Carter in Myanmar

Jimmy Carter in Yangon

Jimmy Carter in Yangon

Jimmy Carter is the latest to join the expanding list of prominent visitors to Myanmar as the country is opening up after five decades of isolation.

The event was fairly well-run, with the cellphone jammer set up and all. Started well on time and Carter spoke for exactly ten minutes. Someone fluent in Burmese politics pointed out, however, that the event staff that ushers in the audience knows so little about Burmese political figures, judging by their poor job of placing stately party leaders at the back of the hall.

That said, kudos to Carter for taking the time to meet with Burmese farmers during his short visit in Myanmar. He highlighted the growing problem of rice merchants using false weights against small-holder farmers. My colleagues and I have been hearing these complaints lately but it is a different story when Jimmy Carter says it in front of the national media. It is not uncommon for a farmer to lose 20 baskets of rice at the hands of rice merchants with tricky weights.

Carter also spoke against arbitrary land grabs from farmers and emphasized the need for a proper land tenure system. It was also very “hip” of Carter to talk about how farmers in Myanmar need and should get a cellphone! With expensive SIM cards, many people in Myanmar still cannot associate “cellphones” and “farmers” yet, unlike in most African countries. On that note, if you are a Burmese that thinks Africa is still much worse off, please take a good look at this new special report from the Economist magazine.

Cheers to Carter and hoping 2015 will keep up the momentum in Myanmar.

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