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Frontier: Exploring the Top Ten Emerging Markets of Tomorrow by Gavin Serkin

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Chapter 2Myanmar

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I – Halcyon Days

From Kenya's militarized airport, arriving in Myanmar feels disarmingly serene.

Immigration officers in pristine white uniforms smile amiably from booths advertising Samsung air sanitizers.

The sense of calm crystallizes as I turn on my mobile and realize I won't get a single text or call. Most foreign network providers are still waiting for a signal. Locally there are only six million phones for nearly sixty million people.1 I'm missing the cacophony of voices announcing they've arrived, the urgent catch-ups on a day's missed meetings. Putting my mobile in my backpack, the noise in my own head switches off.

On the road, there's something else. The beep-beep of south Asian driving is a constant. But there's no buzz of scooters. Motorcycles are banned from Yangon in the interests of security, safety and quietude.2

And then there are the monks.

Wrapped in maroon robes with matching parasols, they emanate tranquility. Identical with shaven heads but in pink are nuns. Most of the country's 50 million Buddhists join their ranks several times in their lives. There are over half a million at any one time. Their monasteries and golden pagodas are everywhere.3, 4

This halcyon aura makes it all the harder to comprehend the upsurge of violence here. I check in at Traders, the swanky Shangri-La hotel frequented by the international business elite. Three ...

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