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Greg Rodgers

Myanmar Elections

By April 4, 2012

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Myanmar elections

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

People throughout the world are celebrating the recent Myanmar elections which resulted in yet another hope-giving step toward democracy in the country.

Democracy advocate and Nobel Peace laureate Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, previously under house arrest for 15 years, won a seat in Parliament during the historic elections on Sunday. Her National League for Democracy party won 43 of 44 potential seats open in Myanmar's Parliament.

Suu Kyi also won the last multi-party elections in 1990, however, the results were overturned by the ruling junta and Suu Kyi was put under house arrest. Suu Kyi was given her freedom in November of 2010 and became an even more iconic symbol of hope and freedom to Burmese people around the world.

While the victory is a step forward, the pro-democracy party really only holds 44 of the Parliament's potential 664 seats. The other seats are tightly held by supporters of the military government. As the world watches, this election is considered more or less a litmus test of the junta's commitment to democracy. Some critics fear that the ruling junta is only doing the minimum in an effort to have US and UN sanctions against Myanmar lifted.

The US announced on Wednesday that they are sending an ambassador to Myanmar to discuss the possibility of lifting sanctions.

Over the years, I've met many Burmese refugees who had to flee to Thailand to escape their harsh and often-unfair government.

One paraplegic refugee -- a bricklayer -- I encountered in Pai, Thailand, had been fined several months' pay for "destroying government propery." The government property he "destroyed" was a land mine which he inadvertently stepped on while plowing his farm.

Once known as Burma, Myanmar has been under oppressive military rule for roughly 50 years.

Despite the government, Myanmar is still a unique and relatively undiscovered place to visit. Read more about getting a visa for Myanmar.

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