Global Programmes Manager Andy Pask writes to us amidst his busy trip to Asia. Here he talks about life in Yangon during the elections.

If you are going to go to Myanmar for the first time, there could be no better time to go than just before the first democratic elections that Myanmar has experienced in 25 years! That was my experience as I and a colleague visited Yangon, Myanmar last week. I was visiting the Cord team there and had the privilege to meet one of the partners with whom Cord works.

The build-up to the elections has firmly placed Myanmar in the media spotlight and many people will be hearing about the country and its history for the very first time. Previously known as Burma after the country’s largest ethnic group, military rule has been the norm until recent years, which have seen the gradual emergence of a military-backed civilian Government. Working within this context is extremely challenging but these elections seem to be highlighting the desire for continued change within Myanmar. The work that Cord is doing alongside civil society groups in Myanmar is helping to support this process.

There was a sense last week that Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party were on the cusp of a potential victory. Having walked past her house earlier in the week (before the throngs of people gathered outside) it was special for me to see the gates where so many speeches and rallies for democratic change in Myanmar have been held. As the marquees were erected in preparation for the temporary polling stations that were being used, it was clear there was a mix of excitement and nervousness about Sunday’s polling day. Excitement that the Myanmar people had the opportunity to express their choice for who they would like to govern the country, and nervousness about any potential violence that may break out.

The Government and people of Myanmar deserve great credit that the elections have happened and that they appear to have passed relatively peacefully, with a turn-out of around 80%.

Despite the success of polling day we should not forget that hundreds of thousands were still prevented from voting, including the Rohingya Muslims who have no rights in Myanmar. This is a sign that there is still a long way to go for Myanmar, but progress is happening. Early reports suggest that Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD party have been successful in securing the majority they need to run the government. Whatever the outcome, Myanmar will continue to change. For some this may be too slow, and for some too fast; the path of change is not always an easy one. It’s a privilege to know that Cord and our partners can be a part of supporting this process towards sustainable, long-term, inclusive peace.


Find out more about Andy in our 60 second interview with him here.