The United States is beginning opened up to Myanmar (Burma) recently in an effort to encourage Myanmar's movement toward change.
Burma has been in political upheaval since the 1960's between an oppressive government and conflicts with the ethnic minorities. Burma was renamed Myanmar after a junto took control in the 1960's.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of the famous Burmese nationalist hero Aung San. Aung San helped Burma achieve independence from Japan but was then killed. After his victory and death, the country slipped into political unrest and became communist/socialist. Aung San Suu Kyi spent much of her life abroad and became well versed in democratic ideals. She returned to Burma around 1988, the time of the second major uprising for independence/freedom. She became a spoke person for democracy and Burmese people rallied behind Aung San Suu Kyi. However, she was put on long-term house arrest and was released from her most recent round of house arrest in Nov. 2010. She is now wanting to run for parliament.
The United States has maintained sanctions against Burma largely because Burma has been under major Chinese influence. Burma has held many political prisoners and largely limited free speech. However, Burma has taken great strides recently in standing up to China, releasing political prisoners and moving towards more openness.
To acknowledge and encourage these improvements, the President Obama sent Hillary Clinton, U.S Secretary of State, to Burma to meet with the Burmese President, Thein Sein. Sein was elected president in March 2011. Clinton's visit at the end of November 2011 marks the first U.S. Secretary of State visit to Burma in 50 years.
During her visit, Clinton also delivered letters from President Obama to both Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi.
Here is a link to an article about this visit and a video clip of Hillary Clinton speaking to Burmese leaders:
Here is a copy of President Obama's letter to Aung San Suu Kyi:
Aung San Suu Kyi
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
It was a pleasure and an honor to speak with you recently. As I said during our conversation, I have long admired your brave and unwavering struggle for democracy, and I consider our conversation a highlight of my recent visit to Asia.
Secretary of State Clinton's visit will explore how the United States can support efforts to foster political opening and respect for universal human rights, as well as demonstrate the seriousness of our commitment to helping the people of Burma achieve their democratic aspirations.
I thank you for your welcome of the Secretary's visit, and look forward to speaking to you again. Thank you for the inspiration you provide all of us around the world who share the values of democracy, human rights, and justice. We stand by you now and always.
(This is the link to Obama's letter: http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/01/world/asia/myanmar-obama-suu-kyi-letter/index.html)
I think using these articles, videos and Obama's letter would be great ways for students to connect with this subject. Students have a hard time connecting with cultures and countries that they are largely unfamiliar with; however, using a video and reading a letter written by the current U.S. President would help students see how real these issues are.
This would be a great tool for both teaching history and geography.