Commentary

Letter from the Editor

By Aung Zaw, Reform 1 January 2014

Another New Year is upon us, and now that we have just ended our first full year of operations in Myanmar, the moment seems right to express our gratitude to all of you for your support in these exciting and challenging times.

Since we opened our office in downtown Yangon in late 2012, we have been busy settling in with the help of our colleagues, both old and new. But we wouldn’t have been able to make it this far without our steadily expanding readership. Your interest and encouragement are crucial to our efforts to help establish a strong foundation for independent, reliable journalism in Myanmar.

Over the past year, we have received many visitors at our office, all of whom have expressed real satisfaction at seeing us here after so many years abroad. For more than two decades, we have worked to produce quality reporting on Myanmar, and the fact that we can now do so inside the country has been hailed by many as a sign of how far we as a nation have come.

Since The Irrawaddy was established in 1993, we’ve been fortunate to have a strong following among a disparate audience that includes the Myanmar diaspora, business and political leaders in Southeast Asia, legislators and policy makers in the West, and anyone else with a strong interest in Myanmar affairs.

Until very recently, however, there was one audience beyond our reach: readers inside Myanmar. There were a few exceptions, of course.

One leading Myanmar businessman involved in the energy sector told me that he used to smuggle copies of the magazine into the country to share with his colleagues. This was, he noted, at a time when possession of the magazine would have landed him in prison.

“But now I can subscribe! It’s legal!” he said with a broad smile, waving a copy of the latest issue.

My sense now, after many meetings with government officials, ethnic politicians, military generals, lawmakers and activists, is that they all welcome us as a credible voice on what is happening in Myanmar today, whether they agree with our editorial stance or not.

My personal take on Myanmar’s ongoing transition is that, while clearly limited in scope and very much a topdown process, there is greater potential today for genuine reform than at any other time in our country’s recent history. It makes sense to remain wary, but at the same time, we have to grasp this opportunity to build a better future for all our citizens, free from oppression, war and poverty.

Wedged between the world’s two most populous nations, Myanmar is of great strategic interest to many powerful countries. As we strive to take our place in the community of nations, we must show that we have strengths of our own, which derive not from the use of military force or the exploitation of resources, but from the vast potential of our people.

This year, for the first time in many decades, Myanmar will assume a position of leadership on the international stage as chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

This will be our chance to demonstrate not only our ability to work together with other countries, both East and West, but also to formulate an independent foreign policy that serves our own interests, in harmony with those of others.

As a media organization, The Irrawaddy is proud to play an important role in monitoring Myanmar’s emergence as a modern nation, so that our fellow citizens can better understand, and ultimately influence, the direction that we take into the future.

As we begin another year, we sincerely hope that 2014 will bring Myanmar closer to its long cherished goals of peace, prosperity and democracy. And with you as our partners, we believe that all of these things are well within reach.

Happy New Year to you all

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