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Myanmar's Moment: New Democracy at a Crossroads?

Myanmar president Thein Sein (L) and legislator Aung San Suu Kyi (R) speaking at Asia Society events in 2012. (Kenji Takigami/Joshua Roberts)

Not long ago Myanmar was celebrating a remarkable opening, and emergence into the fold of democratic nations. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein came to Asia Society venues to herald the country’s economic and political turnaround. Today, profound questions have arisen as to whether the transition has stalled, and whether the country’s reforms are “backsliding.” Foreign investment is growing, and an independent central bank has been established, but businesses have struggled to deal with a complex bureaucracy and weak infrastructure. According to the World Bank, Myanmar ranks 177th out of 189 countries in ease of doing business, and limited investment opportunities have hindered economic growth.

On the political front, a campaign for constitutional reform is underway, but even if it succeeds, its timing will not allow Aung San Suu Kyi to run for the presidency in this year’s 2015 election. Meanwhile, the human rights situation for religious and ethnic minorities remains troublesome, with the government still working on a national ceasefire agreement, and doing little to aid the stateless Rohingya population.

What lies ahead for Myanmar’s transition? What can the international community do to support peaceful and effective development? The Asia Society Policy Institute is pleased to welcome leading experts for a panel discussion that will explore the issues surrounding Myanmar’s future and pathways toward democracy, peace, and prosperity.


Priscilla Clapp
Senior Advisor on Myanmar, Asia Society
Ms. Clapp served as the Chief of Mission to the U.S. Embassy in Burma during her 30-year career with the  U.S. government. She also serves as Senior Advisor to the U.S. Institute of Peace and other NGOs focused on Myanmar.

Tom Freston
Principal, Firefly3 LLC
Mr. Freston is the former Chief Executive Officer of Viacom Inc., where he also served as Chief Operating Officer. He is Board Chairman of the ONE Campaign, an advocacy organization working to fight extreme poverty.

Thant Myint-U
Chairman and Founder, Yangon Heritage Trust
Dr. Thant Myint-U is a historian and author of Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia, one of several books on Myanmar. He is also a Special Advisor to the Myanmar Peace Centre and a member of the Myanmar National Economic and Social Advisory Board.

Tom Nagorski (moderator)
Executive Vice President, Asia Society


This program made possible through the generous support of the Nicholas Platt Endowment for Public Policy.

Can’t make it to this program? Tune in to AsiaSociety.org/Live at 6:30 pm New York time for a free live video webcast. Viewers are encouraged to submit questions to [email protected], or to tweet questions using the hashtag #AskAsia.


Event Details

Tue 21 Apr 2015
6:30pm - 8:00pm

725 Park Avenue

New York, NY

Members: $10; students/seniors: $12; nonmembers: $15