Wedged between the world’s two most populous countries, India and China, Myanmar has a young and growing population of more than 60m people and a total of 135 ethnicities. Burmese is Myanmar’s official language, but studies suggest there are as many as 100 different languages spoken within the country. The end of the military junta and the rule of Senior General Thn Shwe brought about the easing of sanctions by the EU and the US, as well as the release of Myanmar’s most prominent human rights activist, Daw Aung Saan Suu Kyi, chairperson of the National League for Democracy, along with many other political prisoners. As a result, the country is gaining increasing international credibility but still has obstacles to overcome. With Myanmar taking its place as chair of ASEAN in 2014, a remarkable period of progress in its foreign relations is being acknowledged. A raft of new economic developments and agreements, such as tourism and transport projects, should help bolster Myanmar’s international standing.
This chapter contains an interview with President U Thein Sein and viewpoints from Barack Obama, US President; Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Chairperson, National League for Democracy; and Xi Jinping, President of China.