"Do not put your trust in man. Rather, trust the constitution that we will be drafting." These were the very words that Bogyoke Aung San used to address the deep mistrust expressed by Shan, Kachin and Chin representatives about certain ethnic Bamar leaders when he persuaded them to sign the historic Panglong Agreement in February 1947.
After decades of conflict, it is often said that that political struggle in Myanmar has three groupings: military, pro-democracy and ethnic. But, as Cheery Zahau argues in this commentary, the ethnic nationality cause is frequently marginalised and misunderstood. Paradigm shifts in political behaviour and perspectives are required on all sides if the failures of the past are not to be repeated.
The problem of opium should not be perceived only as a simple, black-and-white, law enforcement problem. To address problems related to opium cultivation, substantial socio-economic development is required to provide meaningful alternatives for farmers, and to ensure that a humanitarian crisis will not occur as the consequence of repressive drug control policies.
Following the February coup, the violence used by the security forces against civilian protestors in Myanmar’s towns and cities has shocked public opinion around the world. But, as Naw Hsa Moo and Dominique Dillabough-Lefebvre explain in this commentary, such tactics have long been used by the Myanmar armed forces in military operations in the country’s ethnic states and regions. Awareness is now building and, as they argue, the military coup has brought new understanding and sympathy between pro-democracy and ethnic nationality movements.
Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD government faced a tough situation with China at the time of their inauguration in March. But, as she visits Beijing this week, hopes are high again in China that a redirection of Myanmar's foreign policy could be underway and the pendulum of Myanmar's balancing diplomacy is swinging back to the east. But many challenges lie ahead. These include resolution of the Myitsone dam impasse, repositioning political relations between the two countries, and peaceful settlement of ethnic conflicts in the Myanmar borderlands. The stakes are very high. The outcome of Aung San Suu Kyi's meetings could well come to define Myanmar-China relations for many years to come.
Today is Union Day in Myanmar, which marks the historic Panglong Agreement in February 1947 when the principles of equality and unity were drawn up for the future union. In 2021, however, it is not a day of celebration but one of protest as peoples across the country take to the street to demonstrate against the assumption of power by the military State Administrative Council. In this commentary, TNI analyses why the present crisis is so profound and why the patterns of military rule, state failure and ethnic conflict are in grave danger of being repeated. Peace and national reconciliation are required today, not at some indeterminate time in the future.
As the peoples of Myanmar commemorate Union Day this week, Sai Wansai argues that “civic nationalism” can help address the crisis in "ethnic nationalism" that underpins state failure and the enduring cycles of conflict in the country. Seventy-three years after the historic Panglong Agreement brought the new Union into being, Myanmar is a land that is yet to achieve ethnic peace and political inclusion.
There is genuine hope that by sharing her story as a woman who grows opium, Nang Kham could help encourage other women farmers to speak out, and encourage the wider community to realise the collective benefits of gender equality.
In a country that was ruled by dictatorship for several decades, the local administration units are also no stranger to emergency-like authoritarian measures. Many thought there is no option but detention to deal with the situation. It is easier for the authorities even at the village and ward levels to ensure authoritarian submission if the country is in panic.
An ethnocratic state produces a form of fascism in which the state supports the rights and welfare of the dominant ethnic group, but not others. By contrast, a tolerant multicultural state or plural society permits all people, regardless of ethnicity, to be recognised as equal members and thus achieves social justice. This comparison suggests that narrow nationalism is a chief source of the failure of Myanmar to become a modern and successful nation-state.
Concerns are deepening in the Kachin and Shan States as the government seeks to close internal displacement camps while conflict continues and the coronavirus is still spreading. War-shattered communities face a highly uncertain future. This commentary reports on a new initiative by civil society organisations to ensure that the human rights and security of IDPs are protected. But without peace and political reform, there are many worries that the crisis will only continue.
Controversy continues over a suspended mega-dam project, backed by China, on the Irrawaddy River in Kachin State. The social and environmental consequences of the proposed project cast a shadow not only over the local Kachin population but over all the nationalities of Myanmar. Public awareness is growing why protecting the Irrawaddy is of national importance.
In Myanmar’s Kachin State, a women’s drop-in centre has transformed into more than just a harm reduction facility. Leading up to International Women’s Day, we spoke with Thinzar Tun (AHRN Myanmar) about what makes this centre special.
Walden Bello, Jennifer Franco, Pietje Vervest, Tom Kramer
09 June 2020
The Covid-19 Economic Relief Plan (CERP) that the government rolled out in the last week of April is a welcome initiative for a country that is suffering from both the assault of the novel coronavirus and the massive economic impact of the nationwide lockdown that the government has imposed to stop its spread.
A Memorandum of Understanding to establish the China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) was signed by the governments of Myanmar and China in September 2018. The CMEC forms part of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a 21st century reimagining of the ancient Silk Road, the network of land and sea trade routes that once linked Imperial China with markets in the west.
While the first move of Aung San Suu Kyi has been to form a national reconciliation government, followed by restructuring, streamlining and planning so that her administration can function, the handling of the country’s faltering peace process has now risen to become one of the most urgent and essential challenges on the NLD's must-do list.
We are at a critical juncture in our history, more promising than at any time in recent memory. The country will have a civilian-majority government that came to office through the votes of a multitude of smaller nationality groups for a pan-national party promising political change. If this political transition is to succeed, poverty must be alleviated, corruption curtailed, drug abuse radically reduced, and a host of other social crises addressed that have long blighted our country.
In the aftermath of the November general election the intense fighting between the national armed forces (Tatmadaw) and the Arakan Army came to an unexpected halt. Since the February coup of the State Administration Council, the situation has remained delicately poised. Political sentiment is very high. But Rakhine nationalism is presently on a different cycle to political movements in other parts of the country. In this commentary Kyaw Lynn outlines why the coming months will remain a time of high tension and uncertainty in Arakan politics.
As Myanmar prepares to go to the polls in November, it is a time of rising political tension. Covid-19 is spreading, while conflict continues in several ethnic states. As Kyaw Lynn argues, a key reform question remains to be answered. Will the country have federal reform and, if so, what kind?
In the volatile and fragile context of Myanmar's nascent democratic reform, investment protection treaties must not be allowed to negatively affect processes that would make Myanmar more peaceful and democratic.