Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE DEBATE

France Ambassadors Conference: Hollande outlines foreign policy priorities (part 2)

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Somalia: car bomb outside presidential palace kills at least 10

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Socialists complain of Macron's 'betrayal' of Hollande

Read more

THE DEBATE

France Ambassadors Conference: Hollande outlines foreign policy priorities (part 1)

Read more

FOCUS

Video: Meeting US inmates as Obama pushes for criminal justice reform

Read more

REPORTERS

From the archives: Caught in the crossfire in Colombia

Read more

ENCORE!

Video: Harlan Coben on suspense, suburbia and success

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Democratic Republic of Congo: Inside Camp Garlic, a stronghold of ADF militia

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Rousseff defends her track record

Read more

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

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

2012-06-14 Colombia

From the archives: Caught in the crossfire in Colombia

On April 28 a team of Colombian commandos set out to destroy a secret drugs lab in the jungle. FRANCE 24 reporter Romeo Langlois joined them to record the mission. The patrol was...

Read more

2016-08-26 DR Congo

Getting away with murder in DR Congo

For more than a year and a half, a series of massacres - which have never been claimed - have been committed in the Beni region in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo....

Read more

2016-08-04 Afghanistan

Afghanistan's Kunduz, a city under Taliban threat

The northern Afghan city of Kunduz is being slowly rebuilt after it briefly fell to the Taliban last year, and a hospital was destroyed by US air strikes supporting Afghan ground...

Read more

2016-07-29 2016 Olympics

Video: Olympic refugee team goes for gold

Of all the athletes competing at the Olympics in Rio, there are ten in particular who stand out. They are all refugees who have fled war, terror and violence. Fleeing DR Congo,...

Read more

2016-07-08 history

Video: The trial of Chad's ex-dictator Habré, an inconvenient ally

In May, former Chadian president Hissène Habré, who ruled his country with an iron fist between 1982 and 1990, was sentenced to life in prison for "crimes against humanity,...

Read more