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  • Ethnic Tension and Political Drift in Myanmar

    The impact of discord and disharmony within the country has started manifesting itself in the economic sphere. Despite the US and EU relaxing their sanctions, development problems have started showing up.

    May 27, 2013

    ASEAN in Myanmar's Foreign Policy

    Fellows' Seminar
    June 28, 2013
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    More Ethnic Riots in Myanmar: Disturbances in Meikhtila

    Unless the leaders of varying political hue and institutional oligarchs, including the military and, above all, Su Kyi, show political wisdom, incidents such as those in Meikhtila, Yamethin, and state military action against the Karens and Kachins will continue to recur.

    March 28, 2013

    Do the Changes in Myanmar Signify a Real Transition? A Response to the Debate

    Myanmar's complexity makes it difficult to find agreement on its multiple facets. What makes it doubly confounding is that the country is passing through a phase of transition. My initial article on this transition has triggered some interesting responses. This shows how reality on the ground is variously interpreted depending on the background of the observer and the special expertise and experience they bring to bear on it. Approaching a subject as interesting as Myanmar from different angles hopefully succeeds in providing a multi-dimensional and more rounded perspective

    January 2013

    Myanmar's Transition: A Comment

    Myanmar's reforms have generated much debate among scholars, both inside and outside the country. One of the key questions asked is: do the changes in Myanmar signify a real transition? There are good reasons to doubt the genuineness of the transition because the change was initiated by a military regime that had ruled the country for decades. The military has ensured its role in the transition by guaranteeing seats to the military in parliament and many of the ‘civilian’ leaders in the new government were until recently military officers. I agree with Dr.

    January 2013

    Contours of Change in Myanmar—and Future Prospects

    Dr. Udai Bhanu Singh astutely raises multiple questions in his article in order to trigger a debate. But his take on today's Myanmar is evident from the first paragraph (‘This time the change that is occurring is substantive, not cosmetic’) and the last paragraph (‘Myanmar is poised for change; incremental change will surely gather momentum once the dithering ends’). I hold a different perspective on the country's internal politics and external relations, which is reflected in the analysis.

    January 2013

    Response to Udai Bhanu Singh's Essay, Do the Changes in Myanmar Signify a Real Transition?

    1. In general terms, it is my impression that the author is far too optimistic about what recent changes in Myanmar can lead to. Power is still in the hands of the military and there is precious little a small group of National League for Democracy (NLD) assemblymen and women (seven per cent of the total) can accomplish. Besides, the November 2010 election was blatantly rigged, and there is no guarantee that the next election, in 2015, will not also be tampered with.

    January 2013

    Do the Changes in Myanmar Signify a Real Transition? A Critique/Response

    Dr. Singh's article summarises parts of Myanmar's reform process. However, he misses out the historical background that led to the current reforms and he does not unpack some of the more complex factors in this process. This critique/response will try to complete the picture of the three top priorities of the Myanmar government: national reconciliation, ethnic peace and economic reforms.

    January 2013

    Do the Changes in Myanmar Signify a Real Transition?

    Myanmar is in the midst of a phase of historic transformation, both in the domestic sphere and in its external relations. This time the change that is occurring is substantive, not cosmetic. The direction of the change has been largely established, although the pace could depend on the actual circumstances.

    January 2013

    Arnab Sen asked: What is the status of ceasefire agreement between the Myanmar government and the minority ethnic rebels?

    Udai Bhanu Singh replies: Ethnic minorities constitute 30 per cent of Myanmar’s total population, with Bamars being the majority group. In the 1990s, some 25 ceasefire agreements in all were signed. An important role was played by erstwhile Prime Minister Khin Nyunt in negotiating cease-fire with breakaway groups of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), like the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the New Mon State Party (NMSP) and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO). These agreements often gave the insurgent groups informal sanction to engage in narcotic trade and free trade with the PRC and Thailand, while the government turned a blind eye. The quid pro quo was that the non-state armed groups (NSAGs) permitted a semblance of peace on the border. The military junta was in effect seeking to buy time till it was strong enough to bring the (outlying) areas directly under its control.

    Later, on September 1, 2010, the government asked the NSAGs to surrender their arms and transform themselves into the Border Guard Force (BGF). Now, as Myanmar democratises, the ceasefires have to ensure effective governance and rule of law while utilising this opportunity for capacity building and infrastructure development. The one contrary trend was the break up of the ceasefire with the KIO after 17 years.

    Many NSAGs had signed ceasefire agreements, including, interestingly, the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang faction (NSCN-K). Those who have not signed ceasefire agreements, besides KIO, include the Arakan National Council (ANC), Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF), Lahu Democratic Front (LDU) and the Wa National Organisation (WNO). When the government sent Aung Min to hold negotiations with representatives of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) in Chiang Mai in November 2012, it continued to maintain that the NSAGs first disarm and then form political parties in order to address political issues.