Firstly, we have to acknowledge that Myanmar has opened up since 2011 with the reforms it is undergoing through. The government, led by Thein Sein, has initiated the release of a few hundred political prisoners – most notably, the country’s icon of democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi – and even allowed the opposition a substantial number of parliamentary seats in election. Economic growth has, step by step, shown signs of booming, with foreign investors – not only China’s behemoth corporations – putting forward billions of dollars in this new emerging market. Commercial sales and other trading activities are rapidly growing, largely thanks to the domino’s effect the opening up has engendered.
Nevertheless, the upcoming challenges Myanmar is facing, as a consequence of its previous decades-old military junta rule, remain huge challenges, and given the opening up that occurs, will even be more insurmountable. Internal instability, as shown by the military’s continuing battles against ethnic insurgents, continues. Religious violence has reached a new level of extremes, as displayed by ongoing Buddhist-Rohingya conflicts. Despite loosening rigidity in parliament – opposition is now offered seats there, bulk of the major political and governmental bodies remain under military control.
And now, a new economic problem: the strengthening of its crony capitalists.
A handful of individuals, having been the junta’s main partners in economic development, continue to dominate Burmese economy, and thanks to the opening up, become even stronger as their main role increases: being the joint partners for foreign investors. Despite the flourishing economic boom now taking place in the country, income inequality becomes another point of concern; it is feared that the growth will mostly benefit the cronies, and without further reforms in economic structure, such problem will pose a threat to the country’s uneasy stability in the future.
Watch the slide show, displaying the obvious signs of Myanmar’s cronyism, at Al Jazeera.