The European Union announced that it would grant Myanmar almost 700 million euros in development aid over the next seven years. The money is aimed to boost the country’s economic transition from militia-led isolation to an independent and confident international player. The announcement of this package came after U.S. President Barack Obama said last month that Myanmar’s transition was not progressing but rather backsliding in some sectors, such as human rights and press freedom.
Brussels said that the country would receive the funding from 2014 to 2020 to “reinforce support to the country’s multiple transition” including efforts to stabilize its economy and promote peace. Myanmar is home to about 16 major rebel groups out of which 14 signed ceasefire deals with the quasi-civilian government as part of reform efforts in recent years. Yet, some of these deals, such as those with the Kachin Independence Army in northern Kachin state and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in eastern Shan, have proved highly problematic. In addition to peace building, the EU wants its funding to develop rural areas and support agriculture including improving food supplies, nutrition, while also providing support for education, good governance, and the rule of law. “With this support over the next seven years, the EU will build on its ongoing initiatives for the benefit of all people in Myanmar,” the official EU statement added.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was ruled by the British until 1948 but was later isolated by a military regime that took control of the country in 1962. Myanmar has been implementing extensive reforms for three years, which has earned Naypyidaw international praise and the removal of most sanctions that had been imposed on the country since early 1990s. The current leadership, however, remains to be headed by former generals and military personnel, though many political prisoners have also been freed, and the support for democratic transition has been allowed. For instance, Aung San Suu Kyi, an opposition politician and chairperson of the National League for Democracy, managed to get elected into the parliament while the new quasi-civilian government put an end to media censorship.
Despite the pro-democratic efforts, some of the country’s controversial practices and laws have not yet been uprooted. For instance, Mrs Suu Kyi cannot run for President because her late husband was British. According to the constitutional clause 59f, those with a foreign spouse or children cannot stand for this position. President Obama addressed this controversial law saying “the amendment process needs to reflect inclusion rather than exclusion”.