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Hnin Yee Htun, owner and operator of the Father’s Office bar in downtown Yangon (Photo by Steve Tickner)

Myanmar's urban hub thrives on 'repat power'

Returnees infuse Yangon with energy, enthusiasm and hope for the future

SEAN GLEESON | Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos

Hnin Yee Htun's decision to return to Myanmar in 2015 was impulsive, but she has come to see it as propitious. Hnin was born in 1988, two days before a nationwide uprising plunged the country, then known as Burma, into anarchy and thrust Aung San Suu Kyi into the political spotlight. Hnin fled with her family to a refugee camp across the border in Thailand soon after, and settled in Australia in 2002.

Against that background, it seems auspicious that Hnin's bar in Yangon began trading a month after Suu Kyi's party swept Myanmar's 2015 elections, the tumult of the past and the hopes of the present bookending her departure and return -- and before the country's recent tragic Rohingya refugee exodus cast a pall over the national mood. Yet, while Myanmar is once again at the heart of international uproar, a youthful momentum has taken hold in recent years that cannot be easily stopped.

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