SINGAPORE (Nov 19): It was only three years ago, after the watershed elections in November 2015 that saw Aung San Suu Kyi transition from democracy icon under house arrest to Myanmar’s State Counsellor and de facto leader, that Myanmar began to emerge from years of economic isolation. In 2016, the US lifted some of its economic sanctions; in 2017, there were 3.44 million tourist arrivals into the country, 18% more than the year before.
Meanwhile, the Myanmar government has made considerable effort to entice foreign direct investment and spur local enterprise. It has passed new laws to make it easier to start companies and do business in the country. Myanmar is now one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia. According to World Bank estimates, the country saw economic growth of 5.9% between 2016 and 2017, and growth is projected at 6.4% for this year.
Yet, whatever progress Myanmar is experiencing is bound to be affected and overshadowed by the continuing human rights catastrophe involving the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya, who have fled from a violent crackdown in Rakhine State. The actions of the military and security forces have been called “genocide” by the United Nations.