As Myanmar slowly emerges from five decades of military rule, lively and energetic debates are being held over a wide swath of everyday subjects that until now were largely dominated by the will of the junta. These range from the ongoing discussion over what to call the country formerly (to some, currently) known as Burma to the preservation of its historic architecture to the kinds of clothing now available in stores. Most notably, Myanmar is trying to figure out what democracy means for a population that comprises 135 recognized ethnic groups.
What’s the Big Idea?
The title of a recent conference says it all: “National Identity and Citizenship in 21st Century Myanmar.” At this conference, one example of the many discussions that were held included “a panelist [from] the Chin minority, which includes many Christians, [saying] the current government and Constitution still give preferential treatment to Buddhism.” The questions of ethnic identity and integration may remain unanswered for years, but many agree that the ability to ask and debate the questions at all is a significant achievement.