The first time Abhijit Dutta travelled to Burma, he had booked tickets on a whim, with hardly any thought as to why he was travelling there at the height of its hot summer. He landed in Yangon on 31 March 2012, the day before the by-elections that would make Aung San Suu Kyi a Member of Parliament, the first of a series of changes that few could have predicted. Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), was contesting elections after Suu Kyi had been under house arrest for fifteen years under various military regimes.
Burma—officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar—has seen more change in the past six years than it has in the last sixty. From being a pariah state ruled by the military junta and clubbed with the likes of North Korea and Cuba, it became a favoured travel destination, an investment opportunity, and the poster child of democratic transitions before turning, once again, into a pariah nation criticized by the world.
Even as tourists and investors started to arrive, new roads and bridges built and old laws modified, other troubles began to brew—a stagnating peace process, an economy that was slowing, and an international humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State that has focused intense global scrutiny on Suu Kyi and her leadership. A newly resurgent Burma will need to resolve these and other issues, small and big, before it is firmly on the road to peace and prosperity.
In Myanmar in the World, Dutta travels through the breadth of the country and the span of its history to give us a real, intimate picture of the many ways in which Burma has changed and yet remains the same