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(Editorial) - The ASEAN Summit is finished. The international visitors have moved on, Naypyidaw hoteliers can adjust their room rates to reasonable levels again, and the Myanmar government can breathe a sigh of relief.

Written by Published in Ed/Op

The general election due to be held late next year is widely considered to be an important milestone in the transition towards democracy, but there have been some worrying portents.

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Few would dispute that Myanmar’s media has seen a major transformation since the shackles were removed after President U Thein Sein’s came to power in 2011. Pre-publication censorship ended in August 2012, daily newspaper licences have been issued to the private sector and exiled media organisations, such as Mizzima, Irrawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma, have been allowed to return home.

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Ko Min Ko Naing of the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society Organization at a rally in Mandalay to bring the message for the need to change the 2008 Constitution. Photo: Hong Sar/Mizzima

The constitution amendment process is entering the full-swing phase. Central to it is the work of the hluttaw constitution amendment committee and I expect the tenth session of parliament will be devoting quite a bit of time to this matter. And outside parliament, public rallies and marches are being organized to call for constitutional reform.

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On March 7, a twelve-member Presidential Commission was formed to draft two bills – one on religious conversions and the other on population growth rate control. According to the notification, representations from monks and lay public have reached the President, and the Union Speaker, too, has intimated that in consequence the government should draft these two laws. News reports say that 1.3 million signatures had been collected last year on the petition that was sent to the President.

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Last week, Myanmar marked International Women’s Day 2014 with a range of events, including the “Image of Woman (Myanmar)” exhibition that celebrated the continuing evolution of the identity of women through the eyes of women artists. Every March 8, people around the world get together for the annual event begun in the early 1900s to highlight the role of women in society and the struggle against the prejudice that makes women second-class citizens and worse in some societies. It’s a struggle against the dominant narrative of patriarchy that to some degree or other sees men ruling the roost and women placed in a supporting, possibly suppressed role. Women may well hold up “half the sky,” as the saying goes, but they typically carry more than their fair share of the burden.