Conflict in Myanmar: War, Politics, Religion
Editors: Nick Cheesman and Nicholas Farrelly,
As Myanmar’s military adjusts to life with its former opponents holding elected office, Conflict in Myanmar showcases innovative research by a rising generation of scholars, analysts and practitioners about the past five years of political transformation. Each of its seventeen chapters, from participants in the 2015 Myanmar Update conference held at the Australian National University, builds on theoretically informed, evidence-based research to grapple with significant questions about ongoing violence and political contention. The authors offer a variety of fresh views on the most intractable and controversial aspects of Myanmar’s long-running civil wars, fractious politics and religious tensions. This latest volume in the Myanmar Update Series from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific continues and deepens a tradition of intense, critical engagement with political, economic and social questions that matter to both the inhabitants and neighbours of one of Southeast Asia’s most complicated and fascinating countries.
Oh Su-Ann (Editor)
This paper examines why ethnic parties did well in Rakhine and Shan States despite the fact that the National League for Democracy (NLD) was given a manifest mandate by the Myanmar electorate to represent its interests nationwide. In Rakhine State, the electorate chose the Arakan National Party (ANP) over the other parties because of the fear that their cultural identity and right to govern themselves are threatened by Bamar political and cultural hegemony and Muslim/South Asian encroachment from the western border. In Shan State, excluding the self-administered areas, the vote was split between the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and the NLD. This was the only state/region where the USDP won the most number of seats.
Given the lack of available data, the best explanation that can be offered at present is that the combination of non-state armed ethnic group fighting, recent ceasefire agreements, and economic development of places such as the self-administered areas and urban centres influenced Shan State voters to choose the USDP. The results of the election for ethnic affairs ministers approximate those of the nationwide results. Like the national and regional election results, the Rakhine as well as ethnic groups in Shan State voted for candidates from ethnic parties, indicating that the agenda of these ethnic parties is particularly important for those populations.
Given Myanmar’s strategic location and the wider great power competition in Southeast Asia, how the country positions itself vis-à-vis the major powers in the reform era currently under way will have considerable bearing for the international politics of Southeast Asia. Historically, Myanmar’s leaders have preferred an independent foreign policy that has also been couched in terms of neutralism and non-alignment. Following considerable tension between the stated principle of non-alignment and the practice of Myanmar’s foreign policy under the SLORC/SPDC regime given U.S. pressure on Naypyitaw, especially in the mid-2000s, Myanmar’s threat perceptions vis-à-vis Washington have waned with the shift to the pragmatic, principled and calibrated engagement as favoured by President Obama. The Myanmar government under Thein Sein pursued a non-aligned foreign policy both in declaratory and practical terms.