Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Fans and players react online to Arsene Wegner's club departure

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Syria alleged chemical attack: Gunfire delays deployment of weapons inspectors

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Cashing in on local French currencies

Read more

YOU ARE HERE

Life on the canals of northern France

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

What lies ahead for Cuba after the Castros?

Read more

#TECH 24

Discovering and harnessing the power of the sun

Read more

DOWN TO EARTH

Can France bid 'adieu' to popular weedkiller glyphosate?

Read more

#THE 51%

Harmful for your health: When gender bias affects medical diagnosis

Read more

REPORTERS

Africa’s donkeys slaughtered for Chinese ‘miracle elixir’

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

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

2018-04-20 Africa

Africa’s donkeys slaughtered for Chinese ‘miracle elixir’

Every year, China slaughters millions of donkeys to make Ejiao, a traditional medicine hailed as a ‘miracle elixir’ which is used to treat various ailments. As China’s donkey...

Read more

2018-04-13 Americas

From Brazil to Canada: the new odyssey for African migrants

Canada has become the new El Dorado for many African migrants, who have seen Europe and the United States close their borders. But they face a dangerous journey across South and...

Read more

2018-04-06 Africa

Video: Mauritanian Sahara delights tourists again after years blighted by terror

After years blighted by terror attacks, tourists are beginning to return to Mauritania. Charter flights between Paris and the Mauritanian Sahara resumed in December 2017....

Read more

2018-03-30 Middle East

Video: Fighting for survival in war-torn Yemen

Since 2015, Yemen has been locked in a civil war in which Saudi Arabia – a supporter of Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi-- has led a Sunni coalition against Houthi...

Read more

2018-03-23 terrorism

Inside the Kurdish courts trying IS group militants

The long and gruesome war that the Kurds have waged against the Islamic State (IS) group has not only left thousands dead but also produced many prisoners. For the first time, a...

Read more