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Democratic Platitudes Will Not Reverse Myanmar's Spiral

Author: Joshua Kurlantzick, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia
April 30, 2013
The National

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On April 22, at a packed, black-tie ceremony in New York City, the Myanmar president, represented by minister Aung Min, accepted an award from the respected global NGO International Crisis Group for the "pursuit of peace". The award, given annually by the group, is meant to honour someone who promotes change and reform, and helps end violent conflicts, like the ones that have ranged along Myanmar's borderlands for decades.

Over the past three years, since Myanmar began its transition from one of the most repressive military regimes in the world to a civilian government, such honorifics - both for civilian President U Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, freed from house arrest and able to travel the world - have become common. While only three years ago, nearly every leading democracy maintained strict sanctions on Myanmar, and portrayed the country as an isolated land run by a thuggish regime, now foreign donors, investors and officials are rushing into the country, and portraying Myanmar as the next giant emerging market and example of democratic change.

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