It would I suppose be impossible to talk about interesting things and news items from Southeast Asia without mentioning Myanmar. So I will make this first post in this particular system about this fascinating country. The whole world was watching last year when Aung San Suu Kyi moved from being a political prisoner under house arrest, into her knew position in parliament. The 2012 victory by her party was a staggering achievement, that simply cannot be understated. That she achieved it so relatively painlessly for the nation is an incredible testament to this Nobel laureate’s personality.
The whole world was holding its breath, this could have gone so wrong. But the signs are so far that it hasn’t. Myanmar is experiencing what can only be described as a revolution. The Eu and The United States responding immediately by lifting sanctions that had stood for longer than most of us care to remember. President Obama became the first US President ever to visit this once closed country. Companies like coca cola were quick to announce that they would be making bold steps towards getting back into a country with whom they hadn’t done business for 50 years. In January of this year they followed up on that pledge with the announcement that they would be opening up at four factories including one new build site, manufacturing soft drinks and purified water.
On the travel side, something with which I have a bit more experience, Myanmar is experiencing a veritable explosion of business and development. Hotels are being filled as fast as they can build them, tour companies are talking of record figures and the demand is high, not just by Myanmar standards but by the standards for all Southeast Asia. French, Chinese and British companies have all recently announced new hotels to be built and only last month the peninsula group announced that they too would be opening up their newest restaurant in the former Burma Railway Building in Yangon.
There is a knock on effect, to all this for all of us who live over here. It is good for Myanmar, for sure, but it is great for the region. New air routes will be announced as international carriers get in on the act. Shorter haul international flights throughout Southeast Asia will increase.But perhaps the biggest plus in all of this, is the lessening of tensions throughout the region. As the individual countries of the region get closer, so international tensions get pushed back. Next year sees the first ASEAN Summit to be held on Myanmar soil. This can only be good for everyone in the region.
Yes, there are problems and issues to be addressed, but with the opening up of what was once one of the most closed societies on earth, things as they, say can only get better.