Most Burmese don′t expect democracy to change their living standards much | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 13.03.2012
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Most Burmese don't expect democracy to change their living standards much

Myanmar's democratic transition can be seen on every street corner. Voicing political opinions and admiration for Aung San Suu Kyi is no longer taboo. But most people do not expect their lives to change that much.

Yangon's Anawyadar Road runs right through the middle of the city. It is a busy street with street vendors on every corner. It is named after Myanmar’s former king. However, today the four-lane street and its sidewalks show more traces of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

There are placards of her, pennants displaying the logo of her National League for Democracy - a fighting peacock - and vendors selling DVDs about the Nobel Peace Price laureate.

Soe Wie is 29. He said he has made hundreds of copies of “The Lady” by Luc Besson and says business is going “very well.”

"I sell between 400 and 500 copies every day."

One DVD costs 500 kyats, which is around 50 euro cents ($0.65). It is a good business for Soe Wie – but he's not in it for the money. He says it is all about Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi is a symbol of hope for many Burmese

"I love Aung San Suu Kyi, I worship her! Many people feel the same way, that's why they buy the films."

Soe Wie has been selling his wares on a corner of Anawyadar Road for two weeks now. Not long ago, such a thing would have been impossible. It would have been sure ticket to Insein Prison.

Democratic transition versus poverty

While people are happy with the country's democratic transition, they do not expect their living standards to rise considerably, says Soe Wie.

"A lot is changing, but my living conditions are not improving."

A man looks out from his boat on the bank of the Salween river in Myanmar

Life remains simple

Two kilometers away, across the Irrawaddy River, it is a different, much poorer, world.

Nae Mae Weh sits on the ground at a market in the municipality of Dala. She is surrounded by plastic trash. In front of her, there is a cloth spread out upon which there is dry fish. She gets the fish from Yangon in the mornings and sells it here.

She earns very little - not enough to live from, she says. "If it weren't for my brother, who gives me money every once in a while, I wouldn't be able to survive."

Nae Mae Weh is blind in one eye. It is impossible to guess how old she is. She says she does not expect any big changes, nor is she very interested in politics.

"My daily life is so busy; I don't have time for politics," she says, adding that she does, of course, admire Aung San Suu Kyi. Such words are no longer forbidden in Myanmar but they can still be dangerous here in Dala, on the other side of the river.

Author: Udo Schmidt / sb
Editor: Anne Thomas

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