With every week it becomes more and more difficult to hold on to a feeling which has become so instinctive as to be almost consoling: a contemptuous suspicion of the Burmese government, and a refusal to believe anything it claims, proposes or promises. A year ago, Burma’s new president, a former general called Thein Sein, could not have lured any respectable politician to his Ming the Merciless-style parliamentary complex in Naypyidaw, Burma’s bizarre new capital; since last autumn, they have arrived in a steady stream. The prime minister of Thailand, the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Indonesia, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as a throng of aid ministers, senators, congressmen, MPs and diplomats have all called on Thein Sein. Each has returned cautious, but unmistakably impressed. David Cameron, who this week became the most important visitor so far, urged us all to ‘pay tribute … to the leadership of President Thein Sein and his government, which has been prepared to release political prisoners, hold by-elections and legalise political parties’. ‘There is a tremendous appreciation for the leadership of Thein Sein and what he has done here,’ Barack Obama’s state department gofer on Burma, Derek Mitchell, said last month.
LRB 26 April 2012 | PDF Download