While I haven’t yet arrived in Myanmar, I thought I would use this post to introduce my project, explain the topics I hope to cover, and give an update on where everything is at so far.
As you can read from the “Who We Are” page, I am travelling to Myanmar to research civil society development in the face of sweeping political changes. Myanmar (formally Burma, I will not get into the politics of the name change here) has recently started to move from a hardliner military government accused of many human rights abuses to a more free, open, and possibly democratic society. There are so many complex issues in the country stemming from its history, government, and various ethnic groups. I do not plan to use this platform to discuss each of these, however if I refer to any of them I will attempt to add a link to background information.
Even though many view the recent changes as superficial, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the possibility of a peaceful transition to a functioning democracy. Part of a peaceful transition and a functioning democracy will require a healthy, active civil society. As the previous administrations have cracked down on assembly, civil society must essentially be built from the ground up. This will require teaching citizens the tools and skills necessary to participate in an active civic group.
There are a few INGOs engaged in this work. I will primarily be working with Paung Ku, an INGO consortium comprised of several well known INGOs and led by Save the Children. I intend to interview their staff to understand their processes, programs, and preliminary outcomes. I will submit a blog post dedicated to each of these topics.
I arrive in Myanmar next week. In the meantime, I am in Thailand. I had to come here first in order to get a visa (it is possible to get a visa within the USA, but far easy to get it in Bangkok). As I had to be here anyway, I have taken advantage and seen much of what Bangkok has to offer, a trip to Ayutthaya, and will make my way to Chiang Mai for a couple days before my flight to Yangon (formally Rangoon) where I will be spending most of my time in Myanmar.