Postcard from Rangoon

A visit to Burma reveals a people's hope for the future amid life under tyranny. Out of the darkness, a sliver of light

Kemal Jufri / Imaji for TIME

Despite losing Burma's last elections in 1990, the junta has kept a firm grip on power.

Sometimes the tea was bitter. Other times it was cloyingly sweet with condensed milk. But the whispered questions at teahouses in Rangoon and across Burma were always delivered the same way. Head flick to the right, head flick to the left. A nervous glance backward. No one listening, not even the waiter shuffling up to slosh hot water into our glasses? Good. What did I, as an American who had the good fortune to vote in one of the most exciting presidential races in recent memory, think of Burma's upcoming national elections?

Two decades after ignoring the results of its last...

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