Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FASHION

When haute couture becomes ready-to-wear for Alaïa, Jarrar and Kayrouz

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Oil prices fall after supply fears subside

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

US presidential election: Who looks set to run in 2016?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'The co-pilot who wanted to end it all'

Read more

DEBATE

Yemen - The Escalation: Could Sunni-Shiite divide engulf the region? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Yemen - The Escalation: Could Sunni-Shiite divide engulf the region? (part 1)

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

NYT: Germanwings pilot was locked out of cockpit before crash

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

A food goliath in the making

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Fans distraught as Zayn leaves One Direction

Read more

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 8.40 pm Paris time.

REPORTERS

REPORTERS

Latest update : 2012-01-23

A Burmese spring

After half a century of military dictatorship, there are signs of growing democratic openness in Burma. After freeing Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest in 2010, the regime has now released political prisoners and opened a dialogue with separatist guerrillas. Our reporters travelled across the country to find out why one of the most repressive dictatorships in the world is suddenly opening up.

I had not been back to Burma for 12 years. I was banned from entering the country after being arrested and expelled. I had not imagined that one day I would see the streets of Rangoon again, not to mention witness this incredible freedom of speech or these photos of Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy icon. Once forbidden, such photos are now openly shown.

So what happened? Why are these merciless dictators, who have been ruling the country with an iron fist for half a century, suddenly giving the impression they are throwing in the towel?

To try to understand, I went to Naypyidaw, the new capital, where the country’s masters - generals converted into democrats – are holed up.

What I discovered was a ghost town of 80 square kilometres dug out in the middle of the jungle. It is a surreal showcase of a Burma dreamed up by old despots; a sort of tropical Pyongyang.

Indeed, the mirage stops at the gates of Naypyidaw. In the neighbouring village, the people are feeding on rats found by the roadside?

By moving deeper into the country, I rediscovered the Burma I know, with checkpoints, soldiers, and villages without electricity. In the Karen state in the country’s far east, the former rebels are dreaming of the millions of dollars they could make from smuggling, thanks to a fragile peace deal just signed with the government.

Business for peace, this is the Burmese version of democracy.

“Of course we wondered if the situation here might not degenerate like in Libya or in Syria”, a high-ranking military official close to the government told me later, explaining why the junta had decided to go from outright terror to a “flourishing and disciplined” democracy.

So that is the answer. There is only one goal: to remain in power.

By Régis DESCONCLOIS , Cyril PAYEN , Catherine NORRIS TRENT

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2015-03-19 Syria

The Syrian woman who dared film life under the IS group

FRANCE 24 meets the young Syrian woman who secretly filmed the Islamic State group in their Raqqa stronghold in Syria and was forced to flee to France, fearing for her life.

Read more

2015-02-12 Tunisia

Tunisians flock to join jihad

As Tunisia moves slowly forward on the path to democracy, the country is proportionally one of the biggest exporters of jihadist fighters. Over the past three years thousands of...

Read more

2015-03-12 Ethiopia

Ethiopia’s controversial 'Renaissance Dam'

In April 2011, Ethiopia began the construction of a huge dam on the Nile. The dam is expected to produce as much energy as six nuclear power stations for one of the world's...

Read more

2015-03-06 Chad

Chad's war against Boko Haram

For several years, Boko Haram has been sowing terror in Nigeria. And the Islamic sect has extended its reach to Cameroon, Niger, and now to Chad.

Read more

2015-02-25 Pakistan

Pakistani Taliban set their sights on police

The Pakistani Taliban are targeting police in Karachi. Over 140 officers were killed last year, most of them victims of targeted assassinations.

Read more