EWC Analysis About Burma

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Publication Details
Beyond Armed Resistance: Ethnonational Politics in Burma (Myanmar)
by Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung
Policy Studies 62 (Honolulu: East-West Center, 2011)
xii, 67 pp.
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This paper sheds light on the activities of non-armed members of ethnic minorities in Burma, insufficiently studied actors in the conventional study of ethnic politics in Burma that has long been dominated by a focus on ethnonational armed resistance groups and ceasefire groups. Focusing on the Kachin, Karen, Mon, and Shan ethnic groups, the study describes nine major economic, political, and geographical categories of civilian experience, followed by four contributions that non-armed members of ethnic minority groups may make to the political system: (1) supporting the status quo, (2) transforming or undermining the status quo, (3) promoting collective identity and culture and addressing humanitarian needs, and (4) helping to mediate ceasefire agreements. The study demonstrates the need to be aware of the full range of nonviolent political actions that exist among ethnic minority populations and argues that policy responses must look beyond the role of armed groups and become more sensitive to the needs of the diverse members of ethnic communities.

Policy Studies 62
Civil Society in Burma: The Development of Democracy Amidst Conflict
by Ashley South
Policy Studies 51 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, 2008)
xi, 78 pp.
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Burma faces a complex of interlinked humanitarian, social, and political crises. The situation is especially grave in areas populated by ethnic minorities, many of which have been affected by decades of armed conflict, and in the Irrawaddy Delta, where in May 2008 some 130,000 people were killed and over two million made homeless by Cyclone Nargis.

The military government is deeply unpopular, and further episodes of mass protest similar to those that occurred in August and September 2007 cannot be ruled out. However, strategic options for elite-level regime change in the country remain limited. Therefore, local and international actors should focus on incremental approaches to democratization, and in particular on the roles of local communities and NGOs. The past decade has seen an expansion of previously dormant civil society networks, especially within and between ethnic nationality communities. This development has been particularly significant in areas affected by ceasefires between armed ethnic groups and the military government. The capacities and strategic importance of local NGOs were demonstrated by the impressive civil society responses to the cyclone.

At the local level, models of community participation and the promotion of democracy from below can help to transform state-society relations and patterns of governance, including in ceasefire areas. At the national/elite level, the development of civil society is a prerequisite for sustainable democratic change. Although the promotion of civil society is necessary, it is not sufficient to achieve social and political transition in Burma. Furthermore, community networks are vulnerable to suppression by the militarized state and by armed nonstate actors. Such tendencies were demonstrated during the national referendum of May 2008, when the government engineered the endorsement of a new constitution designed to consolidate and perpetuate military rule. The challenge for the international community is to work within the constricted environment of military-ruled Burma in ways that promote positive change––but without exposing local partners to unacceptable risks.

Policy Studies 51
The Karen Revolution in Burma: Diverse Voices, Uncertain Ends
by Ardeth Maung Thawnghmung
Policy Studies 45 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, 2008)
81 pp.
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This study analyzes the various types and stages of conflict that have been experienced by diverse groups and generations of Karen over the six decades of armed conflict between the Karen National Union (KNU) and successive Burmese governments. Instead of focusing on those who are internally displaced, those in the refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border or living abroad, or those in the KNU, it places particular emphasis on the "other" Karen, or the majority segment of the Karen population living inside Burma, a population that has hitherto received little scholarly and journalistic attention. It also assesses the Karen People's varied attitudes toward a number of political organizations that claim to represent their interests, toward successive Burmese military regimes, and toward the political issues that led to the original divide between the "accommodators" and "rebels." This study argues that the lifestyles and strategies that the Karens have pursued are diverse and not confined to armed resistance. Acknowledging these multiple voices will not only shed light upon the many positive features of ethnic interactions, including harmonious communal relationships and significant attempts to promote peace and stability by encouraging "normal" activities and routines in both peaceful and war-torn areas; it will also help to identify policy recommendations for future ceasefire negotiations and a possible long-term political settlement within the context of a militarized Burma.

Policy Studies 45
Assessing Burma's Ceasefire Accords
by Zaw Oo and Win Min
Policy Studies 39 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, 2007)
xii, 67 pp.
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The Burmese military government and numerous ethnic minority armed groups have entered a series of ceasefires since 1989 in spite of the fact that most previous talks between 1949 and 1983 failed. Why did the parties enter into ceasefire accords? What is the nature of the accords? What have been the consequences? What are the future scenarios? Written by two Burmese researchers, this study investigates the underlying factors behind the ceasefires, explores the nature of the secretive agreements, and identifies the consequences affecting stakeholders in the larger context of peacebuilding, political settlement, democratization, and the state-building process.

The study concludes that recent ceasefires present a significant first step in solving the sixty-year old civil war. However after more than 17 years, they have not brought about peace or political settlement. The government-initiated ceasefires carry a heavy military focus, primarily seeking to reduce military threats and gain better control over the borderlands while placing greater emphasis on state building than on peacebuilding. Nevertheless, the accords have allowed many ceasefire groups to maintain or increase their strength, develop their areas, and more importantly, ceasefires have resulted in the local ethnic population having relatively better lives. Many ethnic armed groups will continue to pursue their goals through political means, but if at least some of their objectives are not met, a resumption of violence cannot be ruled out.

Policy Studies 39
The United Wa State Party: Narco-Army or Ethnic Nationalist Party?
by Tom Kramer
Policy Studies 38 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, 2007)
xviii, 99 pp.
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This monograph argues that although the United Wa State Party (UWSP) has been branded by the international community as a "narco-trafficking army," the organization has an ethnic nationalist agenda whose aim is to build a Wa state within Burma. The UWSP is not innocent of narcotics-related crimes, but few conflict parties in Burma can claim to have clean hands. The weak capacity of the UWSP leadership has prevented it from developing a clear vision of how to develop a Wa state. Although the UWSP has promoted Wa nationalism, the population under its control is not mono-ethnic. The UWSP has implemented a ban on opium cultivation to comply with international pressure. It has called for international aid to offset the impact of the ban, but so far not enough assistance has come through. The organization has relocated thousands of Wa villagers to the Thai border area, displacing part of the original Lahu, Akha, and Shan populations and aggravating ethnic tensions.

Relations with the government remain tense, and peace has not been achieved. It is unlikely the UWSP will agree to disarm until some of its basic demands have been met. The United States has indicted eight UWSP leaders on drug trafficking charges. Thailand sees the UWSP as a security threat and accuses it of producing amphetamines. China has a better relationship with the UWSP and has given support and technical advice to the organization. The drug trade is controlled by powerful ethnic Chinese syndicates that have no interest in conflict resolution and state building. Demonizing and isolating the UWSP will make the organization more dependent on them, and will obstruct reconciliation efforts in Burma.

Policy Studies 38
State of Strife: The Dynamics of Ethnic Conflict in Burma
by Martin Smith
Policy Studies 36 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, 2007)
xii, 96 pp.
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Since independence in 1948, Burma has been the scene of some of the most-sustained and diverse ethnic insurgencies in the contemporary world. This study examines the dynamics of conflict that have caused internal wars to become so uniquely entrenched in one of Asia's most troubled lands. Against a backdrop of conflict, different nationality movements have been able to adapt and survive, utilizing the changing political, economic, and international conditions in the country. In the process, armed opposition became a way of life in the borderlands, while the central state became increasingly militarized. Burma's conflicts, however, have not been static. This study identifies five major cycles of conflict that have seen the national government transform from a parliamentary democracy at independence through Gen. Ne Win's "Burmese Way to Socialism" to the current military State Peace and Development Council. As the political impasse continues, ethnic ceasefires and open-door economic policies are changing the structures of conflict. In an overview of humanitarian and international dilemmas, the study concludes that conflict resolution––with integrated support from the international community––remains a primary need if Burma and its peoples are to achieve peace, democracy, and a stable nation-state.

Policy Studies 36
Political Authority in Burma's Ethnic Minority States: Devolution, Occupation, and Coexistence
by Mary P. Callahan
Policy Studies 31 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, 2007)
xvi, 94 pp.
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This study examines the enormous variation and complexity that characterize relationships between the national state and locally-based, often nonstate actors, who negotiate and compete for political authority in Burma's ethnic minority-dominated states along the borders. Three patterns of relationships are explored: devolution, occupation, and coexistence. To understand the complex political arrangements that have arisen, this monograph employs the concept of "emerging political complex"–a set of adaptive networks that link state and other political authorities to domestic and foreign business concerns, traditional indigenous leaders, religious authorities, overseas refugee and diaspora communities, political party leaders, and nongovernmental organizations.

Policy Studies 31
Whatever Happened to Myanmar as the "Outpost of Tyranny"?
by David I. Steinberg
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 187 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, November 27, 2012)
2 pp.
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David I. Steinberg, Distinguished Professor of Asian Studies, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, explains that "At this remarkable moment, US-Burma/Myanmar relations are the best that they have been since the independence of the Union of Burma in 1948."

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 187
Burma/Myanmar's By-Elections: Will Personalities Trump Institutions?
by Tin Maung Maung Than
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 161 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, April 20, 2012)
2 pp.
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Tin Maung Maung Than, Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, explains that "At this point in time it may be best for Myanmar to let personalities trump institutions, but it is imperative to immediately launch a serious effort to build up viable institutions that will steadily diminish the need for strong personalities to lead the nation."

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 161
The Significance of Burma/Myanmar's By-Elections
by David I. Steinberg
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 156 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, April 2, 2012)
2 pp.
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David I. Steinberg, Distinguished Professor of Asian Studies, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, explains that regarding civil society reforms in Burma/Myanmar, "Progress is evident, but the processes are likely to be sporadic and uneven. The Burmese will proceed at their own pace and foreign observers can assist, but not control that process."

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 156
India, Thailand and the Burma Connection
by Sasiwan Chingchit
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 151 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, February 23, 2012)
2 pp.
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Sasiwan Chingchit, former Research Scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, explains that India and Thailand both look to the democratic and economic opening of Burma as giving "a much-needed boost to the connectivity and economic integration between South and Southeast Asia."

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 151
Burma: Still an Unknown Quantity for ASEAN 2014 Chair
by Fuadi Pitsuwan
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 140 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, November 30, 2011)
2 pp.
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While Burma's military-backed regime should be commended for their efforts and willingness to steer the country towards democracy, the decision by the other nine countries of ASEAN to award Burma the rotating ASEAN chairmanship for 2014 may be premature and should have been conditional. Fuadi Pitsuwan, Adjunct Research Scholar in the Asian Studies Department at Georgetown University, argues that "But now that the decision has been made, the world cannot afford to see Burma fail. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to the country is a significant step in probing the Burmese government's commitment to reform."

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 140
Jade or JADE? Debating International Sanctions on Burma's Gem Industry
by Renaud Egreteau
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 132 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, October 13, 2011)
2 pp.
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For centuries Burma has been prized for its high-quality gemstones, and today the Burmese gem industry continues to thrive at a furious pace despite international sanctions. Conventional estimates are that up to 90 percent of the world's supply in rubies and 70 percent of premium jadeite is of Burmese-origin. Renaud Egreteau, Research Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong, discusses how Western-led international sanctions have failed to stem the trade in Burmese gemstones.

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 132
Indonesia Expands ASEAN's Role
by Kavi Chongkittavorn
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 111 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, May 19, 2011)
2 pp.
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Indonesia, holder of the ASEAN Chair for 2011 and host of the 18th ASEAN Summit held on May 7-8 in Jakarta, clearly aspires to create new opportunities for ASEAN by contributing to problem solving within a globalized world. However, to achieve this goal, ASEAN needs to develop into a more rules-based institution. Kavi Chongkittavorn, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, explains that this will include strengthening existing conflict resolution mechanisms pertaining to regional peace and stability, and creating new ones that consolidate overall ASEAN solidarity.

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 111
Time to Think Anew and Act Anew on Myanmar (Burma)
by Franklin (Pancho) Huddle and Donald Jameson
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 87 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, December 14, 2010)
2 pp.
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Myanmar (Burma) is in the news again--thanks to Wikileaks, the recent release from house arrest of Nobel Peace Prize opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi and fallout from the November 7 controlled election billed as a step in moving toward nominal civilian rule. Much of this coverage has a déjà vu quality. Even the Wikileaked cables from the US Embassy in Rangoon closely resemble the analyses of the political situation that we, the authors, were sending to Washington following the last election in 1990. Franklin (Pancho) Huddle and Donald Jameson outline how US policy regarding Burma is not productive and why now is an apt time to consider a new strategy.

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 87
It Takes Two to Tango: The Delicate Dance Between India and Burma
by Renaud Egreteau
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 66 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, August 24, 2010)
2 pp.
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India's decision to welcome Senior General Than Shwe, the head of the Burmese junta, in late July 2010 might have exhibited all the radiance of a reinvigorated relationship, but careful consideration of what exactly New Delhi has fostered with its eastern neighbor will reveal that Indo-Burmese relations remain uneasy. Despite enduring sympathies for Burma's pro-democracy stirrings since 1988, India is now convinced that it must engage Burma for strategic reasons. However, the engagement with Burma's praetorian leaders is simply not as constructive as often claimed. If it wants to strengthen its leverage, including its democratizing influence over Burma, India needs to reassess its current policy and emerge with a formidable but actionable vision to obtain that goal. Renaud Egreteau analyzes the state of Indo-Burmese relations and discusses how India's Burma policy should evolve.

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 66
U.S.-Burma Relations: "Pragmatic Engagement" Greets "Discipline-Flourishing Democracy"
by Sourabh Gupta
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 46 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, January 26, 2010)
2 pp.
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On November 3, 2009, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell became the highest ranking American official to travel to Myanmar since the 1995 visit of then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright. To reinforce this message of outreach, President Obama later engaged Prime Minister Thein Sein on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit meeting in Singapore. The initiative to pragmatically engage the ruling junta in Naypyidaw has been in most part received well. Sourabh Gupta discusses Burma's motivations for re-engagement with the United States.

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 46
Modifying U.S. Burma Policy
by Priscilla Clapp
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 34 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, May 4, 2009)
2 pp.
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During her February tour of Asia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the new U.S. administration would review its policy toward Burma because neither Western sanctions nor Asian engagement seemed to move the stubborn military regime toward political reform. Quite predictably, her statement ignited a flurry of speculation that it signaled the end of the U.S. sanctions regime against Burma. Priscilla Clapp discusses U.S. Burma policy and the prospects for change.

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 34
Burma's Dramatic Year: Harbingers of Transition?
by Priscilla Clapp
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 23 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, September 23, 2008)
2 pp.
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Political transition anywhere in the world is marked by dramatic, often painful events, both man-made and natural. After a year of almost unremitting drama in Burma, it is instructive to examine the net effect of these events on the country's political climate and whether they may, in fact, be early signs that transition is underway.

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 23
Burma's Referendum in 2008: Dangerous Status Quo or Critical Breakthrough?
by Zaw Oo
Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 14 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, April 28, 2008)
2 pp.
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On May 10, 2008, the Burmese people will vote on a new constitution, a rare opportunity for the Burmese to express their political opinions about the ruling military junta's protracted path to "guided democracy." While the May referendum represents a significant step forward for the Burmese political process, Zaw Oo, professor of international development at Chiang Mai University in Thailand, argues that procedural mishaps, opacity about the language of the constitution itself, and an imminent clash between the "no vote" and "yes vote" campaigns--the former led by the Burmese democracy movement and the latter, the state news media--may negatively impact the referendum process.

Asia Pacific Bulletin, no. 14
Myanmar's Perpetual Dilemma: Ethnicity in a "Discipline-Flourishing Democracy"
by David I. Steinberg
East-West Center Working Papers, Politics, Governance, and Security Series, no. 22 (Honolulu: East-West Center, April 2011)
9 pp.
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East-West Center Working Papers, Politics, Governance, and Security Series, no. 22
The State of the Pro-Democracy Movement in Authoritarian Burma
by Kyaw Yin Hlaing
East-West Center Washington Working Papers, no. 11 (Washington, DC: East-West Center, December 2007)
56 pp.
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East-West Center Washington Working Papers, no. 11


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