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The Opening of Burmese Borders: Impacts on Migration

February 22, 2013

The Opening of Burmese Borders: Impacts on Migration

Source: Migration Policy Institute

In 2011, Burma — also called Myanmar, the name preferred by the former military government of this resources-rich Southeast Asian country — rejoined the international community, carrying with it a long history of closed borders, chronic under-development, and oppressive military rule. Following the first multi-party election held since 1990 in November 2010, the ruling junta handed power to current President Thein Sein in March 2011. President Sein, who previously served as a general and then prime minister under the military regime, has subsequently ushered in reform. While change has been slow to trickle down to the Burmese population, Burma’s economic, social, and political isolation has come to an end.

Its newly reopened borders have seemingly had a small impact on outflows, primarily driven by Burma’s continuing lack of opportunity, deep-rooted ethnic, religious, and other forms of violence, and an infrastructure taxed by natural disasters.

There has been speculation whether the recent political détente would affect Burmese labor migration, which is almost exclusively to neighboring Thailand. But the labor migration patterns are likely to remain the same at least in the short term, as most of Burma’s major economic reforms have not significantly altered the daily lives of the Burmese.

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