I visited Myanmar (or Burma as it is known in UK) with the Royal Society of Asian Affairs recently. We started in Yangon (Rangoon), and travelled by road to the south east, to the former British capital of Moulmein.
Next we flew north-east to Inle Lake, then west to Mandalay and the temple city of Bagan. It was essentially a cultural tour. We saw the extensive British colonial architecture in Yangon, and also in Moulmein, where we visited four churches.
The Christians are about 8% of the population of 55 million.The Baptists, founded in Burma by an American, Judson, in 1827, have most churches, followed by the Catholics, and the Anglicans. The Bishop of the Anglican Cathedral in Yangon told us that the Christians were under pressure everywhere, but were not subject to persecution as in Iraq, India or Pakistan. The Buddhists, however, have treated their Moslem minority in the west badly, loading them on to boats bound for Thailand and Indonesia.T
The Christian cemeteries we saw were generally in a poor state, although we are trying to improve them with grants through BACSA, an organisation of which I am a committee member. In contrast the pagodas are in splendid condition: 2000 alone in Bagan, an amazing sight. You need to take off both shoes and socks to enter!
There was formally a civilian Government, but the generals have turned themselves into civilians, so not much has changed. The military were not much in evidence, and tourists are certainly welcome. We tried to meet Ong Sang Su Chi, but she could not be fitted in to our programme. Let us hope that the elections later this year will bring some change, but it seems unlikely she will achieve any real power soon. Denis Doble.