Myanmar | Small Steps Toward Democratization
- Myanmar Main Page
- WWII Leads to Independence
- The Military Maintains a Tight Grip on Myanmar
- The Junta Crack Down on Democracy
- Moving Toward a Modern Nation
- Military Crackdowns Receive World Criticism
- Suu Kyi Freed Shortly After Elections
- Dramatic Shift Away from Authoritarian Rule Brings Diplomatic Opportunities
- Opposition Dominates 2012 Elections
- Small Steps Toward Democratization
- Aung San Suu Kyi's Opposition Party Wins 2015 Landmark Election
Small Steps Toward Democratization
In Aug. 2012 Myanmar's government did away with the country's censorship of private publications. While laws enabling the imprisonment of journalists for printing items that the government deems harmful are still in effect, the final two topics (religion and politics) were removed from the pre-publication censorship list on Aug. 20. Prime Minister Thein Sein continued his shift in political philosophy in September, announcing in a speech to the UN that the changes in Myanmar are "irreversible." In response to the progress, President Barack Obama visited Myanmar in November—the first U.S. president to enter the country. He praised the drift from isolation as a "remarkable journey."
In answer to two years' worth of social, political, and economic reform, the European Union lifted the last of its trade, economic and individual sanctions against Myanmar. President Obama lifted the 1996 ban on entry visas to the former Burma's military rulers, their business partners, and immediate families on May 2, 2013. At the same time, however, the Obama administration approved another year of the National Emergencies Act, which prohibits business transactions with anyone in Myanmar involved in repression of the democracy movement. This give-one, take-one approach was meant to encourage the democratization of Myanmar while simultaneously registering censure of the sectarian violence that erupted in March and has caused more than 40 deaths and has displaced an estimated 13,000. Radical Buddhist monks have been indicted in these attacks between Buddhists and minority (5% of population) Muslims.
While Myanmar has taken steps toward political and social reform in its slow transition to democracy, little has been done to reach a cease-fire with its many ethnic groups—a promise made by Thein Sein when he took office as president in 2011. Indeed, in March and November 2014, dozens of fighters from the Kachin Independence Army were killed in fighting with government troops. The battles in November followed a visit to Myanmar by President Barack Obama. Suu Kyi complained in November 2014 that the reforms had stalled, noting that the military government is blocking her from running for president in 2015's elections.