Foreign Correspondent - Burma: The Road to Mandalay
Burma, also known as Myanmar, has long been closed off to the scrutiny of the outside world. You’ve always been able to travel there as a tourist, albeit with restrictions, but with the leading opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for much of the past couple of decades, and her calls for tourists to boycott Burma, relatively few made the journey.
For years the place has been ruled by a corrupt military junta that brutally suppressed all opposition, used forced labour and imprisoned thousands for their political views. Their main ally and investor has been neighbouring China, which has an eye on Burma’s many resources, including oil, gas, timber, gemstones and minerals.
But recently – and suddenly – things have changed. After elections that most observers regarded as a total sham, the new government made a series of surprise announcements. It released Aung San Suu Kyi, suspended a hugely unpopular dam project with China, freed thousands of prisoners and signed peace pacts with a number of warring ethnic groups. Even Hillary Clinton dropped in for a visit, hot on the heels of diplomats from countries all over the western world who are hoping they might be able to lift economic sanctions.
The ABC’s Zoe Daniel has been covering it all, with growing amazement and excitement. Now finally, she and her cameraman David Leland, have been given an official visa and relative freedom to take a trip through Burma, filming openly and talking to the people.
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