burma part 1
Journalistic Photography from Rangoon, Bagan, Kalaw, and Inle Lake.
This set of journalistic photography was taken three months before the recent elections that put Aung San Suu Kyi into the House of Representatives. For most of the past century, Burma has been entrenched on the sidelines of modernity through status-quo leadership preserving a failed economic system while delivering heavy handed retribution to opposition. In the past few months, not just has Aung San Suu Kyi been able to pursue her role as a national leader, but President Thein Sein, a previous general in the junta, has revealed himself to be a startling reformer. With apparently little resistance from the old system, under his leadership government priorities have shifted towards an open domestic policy and an engaging one internationally. On September 27, Thein Sein addresses the UN assembly in New York to reestablish Burma in a community largely ignored under the junta.
With the parade of reform we read about in the news, it’s tempting to jump on the bandwagon of progress and think all will be well, but let’s not be blinded by idealism. Burma’s move toward open society is partly just a case of circumstances; the ideology of the old Generals is becoming undeniably obsolete and the younger corps of officers seek greater economic prosperity. The question is how much of the old regime is the military willing to give up for consumer goods and who will guide them into economic prosperity. China, unencumbered by the democratic process, sits at the northern border ready to invest heavily in infrastructure to connect Burma and the Indian Ocean to China’s western regions. The US and England have historically been Burma’s closest international friends and with Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent trips to the West, perhaps those old ties are being rekindled. However, there are still roadblocks to Western involvement, this summer just months after the election, a violent skirmish rocked the eastern province of the country leaving many dead—Burma is still at war internally and those old disputes need to be resolved.
As Burma’s domestic policies open up, international trade increases, and agreements forged between warring indigenous populations, there’s no telling what Burma will look like in the near future. I visited not even ten months ago, and already I read about a different country than I remember. I intend to return to Burma in 2013 as a journalist to photography how things have changed.