Article

Understanding Recent Political Changes in Myanmar

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Abstract

Since the new government took power in 2011, the citizens of Myanmar have enjoyed a greater degree of freedom than at any time since the military seized power in 1962. This article explains how the recent political changes in Myanmar have come about. In so doing, it argues that the absence of a rigid paramount leader who opposes reconciliation with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the challenges posed by serious economic problems and positive responses from Western countries and pro-democracy leaders in Myanmar have allowed liberals in the government to work together for the further liberalization of the country’s political system. However, Myanmar still has a long way to go before it can become a full-fledged democracy. There still are hardliners in both camps who are unsatisfied with the pace of reforms: hardliners in the government think that the pace of reform is too fast while hardliners in the pro-democracy movement feel that they are too slow. Both groups could still generate instability in the country, prompting a military coup. Myanmar is at the crossroads and the cooperation between all sections of society will allow the country to become a full-fledged democracy.

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... This was reiterated in the stories of FGD participants, who also emphasized the financial cost of PAC. As we heard from a 30-year-old participant from Insein Township: Some [women] go to the hospital, but they are afraid to go to the hospital because it may cost 10,000-20,000 kyat [USD [10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20] and it is time consuming…They're [also] afraid of the hospital because of the interrogations there…the doctors ask about the abortion history. ...
... Myanmar has undergone rapid growth and change since the 2010 elections installed a nominally civilian elected government [13]. Although spending on health has increased considerably, health outcomes and particularly reproductive health outcomes largely remain poor. ...
... The need for legal reform on the status of abortion is pressing. Since 2011, the Myanmar government has instituted a series of political reforms, including easing media restrictions and releasing political prisoners [13,17]. These reforms have been met with cautious optimism and suggest that there may be a window of opportunity to push for the liberalization of the current abortion law. ...
... This new form of power-sharing arrangement allowed the military leadership (Senior General Than Shwe and General Maung Aye) to retire and make room for a new generation of military leaders to occupy key positions within the new tutelary regime. To safeguard his own personal, family and commercial interests after stepping down, the strongman of the military junta, Senior General Than Shwe, handpicked key people for the new administration himself (Callahan, 2012, p. 122;Hlaing, 2012). Thein Sein, a loyal and long-time member of the junta who had chaired the National Convention to draft the constitution and served as prime minister of the junta since 2007, became the first "civilian" president in 2011. ...
... Within the tutelary regime, the military has had an important position as ruler, as indispensable partner in government, and as veto actor. Under President Thein Sein, 29 of the 36 cabinet members were former military officers(Hlaing, 2012). While after the NLD landslide in 2015, the military invited the NLD to form the government, it retained the three ministries of Border Affairs, Defense, and Home Affairs, which were constitutionally reserved for the Tatmadaw. ...
Preprint
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Myanmar has had one of the longest-ruling military regimes in the world. Ruling directly or indirectly for more than five decades, Myanmar’s armed forces have been able to permeate the country’s main political institutions, its economy and society. This article examines the trajectory of civil-military relations over the last seven decades and identifies the push and pull factors behind the military’s intervention. It highlights the fact that Myanmar’s retreat from direct military rule was only initiated after the military managed to set up a tutelary regime in 2011. This regime gave the Tatmadaw a leading position in the government. Although policymaking in the economic, financial and social arenas was transferred to the civilian government, the military remained in control of internal and external security and continued to be completely autonomous in the management of its own affairs. As a veto power, the military was also able to protect its prerogatives from a position of strength. Despite this dominant position in the government, civil-military relations were a marriage of inconvenience and led to the coup in February 2021. The article identifies the personal and corporate interests of the military as push factors behind the coup. At the same time, it argues, the military felt humiliated and threatened as civilian politicians destroyed the guardrails it had put in place to protect its core interests within the tutelary regime.
... The beginning of the political reform process was rather sudden. In August 2003, the SPDC promulgated the 'Roadmap to Democracy', a draft for political reform (Kyaw, 2012). After announcing the Roadmap, the regime convened within the National Convention (NC) between 2004 and 2007 to develop a new constitution. ...
... The current study provides one of few, if not the first, causal inference analyses of the impact of political change on economic growth in Myanmar, although a few studies focus on qualitative analyses of political change in Myanmar. Some observers and researchers (Cook and Minogue, 1993;Vicky Bowman;Ardeth and Maung, 2008;Kyaw, 2012;Jones, 2014;Bünte and Dosch, 2015) discuss the causes of political change in Myanmar. Others analyze the position of Myanmar's economy from the perspective of transition economies (Turnell, 2011;Kubo, 2013;Mieno, 2013). ...
Article
The present study estimates the causal effect of a process of political change, namely, a recent constitutional referendum, on economic growth in Myanmar. To analyze the impact of this process, this study compares the trajectories of actual and counterfactual GDP per capita after the referendum using the synthetic control method. We calculate the counterfactual GDP per capita using country-level panel data from 2002 to 2013, with Myanmar as the treated country and a set of developing countries in East and South Asia, the Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa as the control group. The results of the synthetic analysis suggest that the recent process of political change in Myanmar had a positive and significant effect on GDP per capita but not on per capita foreign direct investment or trade. © 2018 East Asian Economic Association and John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd
... Much of the popular reports on current liberalization efforts in Myanmar have explained recent changes by essentially adopting a classical game theory model. Many Myanmar watchers and popular press for example have examined current political transition as a strategic game between regime softliners/reformers versus hardliners with a particular focus on the elite actors (Callahan 2012, Fuller 2012, Jagan 2012, Kyaw 2012, Tin 2012. ...
... ide the military realm 22 The most important fact to keep in mind is that retired Senior-General and former President Than Shwe completely oversaw and directed the entire transition process, including positioning subordinate commanders into new roles, before retiring along with his deputy and second in command Vice Senior-General Maung Aye . 23 23 Hlaing, Kyaw Yin. 2012. "Understanding Recent Changes in Myanmar". Contemporary Southeast Asia, Vol. 34, . Neither has ever explained their decision to move away from direct military rule or any specifics pertaining to the new system enacted. The dispersion of many different power centers in the new configuration may be an attempt to inhibit the rise of a Big ...
Presentation
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WHY THE MILITARY RULE CONTINUE IN MYANMAR? Myanmar’s post-colonial era is characterised by the domination of the military as the key actor in the state’s politics over the 62-year period since British rule ended. A comparatively brief ‘parliamentary period’ (1948 – 1962) aside – when the ruling coalition was riven by factionalism, and internecine conflict plagued the nascent state – military domination has persisted under various guises through to the present day, to the extent that the Tatmadaw (‘military’) is synonymous with the state and that Myanmar’s system of rule can be described as ‘praetorian’, in that “military officers are the major…political actors by virtue of their actual or threatened use of force”.Democratic elections have only once resulted in the installation of a civilian-led government in Myanmar. Indeed, the country offers a counter-argument to the “conventional wisdom among political scientists that ‘military rule is the shortest form of authoritarian regime in the developing world’”. Myanmar military rule not over yet: Observers. “As soldiers, we gave our lives for the country. In parliament, we are doing the same thing,” said the former RICH brigadier-general.THAT IS RADICULUS. Why its military dictatorship still survives----Burma is slowly transitioning from military dictatorship, but the old elite still pulls the strings. As the country moves towards more societal freedoms, they increasingly find themselves confronted with victims of the old regime.
... Throughout this process, the military kept significant amounts of control over politics, as carefully enshrined in the 2008 constitution. Notwithstanding the 2015 election win of the formerly oppositional National League for Democracy (NLD), the military directly appointed 25 percent of parliament seats, and directly controlled three key ministrieswhich de facto allowed the military to operate with little civilian oversight (Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung, 2016;Kyaw Yin Hlaing, 2012). Nonetheless, these reforms were enough to drastically change the international discourse on the country: Previously considered a place of authoritarian stasis, the country suddenly went to be portrayed as a place of highly dynamic and promising reforms; and what was quickly dubbed 'Asia's last frontier market' was about to see a large influx of international businesses, humanitarian and development organisations (Bächtold, 2015;Décobert & Wells, 2019;Rieffel, 2012). ...
Article
In February 2021, a coup by the Myanmar military ended a ten-year democratisation process. After a rapid digitalisation of Myanmar's political struggles, the military blacked out the country's internet access. Drawing on the sensitivities of science and technology studies for the intersection of digital technology with societal power structures, this paper examines digital policies and practices of the protest movement, the Myanmar military and Facebook. This analysis reveals uncanny similarities: through their opaqueness, the latter actors' policies create uncertainty on what is allowed and what is not, limit means of recourse, and perform authority over the population by directly reaching into people's everyday lives. This article thus de-centres established narratives on Myanmar's political environment in the aftermath of the coup, but also points out the highly ambiguous agency that digital technologies develop in assemblages of political conflict, the (global) discourse on terrorism and government.
... The current situation in Myanmar is thus extremely complex, and the stakes are high. Since the political and economic waves of reform that occurred starting in 2011 under Thein Sein's quasicivilian government 26 and reached a high in 2015 with the election of Aung Suu Kyi and the signing of the NCA, those in Myanmar addressing the multiple fronts of conflict converge on the need for "homegrown" approaches that put those living in Myanmar in the driving seat of design and decision-making in political processes. 27 This principle is even more critical, especially in the current environment. ...
Article
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What potential roles could Track Two play in Myanmar
... 51 A further work centred on Myanmar's President Sein's priorities and civil society's role in representing the popular interests, 52 while yet another analysed the problem of democracy in Myanmar. 53 Explanations of how the recent political changes in Myanmar came about, 54 and how peace prospects may evolve, with a strong emphasis on human right claims, have also been offered, 55 together with an exploration of the major trends in Foreign Direct Investment in Myanmar (1989Myanmar ( -2011. 56 A brief hint at Myanmar in its geopolitical complexity considered in the security regionalism of the Asia-Pacific area was proposed. ...
Article
This article examines continuity and change in the European Union’s interactions with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) with regard to Myanmar. As the EU has used its connections with ASEAN to raise its concerns around Myanmar, the Association’s behaviour also comes into focus. This investigation is linked to the evolution of the EU in world affairs via its political ties to ASEAN. It concentrates on the rather abrupt change introduced by the reform process launched in 2011-12, which marked the beginning of a new phase. The EU’s concern that the Myanmar issue not destabilise its relations with ASEAN has remained constant, however changes in the dialogue can be seen as forming three distinct phases. It is maintained that the aspiration to escape from pervasive China and the desirability of attracting new partners were the catalyst for these changes. Official documents from the EU, the European Commission, and European Council Conclusions and Common Positions, declarations issued at ASEAN, Asia-Europe and other meetings, together with secondary sources and interviews conducted mostly in Myanmar, contribute to this work. While many scholars have hinted at the extent to which the issue of Myanmar has been problematic to the EU-ASEAN links, there has been no emphasis on the positive effect that Myanmar has had on EU-ASEAN relations. This research illuminates the extent to which this issue has conversely helped to reinforce the long-lasting EU-ASEAN relationship.
... Under the USDP president, Thein Sein, the party has expanded civil and political rights to allow for the establishment of a domestic human rights accountability body (Burma Partnership 2012), the release of political prisoners (Hlaing 2012), allowing parliament to address the issue of the military in land grabbing (Zaw, 2013), legalizing trade unions (BBC News, 2011), and allowing for more public political gatherings. However, the expansion of human rights in recent Myanmar has undermined the grave influence of the military under the rule. ...
Article
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During Thatcher's Britain (1979-1990), the inner-city squatting movement and the hippy convoy movements of the 1970s formed a new lifestyle culture, termed 'New Age Travellers' by the contemporary media. It was a reaction to the injustices of early neoliberalism and a romantic desire to salvage what was left of the natural world before every facet of life became ‘up for sale’. Over three decades since the birth of this movement, I explore the life-worlds of those who remain on the road today and those who retreated into more conventional forms of living. The piece asks what sustains a ‘creationist culture’ such as this, in contrast to other travelling cultures who are sustained through family heritage and tradition. I address some of the familiar misconceptions and stereotypes of a culture which has all too often been spoken for, concluding that the lifestyle is sustained by a commitment to craftsmanship and an integral appreciation (and tolerance) for nature.
... Another area where we should hedge our optimism is the scope of the recent reforms and their impact on activism. After all, we know from social movement theory that there is a large degree of attrition once people begin to feel that the hard work is nished, which is also known in the Burmese context as a "revolution of rising expectations" (Hlaing, 2012;Petrie & South, 2013, p. 7;Schock, 1999). In fact, some pessimistic scholars argue that despite the victories of the NLD in 2010 and 2015, the military still maintains signi cant control over internal affairs, which is why ethnic and religious violence against minorities has received international attention since the 2015 election (Barany, 2018;Huang, 2017;Thawnghmung & Robertson, 2017;Wilson, 2018). ...
... The peaceful power transition from a military regime to a democratic government in Myanmar considered to be brought opportunities for developing better relations between Myanmar and the neighbors to solve the Rohingya crisis (Hlaing, 2012). Nevertheless, the power transform in Myanmar rather witnessed one of the most brutal mass killings in history in 2017 (Uddin, 2017). ...
... Considering the extent of the changes, many political scientists have described Myanmar as experiencing a political transition, even though various constitutional prerogatives have remained in place that safeguard the powerful position of the military (e.g., Egreteau 2012Egreteau , 2016Huang 2013;Jones 2014). While the general reform process has received much scholarly attention (e.g., Bünte 2011Bünte , 2016Holliday 2013;Kyaw Yin Hlaing 2012), research on Myanmar's civil society has remained comparatively 'quiet' (notable exceptions are Lorch 2007; Petrie and South 2014;Prasse-Freeman 2012). To date, only a very small number of studies have looked at particular social movements and other civil society organisations that have occurred following the reforms (e.g., Chan 2017;Lidauer 2012;Simpson 2013). ...
Article
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This article presents the Myanmar Protest Event Dataset, a unique dataset on protest assemblies in transitional Myanmar/Burma. The data contents were derived from the most visible forms of assembly – demonstrations, protest marches and labour strikes – and collected through a protest event analysis of local news reports. The coded varia- bles range from information on the actual moment of the protest event, such as participants, issue, duration and location, to the aftermath, in- cluding variables related to legal consequences for protesters and the success of protesters’ claims, and many others. Besides a concise descrip- tion of the research design and data collection process, this article dis- cusses methodological strengths and weaknesses of the dataset.
... In March 2011, Myanmar's ruling junta handed power to a new nominally civilian government, led by former general President Thein Sein. The new president initiated a series of reforms leading to a substantial opening of the former pariah state (Hlaing, 2012). Most dramatically, these reforms include allowing Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD to contest parliamentary by-elections in April 2012, following her release from house arrest in November 2010. ...
Article
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This article investigates the media context of Myanmar’s recent political reforms and transition of power. Drawing on interviews with 57 Yangon-based media professionals, the article analyzes the media’s role as both an agent and subject of political change as Myanmar prepared for parliamentary elections in November 2015. It asks to what extent changes in the Myanmar media system adhere to existing theories of the media’s role in the democratization process. Specifically, the article analyzes the features and functions of Myanmar’s media during the country’s liberalization from 2010 to 2015. The article concludes by assessing what Myanmar’s experience adds to our theoretical understanding of the media’s transformation during liberalization.
... Since the so-called 'sudden transformation' of its political regime, Myanmar has been examined by many scholars, policymakers as well as the Western-centric popular press from the perspective of a democratic transitions paradigm (Slater, 2014: 172). Some scholars (Kyaw, 2012;Callahan, 2012), have talked about the emergence of liberal reformers within the ruling USDP government; however, an 'elite pact' never materialized, and the further liberalization of Myanmar's political economy in the last four years has not led to a genuine democratization of Myanmar's political regime. Other analysts, such as Adam P. MacDonald, are partially correct to label Constitutional Myanmar as an electoral authoritarian regime, which routinely allows for multiparty elections that are 'minimally pluralistic' and 'minimally competitive', and within which the liberal-democratic principles of 'freedom and fairness' are routinely violated, thus making elections 'instruments of authoritarian rule' (Schedler, 2006: 3;MacDonald, 2013;Miller, 2013). ...
Article
The general election held on 8 November 2015 marked a significant turning point in Myanmar’s ongoing regime transition. Under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy (NLD) overwhelmingly dominated the polls. Although the huge electoral mandate for the NLD suggests that further political liberalization in Myanmar is likely, the country is not yet undergoing a genuine democratization. Under the current constitutional framework, the military will remain a key actor within the government, thus a new power-sharing arrangement between the NLD and the military is inevitable. This article examines how Myanmar has transformed from a military regime into the military’s version of a ‘disciplined democracy’ and argues that the 2015 general election was not a precursor to a democratic government per se, but rather a re-affirmation of the military’s version of democracy, in which popularly elected civilian political parties are allowed to co-govern the country with the military.
... Nonetheless, Myanmar's roadmap to democracy, originally outlined by the military over 10 years ago, accelerated in pace with the elections triggering a rapid process of sectoral review and legislative reforms. Although military and intercommunal violence has not decreased since 2011 (Walton & Hayward 2014;Horton 2014;Bhatia 2013) the political shift has triggered a so-called 'opening up' of the country to both international and local, civil involvement (Huang 2013;Hlaing 2012). The subsequent years then have seen rapid increased engagement with the newly legitimised USDP on the part of international governments, donors and private companies, as well as national opposition parties, civil society and non-state armed groups who see political and economic opportunity in the newly semi-democratic state. ...
Article
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Political oscillations in Myanmar and Thailand, between militarisation and democratic reform, have prompted a rapid renegotiation of the alignments, goals and priorities of non-state education providers, both international and community-based, along the two countries’ border. This paper explores the responses to shifts in political environment which have affected community education practices, particularly for those whose interrupted education trajectories have further added to their social subordination, within Myanmar and amongst the refugee and migrant communities along the Thai border. Beginning with an outline of the nomadic space that these communities inhabit, I then explore the ways in which community education is influenced by and responding to changing cross-border movements and political shifts.
... So far, the country's political changes have been analyzed primarily from the perspective of a transition from direct to indirect military rule. Scholars such as Bünte (2011, 2014, 2016), Egreteau (2016), Hlaing (2012), Huang (2013, Jones (2014a, b), and Pederson (2011) have provided important insights into the transition from military to quasi-military rule as well as the motives, drivers, pathways, and limitations of these changes. Emphasizing continued military dominance in the political arena, these scholars argue that the military is guiding, guarding, and ultimately restraining the democratization process. ...
... Long ruled by a military dictatorship, Myanmar was isolated from much of the world until the 2010 elections installed a nominally-civilian elected government. That administration enacted a series of reforms, including the release of political prisoners, increased investment in infrastructure, and eased media restrictions (World Bank, 2015; Hlaing, 2012). However, the military remains powerful and the country's long history of violence, forced labor, displacement and imprisonment is recent, continues to affect population health, and remains ongoing in parts of the country (Sietstra, 2012;). ...
Article
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p> PURPOSE: The purpose of our study was to explore and identify the reproductive health needs of women of reproductive age living in peri-urban Yangon, a dynamic series of townships on the periphery of Myanmar’s largest city. Specifically, we sought to identify the availability and accessibility of reproductive health services and products, as well as potential avenues for improving the delivery and accessibility of services. Our overall study focused on maternal health, delivery care, contraception, abortion and post-abortion care. In this paper we focus specifically on the dynamics shaping access to reproductive health services. PRINCIPAL RESULTS: Our findings suggest that barriers to access specific to both urban and rural settings converge in peri-urban Yangon and create significant challenges for service delivery organizations to reach this population, and for this population to reach health care facilities. While contraceptives are relatively affordable and accessible, non-evidence based fears of side effects, including significant and noticeable weight gain, illness, organ damage and infertility, hinder consistent use among peri-urban women. Finally, our findings suggest that unmarried women and young women are largely excluded from reproductive health care and services, and face considerable barriers to access, including discrimination from providers. MAJOR CONCLUSIONS: Our findings illustrate that despite an overarching availability of reproductive health services in peri-urban Yangon, a variety of geographic, socio-economic, information and socio-cultural barriers to access persist and there remains a dearth of services tailored to young and unmarried women. The peri-urban population requires a unique and tailored service delivery approach.</p
... Despite considerable evidence that Myanmar's democratization process has stalled (Anguelov 2015;Eck 2013;Irrawaddy 2014;Kingsbury 2015;Sifton 2014), the country has nonetheless liberalized more during the last five years than throughout the previous five decades of direct military rule (Hlaing 2012;Renshaw 2013;Ware 2012;Zin and Joseph 2012). This article examines the freedoms that have accrued to Myanmar's residents since the country's 2010 national elections began a transition to a notionally civilian administration. ...
Article
This article describes how divisive groups have taken advantage of Myanmar's new political and media freedoms to pursue an agenda that will limit the civil and political rights of the country's Muslim population. The article argues that enforcement of the four Protection of Race and Religion Laws will disadvantage Myanmar's already politically marginalized Muslim residents by creating a de facto religious test for full Myanmar citizenship rights. The article examines both the positive and negative aspects of Myanmar's liberalizations, the nature of the ‘Protection of Race and Religion' legislative package and how this will interact with Myanmar's citizenship laws.
... Following decades of military rule there has, over the past couple of years, been signs of democratic reform. The actual extent of democratization is debated (Hlaing, 2012;Myint-U, 2012;Skidmore & Wilson, 2012), but the ongoing processes have nonetheless lead to improved relations between the Myanmar government and the outside world, the suspension of (most) economic sanctions and a consequent inflow of foreign investments (Bajoria, 2013). In 2010 the democracy movement in Myanmar also relaxed its call for a tourism boycott against the country, resulting in a significant increase in tourism (Thett, 2012;Tourism Concern, n.d.). ...
Article
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Following decades of military rule and isolation, Burma/Myanmar is currently undergoing changes. The actual extent of these changes is still debated, but the development over the past few years have nonetheless resulted in a dramatic increase in the number foreign tourists. Knowledge around the impacts of tourism development in Burma/Myanmar is, however, still limited. Through interviews conducted in the city Bagan, this study therefore sets out to shed light on how population themselves view the impacts of tourism development in their city/region—and particularly its potential influence upon the cultural identity of the youth. The study finds that tourism development in Bagan is viewed as having both a direct and indirect influence upon young peoples’ cultural identity—producing curiosity and joy as well as confusion and conflicts for the youth themselves as they try to reconcile the demands of tourists with that of their own culture. While the study finds that the traditional culture sometimes becomes “staged” for tourists, young people also develop their own "hybrid" and “glocalized” versions of identity.
... During his first months in office, U Thein Sein convinced the opposition and members of the international community of his commitment to reform. Although initiated from a position of strength, the plans encountered resistance from conservative bureaucrats and hardliners in the military, as they felt their vested interests and their positions were endangered (Hlaing 2012;Pedersen 2011). During his first three years in office, U Thein Sein initiated political (first year), socio-economic (second year) and administrative (third year) reforms. ...
Article
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This opening chapter provides some background to the domestic reform agenda, along with its drivers and motivations. From 1988 to 2011, the military built up institutions that guaranteed the military’s dominant position in the political arena. The second phase, since 2011, has seen a guided relaxation of the military’s coercive controls and the liberalisation of political spaces for the opposition and civil society. In order to contextualise Myanmar’s external relations, this article will first describe the military’s strategy and then outline the key changes that have been implemented in the country’s foreign policy. © 2015, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies. All rights reserved.
... Despite considerable evidence that Myanmar's i democratisation process has stalled (Auguelov 2015;Democracy Digest 2014;Eck 2013;Kingsbury 2015;Sifton 2014), the country has nonetheless liberalised more during the last five years than throughout the previous five decades of direct military rule (Hlaing 2012;Renshaw 2013;Zin & Joseph 2012). Policy changes since the transition to a notionally civilian form of government in 2011 have resulted in significantly greater economic, political and media freedoms for the people of Myanmar (Shobert 2014;IMF 2013;Kulczuga 2013, Trantwein 2015. ...
Conference Paper
In 2010 Myanmar held its first elections for two decades, transitioning from direct military rule to a notionally civilian form of government. Accompanying this political transition has been increased political and media freedom. Democracy means public opinion is more important than ever to the country’s political leaders, while reforms to Myanmar’s media censorship regime have allowed previously suppressed opinions to be widely disseminated through the media. While pro-democracy political groups have taken the opportunity to organise, this paper is concerned with the opportunities these freedoms have provided to Myanmar’s more divisive political figures. Ethnic relations in Myanmar have been a long-standing source of domestic conflict. Ethnicity can be a test for citizenship and ethnic identity is often closely linked with religion. Communal conflict between elements of the country’s Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority since 2012 have exposed previously suppressed staunch anti-Muslim voices from within the Buddhist community. Notably, the 969 Movement, activist monk Ashin Wirathu and the Ma Ba Tha have argued it is in Myanmar’s national interest to protect the Buddhist religion from a perceived Muslim threat, calling for restrictions to Muslims’ political and civil freedoms. This paper suggests that the success of U Wirathu and the Ma Ba Tha’s political agenda would add another layer of complexity to how Myanmar’s citizenship laws operate in practice since existing citizens would have their rights restricted on the basis of religion. This would amount to the creation of a de facto religious test for full Myanmar citizenship rights. In the context of Myanmar’s limited democracy (Kingsbury 2014), this paper asks, can Myanmar’s national political leaders hold back the apparent tide of popular support for the creation of a de facto religious state? The author will argue that Myanmar’s political leaders, facing a national general election in November 2015, will not take the necessary steps to hold back this tide of support for discriminatory policies and the consequence, while perhaps unintended, will be the creation of a de-facto official state religion.
... Within both camps there exists subgroups along a spectrum of hardliners and softliners; for the (former) military, this is between those concerned that reforms have been too fast and military needs to remain involved and those which believe power needs to be further handed over to the executive and legislature while the Tatmadaw focuses on becoming a professional force; for civilian parties, particularly the NLD, the divide is between those who believe a gradual pace of reform and engagement is needed to build new relationships with the military in allowing further democratization and those who argue for more aggressive advocacy and protest over the military's continued political influence. 36 The challenge, therefore, is for likeminded entities in both camps to identify one another and build a political pact committed to reform, recognizing one another's interests and concerns. 37 Already it appears more moderate elements are becoming dominant in the USDP government with the latest Cabinet shuffle, 38 perhaps allowing new and Downloaded by [181.112.228.71] at 20:28 30 January 2016 stronger ties to be developed between the regime and the opposition. ...
Article
In 2011, after more than 20 years of direct rule, the Tatmadaw transferred formal authority to a nominally civilian government following Myanmar's first multi-party election since 1990 as part of a transformation of the political system to a presidential republic. Within this new arena, though, electoral manipulations and constitutional stipulations have brought to power a government consisting mostly of former military officers who are closely aligned to the Tatmadaw. These reforms, therefore, have changed the nature and organization of the ruling regime from that of a military one to an Electoral Authoritarian form. Elections now have become the main conduit to accessing power. Despite the maintenance of authoritarian rule (and the unclear motivations promoting such system change) the opening of the political realm and civil society creates avenues for new actors, identities, interests, and relationships to be constructed. A number of developments over the past few years are tentatively positive signs that Myanmar is undergoing a fundamental political change distinct from the years of military rule. In particular, the interactions of actors within and across civil-military, central-regional, and foreign relations will come to define the future trajectory of these reforms. Ultimately, the willingness of the Tatmadaw to abandon its praetorian ethos of directing the political process, specifically over security policy areas, will determine whether the system remains primarily in the service of regime maintenance or becomes an arena of increasingly diverse, free, and fair political discord with the possibility of power being assumed by those that are non-military.
... 12 In surveys conducted in 2010 -2011, only 8% of respondents were prepared to join political protests, and only 6% anticipated Arab Springstyle unrest. 13 Many opposition leaders interviewed confirmed their inability to mobilize serious societal protest. 14 As one laments: "the 2007 Saffron Revolution ended in failure. ...
Article
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In 2010, Myanmar (Burma) held its first elections after 22 years of direct military rule. Few compelling explanations for this regime transition have emerged. This article critiques popular accounts and potential explanations generated by theories of authoritarian “regime breakdown” and “regime maintenance”. It returns instead to the classical literature on military intervention and withdrawal. Military regimes, when not terminated by internal factionalism or external unrest, typically liberalize once they feel they have sufficiently addressed the crises that prompted their seizure of power. This was the case in Myanmar. The military intervened for fear that political unrest and ethnic-minority separatist insurgencies would destroy Myanmar's always-fragile territorial integrity and sovereignty. Far from suddenly liberalizing in 2010, the regime sought to create a “disciplined democracy” to safeguard its preferred social and political order twice before, but was thwarted by societal opposition. Its success in 2010 stemmed from a strategy of coercive state-building and economic incorporation via “ceasefire capitalism”, which weakened and co-opted much of the opposition. Having altered the balance of forces in its favour, the regime felt sufficiently confident to impose its preferred settlement. However, the transition neither reflected total “victory” for the military nor secured a genuine or lasting peace.
... Much of the current analyses of liberalisation efforts in Myanmar have relied on a classical game theory model. Many Myanmar watchers, for example, have examined the current political transition as a strategic game between regime soft-liners/reformers versus hardliners with a particular focus on the elite actors (Callahan 2012, Fuller 2012, Jagan 2012, Kyaw 2012, Tin 2012. For example, Kyaw Yin Hlaing explains that in the absence of intervention from the retired Than Shwe, some officials within the new government have emerged labelling themselves as liberals while calling for further liberalisation of the country's political economy (Kyaw 2012, p. 209). ...
Article
The Myanmar military has long dominated national politics as well as the state apparatus since first coming into power in 1958. Despite a series of challenges to its rule, the military has been able to constantly re-invent itself while re-asserting its dominance over society. Cycles of popular protests and dissatisfaction with military rule have not led to regime change nor weakened the military as a unified institution. The latest incarnation of the nominally civilian government has introduced a series of liberalising reforms that have dramatically opened more socio-political space for opposition and non-state actors to participate in national politics. Despite the somewhat optimistic outlook of a more liberalised Myanmar in the future, the institutional design and historical legacy of the military's role in state-building have ensured that it has enough ‘reserve domains’ to maintain its prominent role within any foreseeable future governments in Myanmar. By tracing the historical development of the Myanmar military regime, this paper argues that current reforms were introduced as a strategy for the military to ensure its continued survival as the primary political actor in Myanmar.
Article
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For its February 2021 coup, the military blacked out mobile internet across Myanmar. Often interpreted as an ad-hoc measure to crush a digitally savvy protest and resistance movement, I propose instead to think blackouts as co-existing practices of connecting and disconnecting that emerged before the coup. Focusing on the role of mobile internet in state formation, this article shows how digital technologies became involved in performing (state) authority in Myanmar: They co-produced both a unifying socio-technical imaginary that glossed over conflicts, and ‘terrorist others’ that are to be disconnected – thus shaping two conflicting statebuilding projects within post-coup Myanmar.
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This chapter aims to study the Myanmar government’s major policies and politics with regard to Rohingya ethnic community for the period 2010 to 2020. In that respect, it also examines the intention and limitations of the Myanmar government’s policymaking. The overall aim of this chapter is to map the fundamental aspects driving the Myanmar’s policy and politics including institutional constraints concerning Rohingyas. Hence, this study takes a constructivist approach followed by connecting analysis of textual data. Moreover, this study suggests that identifying the ethnic dimension of Rohingya conflict and the inclusion of more minority representatives, especially representatives from Muslim minority groups in the legislature and executive branches, would possibly contribute to facilitating a broader range of views within the state apparatus and solving the crisis.
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Introduction to Living with Myanmar, an overview of Myanmar's recent development and the impact of government policy across a variety of fields.
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Myanmar's practice of using colonial-era administrative boundaries as the basis for electoral constituencies creates a staggeringly high degree of malapportionment that matches or exceeds the highest levels seen around the world. This paper systematically assesses malapportionment and its implications in Myanmar. Several conclusions emerge. Myanmar's electoral system significantly over-represents rural and ethnic minority areas, despite the generally centralized nature of the country's politics. This challenges the prevalent notion that Myanmar's political system is decisively stacked in favour of the majority Bamar. With the exception of the establishment United Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), however, there are few indications that parties used malapportionment for partisan advantage in 2015. This is likely to change as political actors become more strategic and elections more competitive, following which the myriad distortions associated with high malapportionment will manifest. Moreover, adoption of a proportional representation system, as called for by many minority groups, would likely reduce or eliminate the over-representation of their votes. There is also a risk that malapportionment may exacerbate ethnic tensions by supporting extremist narratives around threats to the majority Bamar group. This article was published in Contemporary Southeast Asia (2020).
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Myanmar's transition is a top-down process of reform, unusual for the current global political climate. Developments did not come out of nowhere; the Tatmandaw had been preparing to step back for many years. The Roadmap to Discipline-flourishing Democracy brought into play a new constitution, and with that, general elections. The 2015 General Elections were the second elections held under the 2008 Constitution and the first since a nominally civilian government was introduced in 2011. It was the first time that all of the country's main political parties competed and people actually felt confident about change. This interpretive research is drawing on recent interviews and aims to shed light not only on the direction of the transition and the role of the latest elections in this process, but also on how people of Myanmar themselves understand their current politics. The goal of the fieldwork and qualitative interviews was to make sense of the undergoing processes in the country and provide and insight into current Burmese politics. In the build-up to the elections there was a flowering of political hope, however, expectations are likely to be dashed against hard political reality. Transitional regimes are inherently messy with its institutions still bearing traces of the previous political reality.
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The process of making the present Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in Burma/Myanmar under the military dictatorship State Law and Order Restoration Council/State Peace and Development Council (SLORC/SPDC) from 1993 through to 2007 is rightly viewed as an undemocratic, repressive process. Both the citizens of Myanmar and the international community generally had no say in the whole process. Thus, the process may be viewed as one of resistance by the SLORC/SPDC against global constitution-making norms and practices, on the one hand, and local democratic politicians and groups, on the other hand. The Constitution that came into operation in January 2011 admittedly has highly undemocratic content. However, it undeniably has some democratic content that started bearing fruit, eventually culminating in the winning, in the November 2015 general election, and the coming to power of, the National League for Democracy party in March 2016. I trace the constitution making in Burma/Myanmar by expanding the time frame of analysis until 2016 and revisit the ‘resistance’ argument. Then I posit that the process is a double-pronged strategy by the SLORC/SPDC to, first, resist global and local pressures with the intention of, later, engaging with them when the time was perceived to be right and conducive to their interests.
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Existing scholarship lacks important knowledge about how protest and coercion change during regime change. This study provides new evidence by studying legal reforms as well as patterns of protest and repression during the first 46 months of Myanmar's regime change. By examining law amendments and analyzing protest data compiled via a protest event analysis from local news resources, it can be shown that the de jure exercisability and de facto exercise of protest have changed considerably over time. Informal repression of protest, such as by arbitrary violence, have gradually made way for methods that are formally in accordance with the rule of law, but remained inconsistent with human rights standards. Additionally, repression has become more selective, demonstrating a continuous high state control over the civil society. I suggest that the observed changes may be general features of elite-controlled transitions to competitive authoritarianism, a hypothesis that merits future cross-national research.
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How do elections and the economy affect authoritarian survival? Distinguishing among (a) nonelection periods in autocracies that do not hold competitive elections, (b) election periods in autocracies that hold regular elections, and (c) nonelection periods in such autocracies, I argue that bad economic performance makes authoritarian regimes especially likely to break down in election years, but the anticipation of competitive elections should dissuade citizens and elites from engaging in antiregime behavior in nonelection periods, bolstering short-term survival. Thus, compared to regimes that do not hold competitive elections, electoral autocracies should be more vulnerable to bad economic performance in election periods but more resilient to it in nonelection years. A study of 258 authoritarian regimes between 1948 and 2011 confirms these expectations. I also find that the effect is driven by competitive elections for the executive office, and elections-related breakdowns are more likely to result in democratization. © 2019 by the Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved.
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This paper examines the remarkable political transition underway in Myanmar/Burma since the inauguration of President Thein Sein at the end of March 2011. It begins with the historical background and the political context and then addresses the main features of the economy, highlighting current performance, major reforms, and key issues. It concludes by characterising the progress to date as verging on the miraculous, while stressing that future progress is highly uncertain. The next two years leading up to a national election in 2015 are unlikely to be as easy as the past two. Outsiders can be most helpful by giving senior officials more space to concentrate on policy formulation and implantation.
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The purpose of this article is to study the uninterrupted ethnic conflict between Myanmar military government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State. Since mid-2011, the KIA has been severely assaulted and increasingly violated by the end of 2012, when Laiza, the main base of KIA, was bombarded by the military junta. There were thus many refugees evacuating from the battlefield. Even though the Myanmar President, Thein Sein, has tried so many times to negotiate with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) since March 2013, the long-lasting ethnic conflict remains explicitly unsolvable due to the fact that the army has not declared a truce yet, so does the KIA. The main research questions in this article are as follows: How come the ethnic conflict in Kachin State was re-ignited and what are the main factors that influence the maintenance of this conflict? There are three approaches used as tools to answer the research question: (1) cultural politics and (2) institutional and structural politics are both the main points of “internal factor”, while (3) politics of natural resources development project and foreign investment, which is influenced by the Chinese expansion on behalf of hegemonic rivalry in Southeast Asia, is the main point of “external factor” of this issue. These three approaches lead to the understanding that the concept of the dominant culture of the nation-state, concretely in “Burmanization Policy”, has been embodied and evolved into the unfair political institution and centralized political structure of Myanmar. The implementation of this policy conforms to China’s expansionist policy in this region, by investing in natural resources and energy development projects, especially the oil and gas pipelines in Kyaukpyu. Due to the “Burmanization Policy” and the role of Chinese hegemonic expansion, the ethnic conflict in Kachin State was re-ignited and unstoppably remained. บทความนี้มุ่งนำเสนอความขัดแย้งทางชาติพันธุ์ระหว่างรัฐบาลทหารพม่าและคะฉิ่นที่ดำเนินมาอย่างต่อเนื่องและรุนแรง นับตั้งแต่การปราบปราม “กองทัพแห่งอิสรภาพคะฉิ่น” (Kachin Independence Army, KIA) ที่ดำเนินมาตั้งแต่กลางปี 2011 และรุนแรงยิ่งขึ้นเมื่อกองทัพโหมโจมตีเมือง Laiza ฐานบัญชาการใหญ่ “กองทัพแห่งอิสรภาพคะฉิ่น” (Kachin Independence Army, KIA) ในช่วงปลายปี 2012 ทำให้มีผู้อพยพลี้ภัยมากมาย และแม้ว่ารัฐบาลได้แสดงความตั้งใจที่จะเจรจาหยุดยิงกับผู้นำของกองทัพและองค์กรคะฉิ่นอิสระ (Kachin Independence Organization: KIO) นับตั้งแต่ช่วงต้นปี 2013 เป็นต้นมา หากแต่กระบวนการเจรจาสันติภาพยังคงไม่อาจคืบหน้าเพราะยังไม่มีทีท่าว่าความขัดแย้งระหว่างกองทัพรัฐบาลกับกองกำลังคะฉิ่นจะสิ้นสุดลงในเร็ววัน ด้วยเหตุนี้จึงนำไปสู่คำถามหลักในการศึกษาว่า เหตุใดความขัดแย้งทางชาติพันธุ์ของรัฐบาลทหารพม่ากับคะฉิ่นจึงปะทุขึ้นอย่างรุนแรงอีกครั้ง และปัจจัยใดบ้างที่ผลักดันความขัดแย้งให้ดำรงอยู่อย่างต่อเนื่องและรุนแรง ผ่านแนวทางการศึกษาทั้ง 3 แนวทางอันได้แก่ (1) การเมืองในเชิงวัฒนธรรม และ (2) การเมืองในสถาบันและโครงสร้างทางการเมือง ซึ่งถือเป็น “ปัจจัยภายใน” ที่สำคัญอันนำมาสู่ประเด็นปัญหา ประกอบกับแนวทางการศึกษา (3) การเมืองเรื่องโครงการพัฒนาทรัพยากรธรรมชาติและการลงทุนจากต่างประเทศ ซึ่งถือเป็น “ปัจจัยภายนอก” ที่มีส่วนสำคัญต่อการทำความเข้าใจความขัดแย้งอันเป็นผลมาจากความพยายามของจีนในการแข่งขันกับมหาอำนาจอื่น ๆ เพื่อสร้างความเป็นเจ้ามหาอำนาจในภูมิภาคเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้ ทั้งนี้ แนวทางการศึกษาทั้ง 3 แนวทางจะนำไปสู่ข้อเสนอที่ว่า แนวคิดเรื่องการสร้างวัฒนธรรมหลักแห่งชาติที่มาในรูปของนโยบายการสร้างความเป็นพม่า (Burmanization Policy) ได้ก่อรูปในเชิงรูปธรรมเป็นโครงสร้างทางการเมืองที่รวมศูนย์อำนาจและไม่เป็นธรรมต่อชาติพันธุ์ต่าง ๆ นโยบายดังกล่าวทำงานได้อย่างสอดคล้องกับความพยายามแผ่ขยายอิทธิพลในภูมิภาคของจีนผ่านโครงการพัฒนาทรัพยากรธรรมชาติและการลงทุนในพม่าส่งผลให้ความขัดแย้งทางชาติพันธุ์ของรัฐบาลทหารพม่ากับคะฉิ่นยังคงดำรงอยู่
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DEMOCRATISATION IN MYANMAR https://www.academia.edu/15279535/Democratization_in_Myanmar_Development_and_Challenges?auto=download Democratization in Myanmar: Development and Challenges Konsam Shakila Devi Research Scholar (Junior Research Fellow), Department of Political Science, Manipur University, Canchipur, India http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/18340/11/11_chapter%205.pdf DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION IN INDONESIA AND PROSPECTS FOR DEMOCRATISATION IN MYANMAR https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/165496/RP28-SonuTrivedi-Myanmar.pdf Contemporary Myanmar: Challenges to Political Process and Reconciliation https://www.journalofdemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Zin-23-4.pdf The Opening in Burma-The Democrats’ Opportunity Min Zin and Brian Joseph Min Zin is a doctoral student in political science at the University of California, Berkeley. Brian Joseph is senior program director for Asia and Global Programs at the National Endowment for Democracy. http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs21/Society%20and%20Culture/Thin-Thin-Aye-2015-The_Role_of_Civil_Society_in_Myanmar’s_Democratization-en.pdf The*Role*of*Civil*Society*in*Myanmar’s*Democratization https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011%E2%80%9315_Myanmar_political_reforms https://eiuc.org/news-detail/the-why-of-democratisation-in-burmamyanmar.html The “Why” of Democratisation in Burma/Myanmar http://carnegieendowment.org/2015/06/02/myanmar-s-military-keeps-firm-grip-on-democratic-transition-pub-60288 Myanmar’s Military Keeps Firm Grip on Democratic Transition
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Over the past decade, Myanmar has undergone several changes in the way it is governed from a formalized military junta to a mixed civilian and military system. There remain, however, multiple challenges to the well-being of people in Myanmar, and human insecurity disproportionately affects ethnic nationalities and minority groups. This chapter identifies three significant challenges to achieving human-centered governance in Myanmar: (1) trust-building with the military to cede power; (2) building bureaucratic capacity to fulfill election promises and establish the rule of law at the national and local levels; and (3) developing an effective political party system. As a result of these challenges, the prospects of a democratic system of government remain dim in the near term and addressing human insecurity will be incremental in nature.
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The Myitsone Dam suspension is an asymmetric negotiation between Naypyitaw and Beijing. The bilateral agreement of the hydropower project was concluded in 2009. However, Myanmar's civil society started to oppose the dam when political opportunities expanded in 2011. The quasi-civilian government in Myanmar was caught in an ‘audience cost dilemma': either to disappoint domestic constituents by fulfilling international obligations, or to compensate the Chinese dam developer for breaching the contract. In September 2011, Myanmar President Thein Sein declared the suspension of the dam throughout his tenure. Unexpectedly, China's state-owned dam company did not sue Naypyidaw. Moreover, Beijing even engaged with societal actors in Myanmar to seek their support for the project. How could Naypyitaw defy Beijing in this Myitsone Dam case? Drawing from 35 interviews with anti-dam campaigners and other stakeholders, as well as secondary data, this article argues that the rise of civil society successfully conditioned Naypyitaw's diplomatic options in the controversy. The change of Beijing's diplomatic strategy confirms that domestic constraint in Myanmar is not rhetorical. The Myitsone Dam case is an example that shows bilateral agreement without domestic endorsement can become China's business risk. Presumably, the dispute has wider implications for other Chinese overseas projects outside Myanmar.
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From the period 1988 to 2010, there have been approximately 60 international non-government organizations (INGOs) leading humanitarian activities in Burma/Myanmar . To date, very little research has been conducted analyzing either the depth or breadth of network-based social capital or the effectiveness of capacity building programmes of humanitarian INGOs with respect to networking, social entrepreneurship, capacity building and targeted populations, particularly to in relation to disaster related events. Hence, this study aims to go some way towards filling that gap asking “how can networks promote the building of social capital and women’s capacity building in Myanmar”. Taken into account are the various roles that women within the networks can play as well as the roles of other stakeholders, such as the INGO volunteers, and various governments in the support process. The research question is addressed through case study analysis focusing on a Myanmar based INGO program involved in economic development for women and girls who lost family members and property after Cyclone Nargis hit Labutta in 2008. This chapter focuses on a sample group from the INGO project that included 27 rural villages covering approximately 1,200 households comprising Cyclone Nargis survivors. The women involved were provided with interest free refundable micro loans by the INGO and achieved varying degrees of success which is attributed to their willingness and capacity for networking and the building of social capital in this chapter. Potentially, the findings will provide assistance to other INGO programs operating under similar circumstances. In particular through providing insights into the need for flexibility when delivering programmes that are targeted towards supporting women’s capacity building in poor communities.
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To date, few political scientists have researched the political, economic, and social relationships between Russia and Myanmar. The two countries, which at first glance may seem to have little in common, have intensified their cooperation in recent years. This article explores the ties between the two countries, not only the historical development and the dimensions of the relationship, but it also examines the current advantages and disadvantages of the relationship. Is Myanmar Russia’s open door to the region in order for it to become a significant player in the Asia-Pacific region? Can Russia provide a ‘counterbalance’ for the smaller Southeast Asian countries against the great powers such as China and India? Will this relationship be a pivotal one for both countries in the future, or will it remain a limited partnership, restricted to particular interests?. © 2015, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies. All rights reserved.
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Since constitutional government began in 2011, Myanmar's shift from an entrenched military regime has drawn wide interest from policy analysts. This article explores the context of Myanmar's fragile democratisation from the ground up. It explains two interlocking characteristics: the fundamentally novel character of reform and the endurance of age-old conundrums. For longer term success, ensuring that Myanmar has adequate capacity—at institutional and human levels—to manage its turbulent transformation will not be easy or cheap. This will also require a move away from stale rhetoric about non-disintegration, national solidarity and the perpetuation of sovereignty. The next step is to develop a culture of adherence to free and fair elections, followed by a wide-ranging democratisation of how post-dictatorship politics is conceived.
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Soldiers and Diplomacy addresses the key question of the ongoing role of the military in Burma’s foreign policy. The co-authors, a political scientist and a former top Asia editor for the BBC, provide a fresh perspective on Burma’s foreign and security policies, which have shifted between pro-active diplomacies of neutralism and non-alignment, and autarkical policies of isolation and xenophobic nationalism. The authors argue that key elements of continuity underlie Burma’s striking postcolonial policy changes and contrasting diplomatic practices. Among the defining factors here are the formidable dominance of the Burmese armed forces over state structure, the enduring domestic political conundrum and the peculiar geography of a country located at the crossroads of India, China and Southeast Asia. The authors argue that the Burmese military still has the tools needed to retain their praetorian influence over the country’s foreign policy in the post-junta context of the 2010s. For international policymakers, potential foreign investors and Burma’s immediate neighbors, this will have strong implications in terms of the country’s foreign policy approach.
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Millions of children around the world are affected by conflict, and the enduring aftermath of war in post-conflict societies. This book reflects on the implications of children’s insecurity for governments and the international humanitarian community by drawing on original field research in post-conflict Cambodia and in Burma’s eastern conflict zones. The book examines the way that politics and discourses of security and child protection have further marginalised rather than enhanced the protection of children. In Cambodia, threats from trafficking, exploitative labour, and high levels of domestic and social violence challenge the government and the international humanitarian community to respond to the new human security terrain that is the legacy of three decades of political violence. Burma has endured over 60 years of insurgency and civil conflict in ethnic minority states, significantly affecting children who are recruited into armies, killed, maimed or tortured, and displaced. Analysing the theoretical and practical challenges faced in addressing children’s security in global politics, the book offers a novel framework for responding to the politics of protection that is at the heart of this crucial issue. It is a useful contribution to studies on Asian Politics and International Relations and Security.
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Burma’s 66 years of civil war is the longest armed conflict in the world. This article analyses the complexity of one of the many ethnic armed conflicts between the Karen and the state. The Karen ethno-nationalist struggle is rooted in the ethnic categorization and identity politics of colonial order, which has influenced the political orders after independence. All living generations in Burma have to some extent experienced violence. Violent disorder and memory of suffering and victimhood dominate a majority of the Karen. The author argues that the prolonged violent conflict has widened the ethnic incompatibilities and impacts the current ceasefire negotiations. Internal segmentation of the Karen society as well as internal divisions and conflicts has also had a considerable impact upon the track of this conflict. Cultural, religious, and political diversity among the Karen—and other ethnic groups—further complicates prospects for a political solution to the armed struggle.
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Since 2011, Myanmar has been undergoing a political transition that, in keeping with the Myanmar government's own claims, has been hailed by many previously critical countries as the start of a process of democratization. Myanmar has become a substantially more liberal country, and in particular its economy has been increasingly liberalized, away from the tight restrictions of the past. However, Myanmar's economic liberalization primarily benefits its entrenched and usually military-dominated or linked elites, while its political liberalization may be just enough to satisfy an appearance of democratization without the army giving up real power. This article looks at Myanmar's process of political liberalization set against some of the literature on political transitions, and highlights some factors that could militate against extensive reform, much less democratization. It concludes by noting that while Myanmar's military has started to step back from direct political control, it still retains ultimate state authority.
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Since holding elections in 2010, Myanmar has transitioned from a direct military dictatorship to a formally democratic system and has embarked on a period of rapid economic reform. After two decades of military rule, the pace of change has startled almost everyone and led to a great deal of cautious optimism. To make sense of the transition and assess the case for optimism, this article explores the political economy of Myanmar’s dual transition from state socialism to capitalism and from dictatorship to democracy. It analyses changes within Myanmar society from a critical political economy perspective in order to both situate these developments within broader regional trends and to evaluate the country’s current trajectory. In particular, the emergence of state-mediated capitalism and politico-business complexes in Myanmar’s borderlands are emphasised. These dynamics, which have empowered a narrow oligarchy, are less likely to be undone by the reform process than to fundamentally shape the contours of reform. Consequently, Myanmar’s future may not be unlike those of other Southeast Asian states that have experienced similar developmental trajectories.
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