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Mike Thomson in Burma

Mike with Shan troops
Mike with Shan troops. He saw a country which is changing rapidly but whose people remain suspicious of their rulers' intentions

The Today programme's Mike Thomson has recently returned from Burma, an often secretive country which is now showing signs of opening up to democracy and the outside world. Listen to his reports here.

Mike arrived in Burma a week before its people went to the polls after a period of unprecedented change after a succession of democratic reforms. A once secretive and isolated state, ranked among President Bush's "axis of evil" nations like North Korea and Iran, is now opening up after a succession of democratic reforms and election fever is taking over.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won at least 40 of the 45 seats contested in Burma's by-elections, according to local officials. The outcome will have little effect on the balance of power in the short term, but she says they mark the start of a new era in Burma.

Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, has announced an easing of sanctions against Burma following the by-elections on Sunday, most of which were won by Aung San Suu Kyi's party the National League for Democracy. The poll followed six months of reforms by the country's once reviled government which have included the release of many political prisoners, relaxations on media censorship and peace deals with several ethnic rebel groups. But will these reforms continue? In his latest report from the country our correspondent Mike Thomson has been granted a rare interview with a monk who co-led the so-called "Saffron revolution" of 2007.

Burma's elections last weekend have focused world attention on the country's political system but what about everyday life there? Have the democratic reforms that have swept this member of former President Bush's so called "axis of evil" been matched by economic and social ones?

Much has been made over the last week of Burma's march towards democracy following Aung San Suu Kyi's election victory. But the country's much trumpeted democratic reforms have done little to help Burma's Muslim Rohingya people, who have been described as among the most persecuted on earth. Now denied citizenship, they cannot travel without special permits and are frequently stripped of their homes and land. They are forbidden from having more than two children and any who marry without permission face long jail terms.

There are new hopes that Burma's ethnic wars could finally be nearing an end after decades of bloody conflict. This weekend Burma's President Thein Sein met with one of the country's largest ethnic groups in what's seen as one of the biggest steps towards peace yet undertaken. The Today programme's Mike Thomson reports from Burma's Shan State.

Karen rebels in Burma have met the president, Thein Sein, for the first time in what's seen as a big step towards resolving one of the world's longest conflicts. The Today programme's Mike Thomson reports after returning from Burma while Baroness Glenys Kinnock, chair of the all-party parliamentary group for democracy in Burma, reflects on what this says about moving towards democracy.


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