In August 2011, British journalist Ed Caesar travelled to Burma for Dazed to secretly interview Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the country’s main opposition group, the National League for Democracy. Since 1989, she spent 15 of 21 years under house arrest at the orders of the military junta before being released in 2010, but has remained a figurehead for opposition to censorship and state violence in one of the world's most oppressive regimes. Recently, the situation has started to change, with Aung San Suu Kyi winning a by-election for parliament and news that she has been given her first passport in 24 years. Dazed spoke to Caesar about what's happening in the country.
Dazed Digital: What's been happening in Burma since your article?
Ed Caesar: The National League for Democracy has been recognized as a legitimate political party, political prisoners have been freed, there's been a ceasefire, and an election in April, and the EU has suspended the vast majority of sanctions. Aung San Suu Kyi said there's a long way to go, but the election looks more like an election, and less like a victory march.
DD: One issue your article mentions is Burma's lack of standing in the free market.
Ed Caesar: If Burma makes steps on the road to reform, there are plenty of countries out there willing to do business with it because of its natural resources. It's just a question of a more equitable way of sharing that wealth.
DD: Have you kept in touch with Aung San Suu Kyi?
Ed Caesar: I haven't kept in touch with her, but I know exactly what is going on. I've kept in touch with the movement people that helped me get in and out Burma, and they've been keeping me informed of what's going on. And it's pretty exciting that she's planning to visit the UK in June.
DD: What do you think the next step is going to be?
Ed Caesar: I have absolutely no idea. You'd be quite foolish to say that there wouldn't be any more problems – power still resides with the ruling military elite. But I hope that what reforms there have been will afford a loosening in the attitude of the international community’s relationship to Burma. The diplomacy aspect is important, and on a pragmatic note I think a lot of countries want to do business with Burma. So it's in everyone's interests to improve human rights. But it's taken a very long time to get to this point.
Read Ed Caesar’s original feature for Dazed's 20th-anniversary issue HERE
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