Yangon’s architecture is a window into Myanmar’s rocky past

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Yangon’s architecture is a window into Myanmar’s rocky past
Photo: Manuel Oka

As Myanmar heads to the polls for its first genuine (let’s hope) general election in 25 years, the mood is electric in Yangon, the nation’s former capital and still-largest city. This Sunday represents many citizens’ first chance to take part in a nationwide democratic event.

Many warn the process will be flawed, and voting will be closely watched by many nations to determine how they engage with the country in the future.

Outside observers seeking a window into Myanmar’s troubled past should look no further than Yangon’s rich architectural heritage. Visitors may find some buildings stunning, others more ominous—but all are meaningful.

Yangon became the country’s center of gravity during the reign of the British, who took over in 1852. The country gained independence in 1948 and, following a military coup in 1962, embarked on a path to isolation (and eventual pariah status by the ’80s) until 2011. […]