With another general election imminent, concerns are deepening that ethnic nationality peoples will be marginalised once again. In this commentary, Lahpai Seng Raw explains why political systems and electoral practices deny equality and representation to so many of the country’s population. Elections will not change this. Political reforms are essential to achieve peace and national reconciliation.
Political impasse continues in Myanmar. Peace talks and general elections have failed to achieve national breakthroughs. All parties — both domestic and international — need to reflect on this failure. Civil society networks and representative governance must be strengthened at the community level if peace and democracy are to be built.
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.
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?
A grand ceremony is expected to be held next month in the Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw, where a nationwide ceasefire with various ethnic resistance armies will be announced to an audience of United Nations representatives and other foreign dignitaries.
Amidst the many challenges Myanmar now faces, the threats to the environment are urgent – and they are growing more extreme. The situation is especially serious in the case of mega dams and hydropower where a host of projects are being promoted, without appropriate planning or public consultation, that are likely to cause irreversible harm to communities and natural ecosystems around the country. Not only are many of the projects located in nationality areas that are conflict zones, but the bulk of the energy produced will also be exported to neighbouring countries.
The peoples of Myanmar have long desired a platform for inclusive peace and dialogue where the vital issues of politics, economics, welfare and human rights for all can be discussed together, fully and in a spirit of national reconcilitation and cooperation. Thus any initiative towards peace and dialogue is always welcome.
The 2020 general election was one of disappointment for ethnic nationality parties in Myanmar. Prior to the polls, expectations were high that they would win a larger number of seats than in previous elections. In the event, the National League for Democracy won another landslide victory. NLD gains were largely at the expense of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. The position of ethnic parties, in contrast, will remain relatively the same.
The recent political and economic liberalization in Burma/Myanmar, while indicative of some positive steps toward democratisation, has increased foreign and domestic investments and geared the economy toward industrialisation and large-scale agriculture. Land governance procedures and implementation tend to favour the more powerful and well-connected, with little protection mechanism for the majority smallholding farmers in the country.
Opium production in the Golden Triangle has decreased significantly over the past decade. But the rapid decline has caused major suffering among former poppy-growing communities in Burma and Laos, making it difficult to characterise developments as a "success story".
Although the elections were peaceful, significant conflict continued in parts of the Shan and Kachin states. The expectations on the new government are extraordinarily high and all of the challenges facing the country remain as difficult to address as ever.