My flight in to Myanmar followed Air Force One in from Bangkok. President Obama was in the region for diplomatic events in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. The major routes around Yangon University were packed with people were out on the streets waving US flags and covering themselves in red, white and blue face paint.
Myanmar (or “Burma” as it’s historically been known) is a country going through a huge transition…
Without getting too far into things, Myanmar has been ruled by a military junta for the better part of 50 years. Things are beginning to change, but it’s been a slow process. I was lucky enough to watch the Presidents speech with some locals, huddled around a dimly lit TV screen. All eyes were locked intently on the display for the entire duration of his speech.
Part of my trip to Myanmar involved visiting an aids clinics in different areas of Yangon and the rest of the country. It was difficult to hear stories about how much stress doctors are put under while trying to do their jobs in the public health system. Often hospitals are so under supplied that doctors must go out-of-pocket and buy the medicine to take care of their patients. There also continues to be a huge knowledge gap in Myanmar about HIV and there is a very negative social stigma placed on those who live with the virus. Privacy and discretion is very important. Until the government adopts a better public plan to deal with the country’s health and education problems, people will continue to struggle.
Political madness aside, Burma is a beautiful country and Burmese people are easily some of the friendliest I’ve ever met.