The report “Developing Disparity: regional investment in Burma’s borderlands,” by the Transnational Institute and the Burma Centre Netherlands, said Burma’s reforms are helping to rapidly integrate it with the burgeoning regional economy and the country’s ethnic areas are likely targets for foreign businesses.
Rakhine State, historically known as Arakan, represents the post-colonial failures of Myanmar in microcosm: ethnic conflict, political impasse, militarisation, economic neglect and the marginalisation of local peoples. During the past decade, many of these challenges have gathered a new intensity, accentuating a Buddhist-Muslim divide and resulting in one of the greatest refugee crises in the modern world. A land of undoubted human and natural resource potential, Rakhine State has become one of the poorest territories in the country today.
Myanmar is heading to the polls in November 2015, with an expected shift in power from the old elite to the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). However it remains unclear whether the new political space created by the transition away from military rule will bring significant legislative power to ethnic nationality-based parties.
The breakdown in the ceasefire of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) with the central government represents a major failure in national politics and threatens to escalate to serious humanitarian crisis if not immediately addressed.
The people of Burma are at a critical juncture in their struggle for democracy and ethnic reform. Decisions taken by leading parties and protagonists in the months ahead could well define the direction of national politics for many years to come.
How is the peace process in Myanmar going? What progress has been made toward reform? After decades under military rule, the 21st Century Panglong Conference has been welcomed as the most encouraging recent initiative to address humanitarian suffering and national instability. It prioritises ethnic peace and political reform at a moment of opportunity for national reconciliation. However, as ethnic conflict and refugee displacement continue worrying failings have started to appear, raising many warnings from the country’s troubled history.
Ceasefires have been agreed; the NLD has elected representatives in the national legislatures; Western sanctions are being lifted; and the World Bank and other international agencies are returning to set up office in the country. Such developments are likely to have a defining impact on ethnic politics, which remains one of the central challenges facing the country today.
At a time of critical political transition in Myanmar, failure to address the root causes of armed conflict and to create an inclusive political process to solve nationality grievances is only likely to have a very detrimental impact on the prospects for peace, democracy and development
"Opposition parties participating in the process view boycotting the elections as a strategic mistake. The only way forward for them is to play a better game of chess, making the best strategic use of the limited space available."
As 2012 progressed, perceptions of the real nature of change under the Thein Sein government were challenged by a series of disturbing events in which serious violence and mass displacement of civilians occurred in several parts of the country.
Burma is in the midst of its most important period of political transition in over two decades. TNI and BCN hosted a conference to look at the challenges and opportunities in five key areas: politics, ethnic relations, the economy, social and humanitarian affairs, and the international landscape.