the country and multiple meetings with Nobel Peace Prize-winning Burmese icon Aung San Suu Kyi and other national leaders.
Undoubtedly, the Burmese government has taken some significant steps toward reform, most notably releasing Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and giving her a seat in Parliament. But in recent months, there’s been what many consider a backslide. The government has cracked down hard on student protests and there are ongoing cases of severe and unyielding religious persecution, especially against the Muslim minority in the western part of the country.
On this episode of America Abroad, we examine the history, politics, and promise of this nation in transition.
Myanmar is one of the world’s largest producers of opium, second only to Afghanistan. And while the government has declared a goal of being drug-free by 2019, skepticism abounds among local politicians and officials — as well as the farmers who see growing opium as their only means for prosperity.
Aung San Suu Kyi is not only the daughter of Aung San, a beloved figure who secured Burma’s independence from Britain, but she's also an icon in her own right. Biographer Peter Popham talks about her rise to prominence and her political future.
Burma’s incredible diversity of cultures, backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities are mashed together in the rapidly developing city of Yangon. Its residents share their hopes and fears for Myanmar's uncertain future.
Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim population is one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. They can’t vote. They have no rights. And they aren’t recognized as citizens in their own country. Their desperate situation has attracted the attention of human traffickers, who prey on the vulnerability of people like “Abdul” whose 14-year-old daughter is now being held captive.