Myanmar has long been closed off to the rest of the world and isolated from the world for nearly 50 years. Previous election was held on 7 November 2010, following the new constitution which was approved in a referendum held in May 2008. The Union Solidarity and Development Party was winning party. The National League for Democracy boycotted that election. On its path to Democracy, there had been lots of prominent and remarkable changes and challenges in Myanmar between 2010 and 2015.
Let’s have a glance back at past five years. First and foremost, the most obvious changes are the changes in international relations. The removal of western sanctions on Myanmar is a remarkable key improvement. In late 2012, Barack Obama became first ever sitting American President to visit Myanmar at that time. The highlight of his visit was speech at Yangon university and stop by at Shwedagon Pagoda, national landmark of Myanmar. Mr Obama also met with Aung San Suu Kyi who was kept under house arrest. She was released from house arrest on 13 November 2010. In 2014, Obama came again and this time he went to Myanmar’s Capital, Nay Pyi Taw to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the East Asia summit. He met President Thein Sein and the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar’s relationship with western countries have improved and at the same time, the friendly relations between Myanmar and neighboring countries has been maintained. Myanmar became chairman of ASEAN for the first time in 2014. Myanmar also hosted 27th South East Asian Games in the late 2013.
Secondly, there was a time in Myanmar when vehicle ownership were the domain of only Myanmar most elite. But now it is all in the past. Car showrooms and car yards mushroom up and new car models can be seen in the street of Yangon. More than 180 showrooms have been licensed to open second-hand car sales centres and 15 are licensed to import new cars, according to Ministry of Commerce. Yangon is Key Improvements of Past Five Years nearly a standstill during rush hours now.
The Government built many overpasses or flyovers, intended to ease traffic congestion at major traffic chokepoints. Currently, Yangon has three overpasses– Hledan overpass was completed in April 2013, Bayintnaung overpass in October 2013 and Shwegondine overpass completed in 2014. The authorities are building three new overpasses in Yangon during 2015-16. Until the constructions are completed, traffic is expected to be worse off.
Five years ago, it is unusually expensive to buy sim cards in Myanmar, costing almost around $1800. Government owned Myanmar Post and Telecommunications (MPT) is the one and only telecom service provider in Myanmar. Catching up with the world, In 2013, Norway’s Telenor and Ooredoo of Qatar were awarded licenses to became the first international mobile operators to launch telecoms services in Myanmar. Nowadays, sim cards of Telenor, Ooredoo and MPT can be easily buy with $1.30 (1500 kyats) and a topup basis. Myanmar Teleport (formerly Bagan Cybertech), Yatanarpon Teleport, information Technology Central Services (ITCS), satellite internet provider Skynet, Frontiir, Red Link Communication and the state-owned Myanmar Post and Telecommunication (MPT) are the main internet Service Providers now in Myanmar. Both mobile and internet penetration rates increased from single digits to around 25% of the population over the past five year.
Myanmar will hold its democratic election on coming 8 November 2015. In response to an invitation by the Union Election Commission (UEC), the European Union has deployed an Election Observation Mission (EOM) to Myanmar to observe the elections. This is the first time that the European Union is observing elections in Myanmar. All in all, the past five years had been eventful for Myanmar by any standard. Opportunities arose in this era of change and you can be a captain of your own destiny in the making or simply, you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.