Recent contributions to Myanmar studies suggested by the MyERN team

2019
Articles and Book Chapters

Authoritarian Resilience through Top-Down Transformation: Making Sense of Myanmar's Incomplete Transition

Starting from the imperfect nature of Myanmar's democracy, this paper aims to answer two questions. First, can Myanmar's transition be defined as a case of democratization, or is it, rather, a case of authoritarian resilience? To state this differently: is the progress enjoyed by Myanmar's polity the outcome of an ongoing process that is supposed to lead to a fully fledged democracy, or, rather, an attempt to enshrine elements of authoritarian governance under a democratic guise? Second, if the balance leans towards the latter instead of the former, how did authoritarian resilience work in Myanmar? The transition is analysed from a long-term perspective, moving from the 1988 pro-democracy uprising up to the most recent events. Data were collected from available published sources and from three fieldworks conducted by the authors in Myanmar. The paper concludes that Myanmar's transition is better understood as a case of authoritarian resilience than as democratization and highlights three core traits of Myanmar's authoritarian resilience: first, the very top-down nature of the political transformation; second, the incumbents’ ability to set the pace of political reform through the use of repression and political engineering; and third, the divide-and-rule strategy used as a means to keep contestations separated and local.
Italian Political Science Review
2018
Articles and Book Chapters

Myanmar

in H-J. Giessmann, R. Mac Ginty (eds), The Elgar Companion to Post-Conflict Transition pp. 275-293
What are the main drivers of political transition and regime change? And to what extent do these apparently seismic political changes result in real change? These questions are the focus of this comparative study written by a mix of scholars and practitioners. This state-of-the-art volume identifies patterns in political transitions, but is largely unconvinced that these transitions bring about real change to the underlying structures of society. Patriarchy, land tenure, and economic systems often remain immune to change, despite the headlines.
Cheltenham: Edward Elgar
2018
Books

Myanmar Transformed? People, Places, Politics

The triumph of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy at the 2015 election was supposed to mark the consolidation of a reformist trajectory for Myanmar society. What has followed has not proved so straightforward. This book takes stock of the mutations, continuities and fractures at the heart of today’s political and economic transformations. We ask: What has changed under a democratically elected government? Where are the obstacles to reform? And is there scope to foster a more prosperous and inclusive Myanmar? With the peace process faltering, over 1 million people displaced by recent violence, and ongoing army dominance in key areas of decision-making, the chapters in this volume identify areas of possible reform within the constraints of Myanmar’s hybrid civil–military governance arrangements.
Singapore: ISEAS
2018
Monographs

Myanmar’s ‘Rohingya’ Conflict

The plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims has made global headlines in recent years. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh, amidst serious allegations of genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The impact on Myanmar’s international standing has been massive. However, much of the commentary so far has been reductionist, flattening complex dynamics into a simple narrative of state oppression of a religious minority. Exploring this long-running tripartite conflict between the Rohingya, Rakhine and the Burman-led state, this book offers a new analysis of the complexities of the current crisis: the fears and motivations driving it and the competition to control historical representations and collective memory. The authors question these competing narratives, and examine the international dimensions of this intractable conflict, ultimately arguing that the central issue is a contestation over political inclusion and control over governance.
London: Hurst
2018
Books

Opening up Hidden Burma: Journeys With – And Without

A unique anthology of travel writing and stories from Myanmar - formerly known as Burma - spliced with reminiscences about the quirky Australian author, Yangon street walking guide and Burmaphile, the late Dr Bob Percival.
Tenko Press
2018
Monographs

The Cell, Exile, and the New Burma: A Political Education amid the Unfinished Journey toward Democracy

A Political Education amid the Unfinished Journey toward Democracy. Political essays, features and personal recollections in this book are indispensable readings for anyone interested in understanding of the complexity of Burma and its political situation. These individual stories are a political education amid the unfinished fight for democracy.
Yangon: New Myanmar Publishing House
2018
Monographs

The Other Ladies of Myanmar

In Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi is often not called by her name. Instead, she is just "The Lady", an honorific nickname that signifies her place in the collective imagination of her country. And from global human rights icon to Myanmar’s de facto leader, she is certainly a towering figure. But The Lady’s reputation has only tarnished in recent years in the face of the persecution of her country’s Rohingya minority. In this new book, we present some of Myanmar’s other ladies: women from across the social spectrum who are changing their country, and its perceptions of gender, from the ground up. From the artist who defied the junta to hand out sanitary towels at her exhibition, to the Muslim campaigner who has already spent a quarter of her life in prison; from the feminist Buddhist nun to the pop star who gets called a whore for performing; these are the voices of The Other Ladies of Myanmar.
Singapore: ISEAS
2017
Monographs

Bagan And The World – Early Myanmar and Its Global Connections

The archaeological site of Bagan and the kingdom which bore its name contains one of the greatest concentrations of ancient architecture and art in Asia. Much of what is visible today consists of ruins of Buddhist monasteries. While these monuments are a major tourist attraction, recent advances in archaeology and textual history have added considerable new understanding of this kingdom, which flourished between the 11th and 14th centuries. Bagan was not an isolated monastic site; its inhabitants participated actively in networks of Buddhist religious activity and commerce, abetted by the sites location near the junction where South Asia, China and Southeast Asia meet. This volume presents the result of recent research by scholars from around the world, including indigenous Myanmar people, whose work deserves to be known among the international community. The perspective on Myanmar's role as an integral part of the intellectual, artistic and economic framework found in this volume yields a glimpse of new themes which future studies of Asian history will no doubt explore.
Singapore: ISEAS
2017
Articles and Book Chapters

Crossing the river by feeling the gold: The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Financial Support to the Belt and Road Initiative

in China & World Economy, vol. 25, no. 5, pp. 23-45
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is, above all, a connectivity project. As connectivity requires financial support, in the past few years China has undertaken several institution-building activities at the national and international level, mainly in the financial and economic sector, showing a new propensity to influence global economic governance. In particular, the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has drawn attention worldwide. How does this institution- building process connect with BRI? Are these institutions just a vehicle for exporting China’s capital and overcapacity, or do they signal a potential wider challenge to the post-World War II liberal international order? By analyzing the first loans approved by the bank, the present paper argues that far from representing a China-led challenge to the Western-led liberal order, the AIIB, while promoting Chinese commercial and geopolitical interests, shows the resilience of the global financial regime created by the West.
2017
Monographs

Energy, Governance and Security in Thailand and Myanmar – A Critical Approach to Environmental Politics in the South

Across the world states are seeking out new and secure supplies of energy but this search is manifesting itself most visibly in Asia where rapid industrialisation in states such as China and India is fomenting a frantic scramble for energy resources. Due to entrenched societal inequities and widespread authoritarian governance, however, the pursuit of national energy security through transnational energy projects has resulted in devastating impacts on the human and environmental security of local populations. These effects are particularly evident in both Thailand and Myanmar (Burma), which, located at the crossroads of Asia, are increasingly engaged in the cross-border energy trade. Based on extensive fieldwork and theoretical analysis this ground-breaking book proposes a new critical approach to energy and environmental security and explores the important role that both local and transnational environmental movements are playing, in the absence of effective and democratic governments, in providing ’activist environmental governance’ for energy projects throughout the region. By comparing the nature of this activism under two very different political regimes it delivers crucial theoretical insights with both academic and policy implications for the sustainable and equitable development of the South’s natural resources.
Copenhagen: Nordic Institute of Asian Studies
2017
Monographs

Reporting the Retreat: War Correspondents in Burma

The British defeat in Burma at the hands of the Japanese in 1942 marked the longest retreat in British army history and the onset of its most drawn-out campaign of World War II. It also marked the beginning of the end of British rule, not only in Burma but also in south and south-east Asia. There have been many studies of military and civilian experiences during the retreat but this is the first book to look at the way the campaign was represented in the Western media: newspapers, pictorial magazines, and newsreels. There were some twenty-six accredited war correspondents covering the campaign, and almost half of them wrote books about their experiences, mostly within a year or two of the defeat. Their accounts were censured by government officials as being misinformed and sensationalist. More recent historians, on the other hand, have criticised them for being too patriotic and optimistic in their coverage and thus giving the public an unrealistic view of how the war was progressing. Philip Woods returns to the original sources to asses the validity of these criticisms.His is the first re-evaluation of the war correspondent's role in Burma and as such will be of great value to students of journalism and media.
London: Hurst & Co
2017
Books

Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Myanmar edited

After decades of mismanagement and direct military rule, Myanmar’s contested transition to a more democratic government has rapidly shifted the outlook in this significant Southeast Asian nation. Since 2011, the removal of Western sanctions and new foreign investments have resulted in high rates of economic growth and an expanding middle class, albeit from a very low base. In a result unthinkable a few years earlier, former political prisoner and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), formed a national government in early 2016. However, despite significant political and economic reforms since the liberalisation process commenced, the transition to civilian rule remains constrained by the military’s 2008 Constitution, which guarantees that it operates unfettered by civilian oversight. As a result, although some ethnic conflicts have abated, others continue to fester and new conflicts have erupted. With a daunting task ahead the NLD government has made some progress in removing the vestiges of repressive military-era laws but many remain untouched and some of the practices of the new government provide unwelcome reminders of its authoritarian history.
Routledge
2016
Books

Myanmar's Mountain and Maritime Borderscapes: Local Practices, Boundary-Making and Figured Worlds

This edited volume adds to the literature on Myanmar and its borders by drawing attention to the significance of geography, history, politics and society in the construction of the border regions and the country. First, it alerts us to the fact that the border regions are situated in the mountainous and maritime domains of the country, highlighting the commonalities that arise from shared geography. Second, the book foregrounds socio-spatio practices — economic, intimate, spiritual, virtual — of border and boundary-making in their local context. This demonstrates how state-defined notions of territory, borders and identity are enacted or challenged. Third, despite sharing common features, Myanmar’s borderscapes also possess unique configurations of ethnic, political and economic attributes, producing social formations and figured worlds that are more cohesive or militant in some border areas than in others. Understanding and comparing these social practices and their corresponding life-worlds allows us to re-examine the connections from the borderlands back to the hinterland and to consider the value of border and boundary studies in problematizing and conceptualizing recent changes in Myanmar.
Singapore: ISEAS Publishing