Dictatorship, Disorder and Decline in Myanmar

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Department of Economics. Abstract The purpose of this chapter, accordingly, is to attempt to remedy this neglect at least partially by shedding some light on the nature, patterns and magnitude of the remittances sent by Burmese migrant workers and refugees in Thailand. Bibliographical note Copyright retained by author s.

Migrant-worker remittances and Burma: an economic analysis of survey results. Wilson Eds.

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Educating for Peace, the Rule of Law and Development in a new Myanmar

Access to Indian Ocean is particularly important for China as an alternative route for oil imports from the Middle East and Africa which currently traverse through perilous Malacca and South China Sea route. China indeed has the interest in a stable and democratic Myanmar.

Yet, contrast to the west, China believes that military regime is the most viable option to create this stability in the chaotic post-independent Myanmar Chenyang and Fook Than Chenyang and Fook As a democratic country, India has strongly opposed the takeover of the government by military regime in and pushed Myanmar to return to civilian rule. India was further infuriated by the nationalization policy of the regime which has forced , Indians fled back to the country Egreteau As a result, India provided economic and political support to the pro-democratic movements in Myanmar as well as the ethnic insurgents in the Myanmar side of the border which has provoked retaliatory actions from the military regime Egreteau Contrast to China, the shift in Indian foreign policy toward Myanmar has been based mostly on the strategic consideration.

India has long perceived China as its competitor in its power projection in Asia. The fall of Tibet as the buffer state between the two powers which led to the outbreak of Sino-Indian War in has raised the tension between the two countries Malik In addition to this calculation, India has now seen a more benefit by cooperating with the central government in Myanmar as the minorities in the northwest borders have signed ceasefire agreements with the junta.

The rise of the right wing Bharatia Janata Party BJP leadership in India since has added significant economic dimension which previously less overt due to Indian dilemma as a democratic country cooperating with authoritarian regime. ASEAN, however, seemed to play a greater role in that the Association has not only provided economic support for the survival of the country but also continuous pressure for democratization.

Apart from the moral belief, the decision to engage Myanmar in such a way was also based on the political calculation of each ASEAN member states.

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The interests of member states together with international pressures have shaped ASEAN policy toward Myanmar from this point onward. In regards to ASEAN, Myanmar membership has improved the maturity of the organization in dealing with internal issues of member states. This approach has enabled individual member states, not ASEAN as a unity, to publicly comment on the internal issues of other member which has regional impact Haacke For the part of Myanmar, its membership and the peer pressure from ASEAN countries have helped the country on track of its democratization.

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Thailand who feared the destabilizing impact of this expulsion offered assistance for Myanmar a step-by-step democratization under the framework of the so- called Bangkok Process McCarthy As a result, Myanmar Prime Minister Kint Nyunt released its own roadmap to democracy as the first of five steps of the Bangkok Process. Despite both Singapore and Malaysia aim to boost their influence in regional affairs, their economic interests in Myanmar have constrained them to pursue harder stance Haacke Other members such as Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were overshadowed by their concern that allowing intervention in Myanmar might lead to similar action to their countries Haacke On the other hand, the soft approach result emanating from this division has been one of the reasons Myanmar could sit comfortably within ASEAN.

United States Contrast to the previous three parties, United States has been, from the beginning, condemning the repressive military regime in Myanmar and pushing hard for democratization in the country. US efforts to promote democratization in Myanmar were manifested in the direct approach as in the case of sanctions and indirect approach through pressure to ASEAN. The first US sanction was imposed in as the military took over the government.


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US halted all of its assistances to the country. As the military refused to transfer the power to the winning party in the election and re-arrested the opposition leader in , the US has increased the sanction by banning new investment and restricting visas for junta members Bert Steinberg US sanctions in overall have been widely criticized as ineffective considering it is unilateral in nature.

The sanction has perfectly illustrated this problem. This has not mentioned aid from India and economic benefit from trading with other countries. This flawed sanction, however, does not necessarily mean that US has failed to influence democratization in Myanmar. Doing so will provide opportunity for Myanmar to host a series of international forum which implies that participating countries acknowledge the military regime in Myanmar Katanyuu Myanmar, eventually, gave up their candidacy as the chairman in The shift from hard policy of sanction to engagement has been part of his broader policy of rebalancing to Asia.

Despite the regime initially cautious about this changing approach, both parties at least have the same interests of balancing the influence of China in Myanmar. Not surprisingly, the last two years have witnessed the advancement of democratization in Myanmar and warming bilateral relations between the two countries with Obama, for the first time, visited the country. Domestic Leadership and Political Change International pressure, particularly from major powers, has proven to be major contributor in the political changes in Myanmar as explained above.

The soft approach preferred by China, India and ASEAN has been crucial in maintaining the survival of Myanmar during the period of western sanction, thereby enabling conducive environment for democratization. The sanction from the US, despite its effectiveness being undermined by the countries who prefer soft approach, has contributed in pushing hard the country to made progress in its democratization. Yet, ultimately, it is domestic politics which determine what, when and how to reform. Since its independence, Myanmar has relied on the personal leadership in its government.

The assassination of the charismatic General Aung San has left the country divided into chaotic state. U Nu and General Ne Win, despite their failure in the end, have proven to manage the country for a relatively long period.

Between system maker and privileges taker: the role of China in the Greater Mekong Sub-region

Even in the opposition party, Aung San Suu Kyi has played indispensable role in the survival of the party and democratization in Myanmar. This section will focus on the changes of leadership and how it affects the democratization in Myanmar. The advent of military regime after election was concurrent with the power transition in military leadership from Senior General Saw Maung to Senior General Than Shwe who will lead the country for almost two decades. Than Shwe has preserved his position by eliminating more senior officials and placed his proponents in strategic positions within the regime Hlaing This organizational culture developed under the leadership of Than Shwe has resulted in suppressive and isolationist regime of Myanmar for most of the s.

His personal antipathy toward Aung San Suu Kyi has made the relations between them irreconcilable. China had also already been controversially accused by a powerful global environmental group in of pillaging forests in the north of Myanmar [11]. This was one of the first instances of irresponsible Chinese behaviour in Myanmar being publicly criticized, although earlier denuding of Myanmar forests by corrupt Thai business practices was well known. Often, the grounds for criticism of Chinese behaviour seemed strong, and Chinese initial public responses were rather defensive.

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Analysing Chinese statements, actions and views — as published on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Yangon — provide a fairly reliable basis for monitoring and judging the evolution in Chinese thinking. The Website itself has been used far more frequently to represent official Chinese views in a sometimes rapidly changing, and possibly worrying situation. Not all Chinese public statements are on the website, however. See Attachment A. Publicly, in all these statements China was almost always as positive as it could be about Myanmar. This clearly echoes, or perhaps counters, the argument that western countries took to justify their pressure for economic and political reforms.

Chinese statements were not afraid to tackle criticisms of China head-on. But it also underlines clearly that China wanted to refute the idea that it preferred operating in a Myanmar environment where it enjoyed an almost exclusive position. Rather, the message is that China is happy to have other countries sharing the benefits as well as the challenges of operating in Myanmar. It took more than a year for the Chinese Ambassador to meet Aung San Suu Kyi after her release from detention in November , and the Chinese Government seemed sensitive about this timing.

She has said publicly that she is awaiting an invitation to visit China. A visit would force China to take a more overt stance on Suu Kyi and the NLD, and perhaps China would not smother her with honours and awards as has mostly been the case in other countries she as visited, but China would not need to adopt policies towards the NLD that went further than it liked.

But it might be conspicuous if it treated her noticeably coolly. A Suu Kyi visit would seem like a sensible hedge by China against a future NLD government and could provide the basis for better mutual understanding, if not respect. Reviewing official Chinese perspectives of activities between China and Myanmar during , some interesting patterns emerge.

Chinese reactions can be assessed by examining official Chinese responses to various developments in Myanmar. To some extent, these responses are documented by the website of the Chinese Embassy, Yangon, alongside other known Chinese Government reactions to events in Myanmar and events affecting Myanmar. The second distinctive pattern is the increased frequency of high-level visits in both directions in this transition period, a frequency partly necessitated by leadership changes in both countries.

But there is also another interesting tendency of new types of Chinese leaders visiting Myanmar for the first time, including top leaders of some of the Chinese state enterprises investing in Myanmar, but also different political leaders.

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This could suggest — at the very least — that China-Myanmar relations are becoming more diverse and more complex. A very American concept if ever there was one, this shows that China realized that it could no longer take it for granted that its commercial actions would always be welcomed and unchallenged in Myanmar. The increased exposure given such Chinese activities also implied they were assuming greater value than the concrete assistance or program development involved. Official Chinese statements have also been used to achieve certain specific objectives.

When President Thein Sein announced the suspension of the Mitsone Dam project, on September , because of public concerns about the project, the Chinese Government called for consultations about the affects on all stakeholders. Even then, Li an advisor to the Chinese Government on Myanmar, who is mostly cautious in his commentary and defensive of Chinese Government policies identified this as producing a most serious breakdown of trust between China and Myanmar.

The openings to the US in the last throes of the previous ruling military junta and into the new administration of President Thein Sein have been seen by the Chinese as a setback to their vital national interests in the region, in which Myanmar plays a singular role. Yet, in parallel with the increased openness on the part of the Myanmar authorities for example, in gradually but quite quickly removing censorship there was also a greater onus on the Chinese side to explain, justify and publicly disclose their actions in Myanmar.

Interestingly, the Chinese side was unable to resist, or ignore, this trend towards openness on the part of Myanmar, despite its much greater power and influence. To some extent, this new requirement was inevitable as changes occurred in Myanmar that made it more like other countries.

Who Is Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi? - AJ+

But there was also, not surprisingly, sometimes a sense of Chinese irritation that this had happened, even if they could not do much about it, and could scarcely even complain. Naturally, the Chinese Government did not want to be caught napping about these import of these changes in Myanmar and presumably endeavoured to persuade its senior officials and businesspeople to pay due attention to protect their interests in Myanmar.

As one Chinese academic acknowledged:. Like most others, China seems to have been surprised by the speed and direction of change in Myanmar after So China took stock of developments and decided it would endeavor to protect its growing resources interest in Myanmar. It would have been conscious of the potential loss of face for China if its prime tutelary state, Myanmar, were to slip outside its influence.

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It would have feared that, as happened in some other countries in Southeast Asia in the past, anti-Chinese sentiment could easily escalate out of control in Myanmar with potential damage to Chinese commercial and other interests. By and large, China managed its relationship with Myanmar — at this time of great and unexpected change — quite well, albeit in a decidedly reactive mode. Even if China did not necessarily receive much advance notice of Myanmar reforms, the Thein Sein Government seems to have tried to explain its new policies to China as the nature and significance of the reforms were revealed.

But it is not apparent that the Myanmar side noticeably looked to China for guidance on its reforms: Myanmar leaders would have been familiar with many Chinese policies; and if Chinese influence was present, it would have been remarked upon. Some practical consequences of the anti-Chinese could actually lead to some improvements.

Chinese stakeholders now realize that they need to be much more considerate of local and other community attitudes in Myanmar, to be much more open about their own activities, and generally more accountable for their actions. Chinese state-owned corporations, which seemed previously to have sheltered behind the Chinese Government and were rarely in evidence, have come out into the open in an unprecedented way to face public and media questioning, and have handled themselves in this quite well.

Yet, in parallel with the increased openness on the part of the Myanmar authorities in gradually but quite quickly removing censorship, there was also a greater onus on the Chinese side to explain, justify and public record their actions in Myanmar. Interestingly, the Chinese side was unable to resist this trend despite its much greater power and influence.

As a friendly neighbor of Myanmar, China attaches great importance to the healthy progress of bilateral relations, and pays close attention to developments in Myanmar. Unfortunately, it is still uncertain whether the West will lift its long-standing sanctions against Myanmar. Instead of sanctions, the international community should focus on providing Myanmar with constructive assistance and create a nurturing environment for its national reconciliation, democracy and development.

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