By Foreign Affairs Reporter Jill Dougherty
Myanmar. Burma. No matter what you call it (the United States and some other countries still refer to it as Burma), it’s one of the most exotic places I have ever traveled to.
Technologically in the dark ages–no credit cards, everything in cash, international cell phones like Blackberries don’t work, even the airport in the new capital has no lights for night landings–it once was the jewel of Asia. On our barefoot visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon I was stunned by its blinding beauty.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip was built on a slender reed of hope that the Myanmar president and some other members of the government really do want to open up, reform the political system, end the ethnic conflicts that have scarred this country for too long.
We moved from the bizarre new capital, Nay Pyi Daw, with its massive government complexes (shades of Pyonyang, North Korea) to the home of Nobel Peace Prize-winner and democracy icon Aun San Suu Kyi in Yangon. Slender, almost delicate, she nevertheless exudes a deep inner force. Suu Kyi believes the president is sincere about reform.
With Suu Kyi’s blessing Clinton made this trip. Shaded from the blazing sun they embrace. My camera captures the moment. Is it an historic beginning? Or a hope that that will soon be swallowed by new repression?