The Most Popular Stories of 2019

By The Irrawaddy 28 December 2019

YANGON—As the year draws to a close, The Irrawaddy takes a step back and presents a compilation of the year’s most noteworthy stories as chosen by you, our readers. The following articles were the most read among the many features, commentaries, analyses, interviews and lifestyle pieces we published throughout 2019. The topics are as diverse as Myanmar itself—The Irrawaddy’s readers showed a strong curiosity about everything from a one-on-one interview with the Arakan Army chief to a review of a Yangon café that lets patrons dine in the company of exotic animals. Throughout the year, topics like the parliamentary fight over charter change, the uncertain impacts of Chinese investment and tourism, the plight of civilians caught up in the country’s ethnic armed conflicts, and Myanmar’s lively art scene were all consistently popular. We hope you enjoy this in-depth look at the year gone by, and extend our best wishes for the year to come.


With Only One Side Listening, Dialogue on Charter Was Never an Option

The NLD had no choice but to force the military to engage with constitutional reform in Parliament

My Only Wish for 2019 Is…

In this pre-election year, defenders of democracy must remain vigilant against any development that could disrupt preparations for the 2020 vote.

Making Myanmar’s Constitution Democratic

A look at those articles of the Constitution the NLD is most likely to target for amendment first—and why.

How Myanmar’s Military Chief Could Become President

Under the 2008 Constitution, if the USDP and its allies win 26 percent of Parliament seats, the army chief could become president without even running for office.

What the Recent Military Shake-Ups Really Mean

As Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing grooms his juniors, who is likeliest to take his place when he steps down, and what do recent military shake-ups mean for the 2020 elections?


Nationalists Subject Journalist to Devastating Legal Ordeal

Court and police procedure questioned in defamation case against Myanmar Now editor brought by follower of ultranationalist monk U Wirathu

As China Pushes, Opposition to Myitsone Dam Builds

Politicians, Kachin activists, environmentalists join displaced villagers in taking a stand against the BRI project on the Irrawaddy River.

Irrawaddy Region Farmers’ Hopes of Reclaiming Stolen Land Running Thin

In 2015 many farmers in Irrawaddy Region voted for the NLD expecting the party to win them their stolen land back. More than three years on, they have little to show for it.

Civilians in Myanmar’s Conflict-Torn Rakhine State Left to Fend for Themselves

Amid constant threats to their security, Rakhine civilians are treated with suspicion by the military, while police and state officials are unable or unwilling to help.

Despite World Heritage Status, Bagan’s Future Far From Assured

With no quick fix in sight for intrusive hotels and tourism-related accommodations, the legacy of years of mismanagement continues to be felt in the ancient city.


Urgent Political Action Needed to Solve Rakhine’s Problems

Declaring a state of emergency or inserting more troops will not solve the root causes of the conflict.

Acknowledging the Elephant in the Room

The NLD’s move to amend the Constitution is a first small step in what will surely be a difficult journey.

The Lady in The Hague

As she leads Myanmar’s legal team to the ICJ, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi returns to the international spotlight, playing a new role: defender of the national interest.

UN Forced to Face Its Track Record of Failure in Myanmar

On the Rohingya crisis, the government must prepare to work with ASEAN and others, but ultimately the solution will have to come from within.

Myanmar’s Balancing Act Moves to India

As the commander-in-chief visits India, New Delhi and Naypyitaw have much to gain from enhancing mutual ties.


Archivist Salvages Myanmar’s Neglected Photographic History

Overlooked in favor of foreigners since colonial times, local photographers left a rich legacy of images, Austrian photographer and historian says

Exhibition of Sawbwas’ Royal Dress Puts Shan History, Culture on Display

National Museum show is the best-attended it has ever put on

Int’l Best-Selling Novel Set in Myanmar to Be Adapted for Big Screen

‘The Art of Hearing Heartbeats’ to start filming next year in Myanmar, U.S. and Thailand

New Exhibition by Artist Kyar Pauk Fascinates the Eyes and the Ears

Be sure to bring your smartphone and earphones to the punk rocker and painter’s second solo show, ‘Micro’

Book Examines Moral Basis of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Concept of Democracy

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi presents democracy as a moral value, author Michal Lubina argues in his analysis of the State Counselor’s political thought.


Military Vows to Remain in Politics as Long as EAOs Exist

A press conference on Saturday heard the military saying they would step back from politics when there are no ethnic armed groups and the country is in peace.

Infographic: China’s Plantation Greed

A closer look at the facts and figures behind expanding China-owned tissue culture banana plantations causing havoc for locals and lawmakers in Kachin State.

Myanmar’s 2019 Economic Outlook

Players and experts in a variety of business fields spoke to The Irrawaddy on their predictions for Myanmar’s economy in 2019, with more positive than negative views overall.

Megaprojects a Double-Edged Sword for Myanmar

Ten major projects currently planned with powerful neighboring countries promise to address Myanmar’s infrastructure needs, but have the social, environmental and other costs been fully assessed?

‘We Are United Because We Are All Under Threat’: AA Chief

Maj-Gen. Htun Myat Naing denies links to ARSA, says he doesn’t underestimate the abilities of the Tatmadaw. He welcomes China’s role as peace broker, and foreign investment if it

In Person

Arakan Army Chief Promises Myanmar Military, Govt Eye For an Eye

“If they want to destroy our land [Rakhine State], we should destroy their [the Bamars’] land. If they offer peace, we will welcome it as warmly as we can,” said Tun Myat Naing.

Selling Rakhine to the World

The Irrawaddy spoke with businessman and government adviser U Htun Htun Naing about the current investment climate, foreign interest, and how to revive the state’s poor image.

A Conversation With US Ambassador Scot Marciel

In a wide-ranging interview, the US envoy gives The Irrawaddy his thoughts on the many domestic and international challenges facing Myanmar, and the state of the bilateral relationship.

Tatmadaw Following Rules of Engagement in Rakhine: Spokesman

KIA triggered clashes in Shan by moving beyond agreed boundaries; road construction in Karen State to continue, says Brig-Gen. Zaw Min Tun

Fostering Pride in the Art of Chin Textile Weaving

Yo Ya May supports 200 weavers in the remote hills of Chin and Rakhine states by selling their handwoven textiles in Yangon and beyond.


Art Exhibition Questions a Gender Discriminatory Status Quo

Artist Htein Lin’s bold new exhibition, ‘Skirting the Issue’, invites participants to question whether and why they follow discriminatory customs.

Modernist Painter Defies Myanmar Taboos in New Exhibit

Known for his modernist paintings of cityscapes, street scenes and depictions of Myanmar traditions, Zaw Mong exhibits his first collection of nude paintings this week.

Women Photographers Expose a Different Side of Myanmar-Bangladesh Ties

Photographers from Dhaka and Yangon come together to create a book of visual narratives discussing cultural, societal and identity realities on both sides of the Naf River.

Duo Marks 104th Birthday of Gen. Aung San With Art Show

Mingalarpar 104 will showcase more than 50 works about the independence hero by artists MPP Ye Myint and Han Kyaw Moe at the We Creation gallery through Sunday.

Photographer Tells the Dark Side of the Elephant’s Story in Myanmar

Photographer Ko Myo, three-time winner at Yangon Photo Festival, risks his life to document the illicit elephant trade in Myanmar through touching photo essays.


Infographic: 30 Years of Chinese Investment in Myanmar

A selection of infographics to illustrate all Chinese investment projects in Myanmar between 1988 and 2018, including those proposed, underway, completed and stalled.

China’s Six Belt and Road Projects in Myanmar to Watch in 2019

The Irrawaddy takes a critical look at the major infrastructure projects which are part of China’s BRI efforts in Myanmar due to get underway this year.

Key Facts & Figures on Myanmar Charter Amendment Recommendations

A graphic guide to the work of the joint parliamentary panel set up to draft changes to the 2008 Constitution, which submitted a list of 3,765 proposals on Monday.

Infographic: A Look Inside Yangon’s 80 Projects for Economic Growth

The Irrawaddy’s infographic gives a rundown of the 80 sweeping development projects set to change the lives of 8.2 million citizens of Yangon city and region forever.

Infographic: Making Myanmar’s Constitution Democratic

A detailed breakdown of the chapters and articles most likely to be targeted for reform by the government


‘Myanmar Is Not Cursed, or a Failed State’

The Irrawaddy sits down with NLD lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt to discuss the long road to democracy, and the merits of Myanmar’s ‘obligation-based’ society.

Federalism, Democracy and the 2020 Elections

Dateline and guests discuss the 2020 elections, ethnic parties and the NLD.

What Does Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Defense at the ICJ Mean for Myanmar?

The Irrawaddy talks to Muslim faith leader Haji U Aye Lwin and political analyst Maung Maung Soe about the State Counselor’s move to lead Myanmar’s defense at The Hague.

Dealing with Rising Religious Tensions in Myanmar

The Irrawaddy discusses the forced closure of a temporary Islamic prayer site in Yangon by a crowd of Buddhist nationalists.

Constitutional Amendment: What’s the best way forward?

The Irrawaddy talks to one of the NLD’s point men on charter change about the party’s objectives for the process, and what’s at stake for the country.


A Lunch Date with Exotic Pets

Would you like a Burmese python with your order? Lizzo and Mammo is a bizarre new pet café where you can get up close and personal with a range of fierce and furry animals.

The Best Bars for Live Music in Yangon

These six bars may be just the ticket for those looking to pair their drinks with some live music at the end of a long day.

Harsh Public Criticism for Myanmar Academy Awards

The glamorous awards event disappointed many who were hoping for the makers of Myanmar’s new wave of modern and creative movies to finally get the recognition they deserve.

Mu Ai’s New Set Menus Let Diners Sample a Range of Authentic Kachin Flavors

Chef Ko Padang Laroi has added two combination meals to the menu at this award-winning ethnic eatery in Kamayut Township.

Unique Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

Ditch the chocolates and roses and give your loved one goose bumps with some unexpected, unique, creative, do-it-yourself and locally made gifts.