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Myanmar (Burma) Update: Notes from the Field

I recently returned from a 2+ week trip to Myanmar (Burma). There has been some global press coverage lately about the upcoming elections, increases in refugee movement into Thailand and Bangladesh, and other matters. This has helped me to understand the sense of desperation that I sensed on the streets of the major cities we visited. At the same time, I was encouraged to see and experience the joy of the people living in the rural areas.

Judging from recent data I obtained through the National Trade Databank (NTDB) the U.S. government is beginning a reapproachment with the military junta. It was reported that President Obama met with General Than Shwe of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) [the euphemistic name for the military junta] during the last ASEAN conference in Asia. It is believed that Obama was pushing for elections and the easing of restrictions on the democratically-elected Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi in exchange for the lifting of trade sanctions against this S.E. Asian nation.

Another encouraging development reported in the NTDB was the recent trip by Joseph Stiglitz, former Chief Economist of the World Bank, and a strong advocate for economic development policies that are designed to address the issues of poverty in the developing world. His visit, aimed primarily at developing an understanding of the macroeconomic conditions affecting the agricultural and resource extractive industries, was a watershed event that may signal a significant change in the policies of the SPDC.

Only time will tell on this one.