The 2014 Population and Housing Census is the most significant ethnic and political boundary-making exercise since 1931, however its colonial-era designations and simplifications are likely to raise ethnic tensions at a critical time in the peace process.
For many citizens a countdown begins to a crucial general election later this year, with warnings of a halt in reform momentum and a more troubling reality behind many of the socio-political changes in the country.
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
Myanmar’s political transition, which began in 2011, has brought China’s relationship with the country into question. China has made important steps to recognise this, but fundamental difficulties remain, including ongoing ethnic conflict and conflicting visions of development. Given their proximity and troubled histories, it is essential that good relations are developed between the two countries on the basis of equality and mutual respect. This briefing outlines the key histories, developments and strategies in recent Myanmar-China relations.
For people affected by displacement, land is much more than just an economic asset. Being able to return to one’s original place is a deeply felt aspiration about restoring the social relations that constitute a person’s identity. The long-standing displacement of people, land-grabbing and non-existence of rights to land in many parts of the country mean that land reform and land restitution must be a central issue in any peace settlement. What happens today with the land is inextricably tied to the country’s future prospects for peace and democracy.
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.
“Important steps have been made in national reconciliation during the past two years. But promises and ceremonies will never be enough. The long-standing aspirations of Burma’s peoples for peace and justice must find solutions during the present time of national transition.”
This briefing aims to deepen discussion on the Belt and Road Iniatiative (BRI) in Myanmar. The BRI is often described as a ‘grand strategy’ led by President Xi Jinping, centrally planned and rolled out by obedient state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The sheer size of the initiative – 136 countries have received US$90 billion in Chinese foreign direct investment and exchanged US$6 trillion in trade with China - can make the BRI appear monolithic and inevitable. However, using a political economy analysis, this briefing demonstrates that the BRI is not a grand strategy, but a broad framework of activities that seek to address a crisis in Chinese capitalism. An examination of four BRI projects in Myanmar using Chinese language sources shows the extent of lobbying by Chinese SOEs and the Yunnan provincial government to promote the projects, with support from the central Chinese government.
"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."
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.