Burma remains one of the least known and most poorly understood of southeast Asian nations. The country is now more readily accessible to travellers than in previous decades, and the government newspaper – the New Light of Myanmar – is available on the worldwide web. But the paper’s reports are largely devoted to ofﬁcial speeches by apparently omniscient generals on stilted state occasions. Independent political discussion is stiﬂed.
Yet Burma faces major political and social dilemmas. Is it possible to balance the army’s political aspirations with popular demands for democratic reform? How best can the country achieve a harmonious relationship between the Burman majority and the ethnic minorities? How will it manage relations with its neighbours? And how can Burma resolve any of these questions without open public debate?