Category Archives: Social

The Curious Case of Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

The sweeping victory of the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in 2015 heralded an era of democratic reforms and an end to military dictatorship. The Nobel Peace Prize got bestowed upon her in 1991 while she was still under house arrest and probably not even aware of the news. Overnight, she became an international icon —fought the Myanmar military governance (i.e.theTatmadaw) — forging the path ahead for liberalization and democratization. However, in the light of the recent Rohingya crisis, Myanmar has come under immense criticism from different quarters of the international community. The public shaming of Aung San Suu Kyi has been doing the rounds in social media, news dailies and leading websites whereby she has been highly condemned for keeping quiet on the atrocities meted out to millions of Rohingya refugees in the Rakhine state who are now seeking shelter in neighbouring countries of Bangladesh and India. Her long kept silence was finally broken when she claimed that Myanmar has never been soft on human rights offenders, thereby ‘without offering a hint of solace or consolation’.

A Planned Attack?

The brimming cynicism levelled against Aung San Suu Kyi has been growing far and wide to the extent of stripping her off the Nobel Peace Prize which may not be possible, in reality. However, her alma mater, the University of Oxford, has decided to withdraw an honorary title awarded to her in 1997, in the aftermath of the Rohingya crisis. Criticisms have also come in the form of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights expressing their disapproval over the crisis as ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’. Another Nobel Laureate Mr. Desmond Tutu reportedly wrote to Daw San Suu Kyi saying that “If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep.”

However, given this background of backlashes and censures, the global community cannot simply keep on harping at it. In fact, it also cannot negate the counternarrative offered by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of an “iceberg of misinformation” where she has invited the international media to talk to the surviving Rohingya inhabitants and crosscheck the ground realities in the Rakhine region. Interestingly, as quoted in one of the reports by RSIS, there has been one prominent story which came out in the Myanmar social media. It was said that on August 25 2017 the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) had already planned an attack on the military posts in order to provoke the Tatmadaw military to give way to a disturbing scenario. This was ironically a day before the release of the Report by Advisory Commission of Rakhine State. If one goes by this narrative, it can be deduced that such an attack was particularly targeted to damage the public image of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and in turn, ruin her efforts towards building a peaceful and fair future for the Rakhine State. According to Ms. Kang Siew Kheng, a leading researcher at RSIS, who has aptly remarked that “for sure, no deemed past wrongs in history can justify present-day violence, but no present-day policy can bring about reconciliation until the old animosities have been addressed.”

Rakhine State of Affairs

The state of Rakhine has all along witnessed a colonial divide and rule strategy which has been reinforced by generations of politics complicated by extreme poverty and economic deprivation of its ethnic inhabitants. It is important to understand here that the victory achieved by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in 2015 occurred amida wave of nationalism accompanied by growing sense of doubt and suspicion, especially in the case of the Rohingya minorities. The victory of democracy, paradoxically, gave a free rein to some entrenched sentiments that were previously put under harsh control of the military. Significantly, the NLD did not fair that well as it largely did in the other parts of the country. Experts believe that the electoral base of Suu Kyi regarded the Rohingyas “as a late political construct” who were mainly temporary migrant labourers residing in permeable borders. They are now being used to legitimise old claims of autonomy and independence.

The Road Ahead

The future of Rohingya Muslims is undoubtedly at stake and it is essential to understand here that this crisis is not merely an internal conflict concerning Myanmar. It certainly has a larger picture which is attached to the global scenario. At present, even though Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to address the needs of the ethnic minorities, she needs all the help she can, from inside and outside Myanmar. It is time for the neighbouring countries, such as India and China and also the regional bloc ASEAN to intervene positively and engage in a coordinate course of action to bring out a longlasting solution. Isolating Myanmar or imposing economic sanctions on it is certainly not going to reap any results. As it is, the country, over the years, has been slowly struggling to achieve a definitive level of economic and political reforms. The insipid stance taken by the ASEAN on the Rakhine situation following an ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York was not only predictable but disappointing. The Rohingya crisis has the potential to transform itself into a global catastrophe leading to greater instability if not addressed urgently.

At the end, it would be interesting to observe Daw Aung San Suu Kyi put her skills of statecraft to test while she enforces some sort of national reconciliation amid the multitude of challenges that surround her now.

Courtesy- Swati Prabhu is a research scholar & an ardent contributor to National Dailies.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the editorial team of Myanmar Matters

Pope Francis Visits Myanmar

Pope Francis

Amid the atmosphere fuelled with distrust and intolerance, Pope Francis made his maiden visit to Myanmar in the first week of December. His visit was carefully observed and followed by the experts for it was imperative for him to maintain his moral authority of being the guardian of the poor and the powerless, and at the same time refrain from engaging in any act which could transpire unpleasant situation for Catholics in Myanmar or mar diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Naypyidaw which got established recently. Thus, his conscious non-admission of the term ‘Rohingya’ during his speech was an outcome of this arrangement.

The leader of the world’s Roman Catholics – Pope Francis, professed all to respect each other’s identity and ethnic diversity. He stated that his main purpose of visiting the country was, “to pray with the nation’s small but fervent catholic community, to confirm them in their faith, and to encourage them in their efforts to contribute to the good of the nation.” Stressing on the Christ’s message of reconciliation, forgiveness, peace and harmony, Pope Francis set the resolve behind his two-nation apostolic visit.

During his visit, he urged all to ‘commit to justice and respect for human rights’ with state authorities, religious leaders and civil society members playing the most crucial role of peacebuilding. His meeting with the state counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi got preceded by top military general Aung Hlaing’s interaction with him who mentioned that there is ‘no religious discrimination’ in Myanmar.

Catholics from across the country flocked in huge numbers to Yangon to be blessed by Pope’s healing presence who led an open -air Mass. He shared “Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nation-building. Religion can play a significant role in repairing the emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds of those who have suffered in years of conflict.”

Investors to Reap from Myanmar’s First Socio-Economic Report

A compendious report outlining Myanmar’s historical, social and geographical data has been compiled and jointly published in detail by The Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) and the German International Cooperation (GIZ).

Mr. U Thitsar, a private sector specialist at the World Bank commented on the beneficial nature of the report, “This report is extremely comprehensive. It contains information from demographic to topographical conditions in Myanmar. It includes data on the various regions where it is densely populated, for example.”

The report titled ‘The Socio- Economic Atlas of Myanmar’, is a complete manual giving an in-depth analysis of all regions of Myanmar – population density, area occupation, distribution of wards, villages, townships across all the regions and the spread of religion in all the states.

The Socio-Economic Atlas of Myanmar is an engaging encyclopaedia for all the investors, inviting them to take learned and wise investment decisions. Its conduct examining the investment potential of the country in great length is inclined toward helping foreigners in their investment plans in Myanmar, and to beef-up foreign direct investments in the country.

This thorough compilation of varied data pertaining to Myanmar has put to rest all the complications and inconveniences that used to accompany a foreign investor in trying to procure appropriate information on Myanmar. Now, instead of physically travelling to relevant departments or sectors to hunt for details, all the data is a readily available resource, complied into an accessible publication for all the interested investors in Myanmar.

It also serves as an exhaustive knowledge bank for all the policy makers, engaged in public projects. Composed of all the information relating to infrastructural necessities, Mr. U Thitsar remarked, “Take urban planning projects for example. Which locations should they develop? Which locations have the densest population? As the report also includes information on infrastructure requirements such as roads and bridges, it would greatly benefit policy makers.”

Aung San Suu Kyi appeals to the International Community for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Solutions amid Rohingya Outcry

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi breaks her silence and delivers a diplomatic briefing, postulating her stand on the Rohingya matter and the call for sustainable peaceful solutions in Myanmar.

Full Speech by Aung San Suu Kyi:

Excellency’s and Distinguished Guests,

Last year, when I addressed the United Nations’ General Assembly as the representative of the newly established government of Myanmar, I reaffirmed our faith and confidence in the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. It is in this enduring belief in the capacity of nations to unite to build a more peaceful and prosperous world, a kinder and more compassionate home for all mankind, that we wish to share with members of the international community, the challenges that our country is now facing and the steps that we are taking to overcome them. This year, as I shall not be able to travel to New York for the United Nations’ General Assembly, I have arranged this diplomatic briefing.

When our people voted for the National League for Democracy in the elections of 2015, they in fact entrusted to us, the task of carrying out three responsibilities: democratic transition, peace and stability, and development. None of these challenges are either easy or simple. The transition for us is a transition to democracy after half a century or more of authoritarian rule, and now we are in the process of nurturing our nascent and yet imperfect democracy.

Peace and stability were something that we had to achieve after nearly seventy years of internal conflict that started on the day of our independence back in 1948.Development has to be achieved within the context of the first two – nurturing democratic values, establishing peace and stability, and achieving the kind of sustainable development that would be seen as equitable by all our people.

Burma is a complex nation as all of you know, and its complexities are compounded by the fact that people expect us to overcome all of these challenges in as short a time as possible.

I think it is only fitting that I should remind you today that our government has not yet been in power for even eighteen months. It will be eighteen months at the end of this month. Eighteen months is a very short time to expect us to meet and overcome all of the challenges that we have been expected to do.

This does not mean that we are not ready to go on with our task of overcoming these challenges. I believe in the community of nations, I am prepared to share with all our friends who wish us well and who understand our problems and sympathies with us, what we have been doing to achieve democratic transition, peace and stability, and development.

I am aware of the fact that the world’s attention is focused on the situation in Rakhine State. As I said at the General Assembly last year, as a responsible member of the community of nations, Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny and we are committed to a sustainable solution that would lead to peace, stability, and development for all communities within that State. I then went on last year to give a brief outline of our plans to achieve this end.

Unhappily, on 9 October 2016, eighteen days after the delivery of my address at the General Assembly, three police outposts were attacked by armed Muslim groups. There were further attacks on 11 October and 12 November and these clashes resulted in the loss of lives, injuries, burning of villages and the displacement of people in the affected areas. Many Muslims fled to Bangladesh.

Since then, the government has been making every effort to restore peace and stability and to promote harmony between the Muslim and Rakhine communities. Even before these outbreaks took place, we had established a Central Committee for rule of law and development in the Rakhine and invited Dr. Kofi Annan to lead a Commission that would help us to resolve the longstanding problems of that State.  But, in spite of all these efforts, we were not able to prevent the conflicts from taking place. Still, throughout the last year, we have continued with our programme of development and the establishment of peace and harmony.

After several months of seemingly quiet and peace, on 25 August, thirty police outposts, as well as the Regimental Headquarters in Taungbazar village, were attacked by armed groups. Consequent to these attacks, the government declared the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and its supporters responsible for acts of terrorism, as a terrorist group in accordance with the Counter-Terrorism Law, section 6, subsection 5.

There has been much concern around the world with regard to the situation in Rakhine. It is not the intention of the Myanmar government to apportion blame or to abnegate responsibility. We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace, stability, and rule of law, throughout the State. The security forces have been instructed to adhere strictly to the Code of Conduct in carrying out security operations, to exercise all due restraint, and to take full measures to avoid collateral damage and the harming of innocent civilians. Human rights violations and all other acts that impair stability and harmony and undermine the rule of law will be addressed in accordance with strict norms of justice.

We feel deeply for the suffering of all the people who have been caught up in the conflict. Those who have had to flee their homes are many – not just Muslims and Rakhines, but also small minority groups, such as the Daing-net, Mro, Thet, Mramagyi, and Hindus of whose presence most of the world is totally unaware.

Humanitarian assistance was provided to displaced communities by a team led by the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement from 27 August 2017 onwards. Details of humanitarian assistance programmes will be made available to all of our guests in due course.

The final report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State chaired by Dr. Kofi Annan, was made public on 24 August, in fact, the very day on which the last round of attacks took place. We are determined to implement the recommendations of the Commission. Those recommendations that will bring speedy improvement to the situation within a short time frame will be given priority. Other recommendations we will have to take time over, but every single recommendation that will benefit peace, harmony, and development in the Rakhine State will be implemented within the shortest time possible.

The government is working to restore the situation to normalcy. Since 5 September, there have been no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations. Nevertheless, we are concerned to hear that numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border to Bangladesh. We want to find out why this exodus is happening. We would like to talk to those who have fled as well as those who have stayed. I think it is very little known that the great majority of Muslims in the Rakhine State have not joined the exodus. More than 50 percent of the villages of Muslims is intact. They are as they were before the attacks took place. We would like to know why.

This is what I think we have to work towards. Not just looking at the problems, but also looking at the areas where there are no problems. Why have we been able to avoid these problems in certain areas? For this reason, we would like to invite the members of our diplomatic community to join us in our endeavour to learn more from the Muslims who have integrated successfully into the Rakhine State. If you are interested in joining us in our endeavours, please let us know. We can arrange for you to visit these areas, and to ask them for yourself, why they have not fled, why they have chosen to remain in their villages, even at a time when everything around them seems to be in a state of turmoil. Apart from what we are doing in the matter of allaying the fears of our people, I would like to say that we have been continuing with our socio-economic development programmes in Rakhine.

Let me outline a few of them. The Rakhine State Socio-Economic Development Plan 2017 – 2021 has been drafted to boost regional development in various sectors. Hundreds of new jobs and opportunities have been created for local people through Public-Private Partnerships. The viability of a new Special Economic Zone to bring new jobs and businesses is being assessed. In terms of infrastructure development, electrification has been expanded with new roads and bridges built, including a new highway connecting remote areas previously only accessible by boat. All people living in the Rakhine State have access to education and healthcare services without discrimination. Healthcare services are being provided throughout the State including hard to reach areas, with new mobile clinics. The government has upgraded 300 schools in Rakhine. The vocational and technical training programmes have begun. Muslim students also have access to higher education without any discrimination.

Humanitarian aid reached all communities in 95% of the affected areas before the recent attacks on August 25. We are now starting another round of humanitarian aid endeavour which we hope will take care of all the people in the region.

With regard to IDP’s, three camps have been closed and the necessary assistance provided, including the building of new houses. There is more to do in this area. We are aware of the challenges and we are facing them.

With regard to citizenship, a strategy with specific timelines has been developed to move forward the National Verification Process. But this is a process which needs cooperation from all communities. In some Muslim communities, their leaders have decided that they are not to join in the verification process. We would appreciate it if all friends could persuade them to join in the process because they have nothing to lose by it. We are also trying to promote inter-communal religious harmony by engaging inter-faith groups. A new curriculum is to be introduced in schools with a focus on moral civic ideas and peace and stability.

A new FM radio channel has been set up to provide information on, amongst others, healthcare, national verification process, and education to all communities. It broadcasts in Rakhine, Bengali and Myanmar languages.

Training and capacity building for police and security forces is being provided in cooperation with the EU and United Nations agencies.

Since December 2016, local and foreign media groups have been given access to areas previously off-limits in Rakhine. Even after the outbreaks on 25 August, we arranged for several media groups to visit the afflicted areas.

The government is working hard to enhance existing relations with Bangladesh. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and the National Security Advisor visited Bangladesh in January and July of this year. We were also hoping for a visit from the Home Minister of Bangladesh but it had to be postponed, for reasons, I think of other commitments on the part of the Minister. We will welcome him at any time that he is able to come and we hope to take forward the arrangements with regard to the security of the border which we are trying to implement together.

There has been a call for the repatriation of refugees who have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh. We are prepared to start the verification process at any time. A verification process was set up as early as 1993 and based on the principles to which both countries agreed at this time, we can continue with the verification of those refugees who wish to return to Myanmar. We will abide by the criteria that were agreed on at that time. As our National Security Advisor has assured Bangladesh, and which I can confirm now, we are ready to start the verification process at any time. Those who have been verified as refugees from this country will be accepted without any problems and with full assurance of their security and their access to humanitarian aid.

I understand that many of our friends throughout the world are concerned by reports of villages being burnt and of hordes of refugees fleeing. As I said earlier, there have been no conflicts since 5 September and no clearance operations. We too are concerned. We want to find out what the real problems are. There have been allegations and counter-allegations and we have to listen to all of them. And we have to make sure that these allegations are based on the solid evidence before we take action.

Action will be taken against all people, regardless of their religion, race, or political positions who go against the laws of the land and who violate human rights as accepted by our international community. We have never been soft on human rights in this country. Our government has emerged as a body committed to the defense of human rights. Not of any particular community’s rights, but of the rights of all human beings, within the borders of our country.

As we concentrate on problems in the Rakhine State, I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you that there are problems as serious for us as what is happening in the west of our country. We have been trying to build peace out of internal strife. A peace that must be lasting and that must be accompanied by sustainable and equitable development. We would like to invite you to take part in this peace process.  To join us in finding lasting solutions to the problems that have plagued our country for years.

The peace process that we started last year in August is continuing and we are having many difficulties. I am not surprised by this because it is the way of peace processes anywhere in the world, that they come across difficulties and sometimes the processes stall and sometimes they come to a dead halt and sometimes it seems as though everything is falling apart, and yet, in the end, we all gather together and move forward. We all want peace rather than war. We want harmony rather than conflict. This is the aspiration shared by all our peoples: peace, stability, harmony, and progress. It is not a large agenda, but it is a difficult one.

And as we go forward in our efforts to redress the ills of this nation, I would like to ask our friends who understand and sympathize with, both our aspirations and our problems, to join us. We would like you to join us in a positive and constructive way to find new paths towards peace and stability and towards harmony.

We would like you to think of our country as a whole. Not just as little afflicted areas. It is as a whole only that we can make progress. I would like to use the analogy of a healthy human being. A healthy human being has to be healthy all over. You cannot neglect his general health just to concentrate on one particular ill.  I use this analogy because our [health] sector is one that has made the greatest progress since we came into the administration last year. By concentrating on public health, we have found that other health problems can also be better addressed. For example, within one year, deaths from HIV were halved – not because we are concentrating just on HIV/AIDS, but because we were concentrating on public health as a whole, the health of all of our people and all our communities. This is how I would like you to look at our country.

We are a young and fragile democracy facing many problems, but we have to cope with them all at the same time, in the way that we have to cope with all of our health problems at the same time. We cannot just concentrate on a few. I would like to invite you to join us in finding new ways, new answers, more constructive, more positive, more innovative, and possibly more daring.

If we cannot resolve our problems quickly, it does not mean that we are never going to be able to resolve them. It just means that the suffering of our people is extended. We would like to bring an end to the suffering of our people as quickly as possible. We would like to make our country a nation, within whose borders; everybody can live in security and prosperity. This is a large order. This is a big ambition. But it is not one impossible to fulfill. We all have to join together.

I accept that the real responsibility lies with us, the people of this country. All the people of Myanmar, from the government, to each and every single individual within this country has the responsibility for the development and progress of this country. But, we would like our friends to join us in our great endeavour. This is certainly a big endeavour. An ambitious endeavour. A determination to build out of a country, beset by many problems, a State that is healthy, that is strong, that can look forward to a secure future.

It is sad that in meeting our diplomatic community, I am obliged to focus on just a very few of our problems when there are so many which I think we could resolve together. That is why I am opening the door to all of you who wish to join us in our endeavours. We invite you to join us, to talk to us, to discuss with us, to go with us to the troubled areas, where we can guarantee security for you, because we don’t want the added problems of anything happening to any of you, so we would like you to join us, then to see for yourself what is happening and think for yourself, what can we do to remove these problems? And also, I want you to take special care to study the peaceful areas – how have they managed to keep the peace? How have they managed to preserve harmony? Why are they not at each other’s throats in these particular areas? These are the answers that we need. It is not just a matter of removing ills, but also of promoting what is positive. We have to remove the negative and increase the positive, and we would like to do that together with all of you.

As you will probably be aware, our Minister for Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement is leading our humanitarian assistance programme. We are very happy that the International Committee of the Red Cross is joining us in this and we would welcome others who would like to aid us in our endeavours.  Many have already committed to helping us by donating generously – in cash as well as in kind. We will make sure that everything that is given towards the promotion of peace and harmony in the Rakhine is used in the best possible way to benefit all communities.

We don’t want Myanmar to be a nation divided by religious beliefs, or ethnicity or political ideology. We all have the right to our diverse identities and we all have the right to strive to fulfill our lives in the ways in which we believe are right. But we also have to work together because we belong to one nation. And as we belong to one nation, we also belong to this world.

It is for this reason that we place great importance on the role of the United Nations as an assembly of nations which was created to promote peace and harmony, to ensure that our world should not ever again, in future, fall into the suffering that we all experienced during the Second World War. It was with the intention of putting an end to wars – that is to say – putting an end to conflicts that the United Nations was established, and I would like to think that what we are doing here today may be the beginning of a truly strong and effective movement to bring an end to all the conflicts within Myanmar. The conflict between our communities, between our people, and also the conflict of ideas with regards to how we are to go forward. Conflicts of ideas can be sorted out, can be removed through discussion and dialogue and through open-mid and the generosity and courage that enables us to see other people’s point of view. I would also like to say that the generosity and courage that would enable other people to see our point of view as well.

It is by cooperating only, that our world can go forward. By attacking each other, either with words, or with weapons, or even with emotions, will not help us. Hate and fear are the main scourges of our world. All conflict arises either out of hate or fear. It is only by removing the sources of hate and fear that we shall be able to remove conflict from our country and from our world.

As you know, there are many allegations and counter-allegations. I have not gone into any of them because it is not my purpose to promote and encourage conflict, whether of ideas, or of arms, but to try to promote harmony and understanding. I hope that you will understand us and join us in our endeavors.

As I said earlier, this is a diplomatic briefing. This was intended to keep the members of our diplomatic community and the representatives of our friends from all over the world, in touch with what we are trying to do. But in some ways, it is more than just a diplomatic briefing. It is a friendly appeal to all those who wish Myanmar well. A friendly appeal to help us to achieve the ends that I think, you would agree is desirable, not just for this particular country, but for countries all over the world.

A Quest Like No Other: Myanmar’s Grand Peace Project

Angshuman Choudhury
Researcher & Coordinator, South East Asia Research Programme,
Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS), New Delhi

In her opening remarks at the first 21st Century Panglong Conference held on 31 August – 3 September 2016, Myanmar’s State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said something that cogently outlines the dicey act of political peacemaking:

Her words ring true across the entire board, irrespective of region, society, or polity. Peacemaking is a participatory exercise that requires real consensus between entities that are inherently or traditionally antagonistic. This makes the process not just a hugely tricky affair, but also a painstaking exercise that warrants the time, patience, and a concrete vision. Yet, the single most pivot of peacemaking is the element of trust, without which any and every political dialogue process is bound to hit a cul-de-sac.

When assessing or critically apprehending Myanmar’s peace process, one must continually recall the history, geography, and the demography of the country;135 ethnic groups, most of which do not have sustainable cultural linkages, sixty painful years of political violence, and a geographical location strategic to big power politics isn’t perhaps the best ingredients for durable peace. But, therein lies the core of the refurbished pursuit of reconciliation: it cannot, and should not, produce ‘sudden peace’, but rather the kind of peace that is well stacked, thoroughly deliberated upon, and made by the people themselves.

NLD’s Peace Machine

When Myanmar began its ambitious peace process back in 2011 under the then President, Mr. Thein Sein, a new chapter in the country’s history began. It was as if someone had pushed the ‘resume’ button after sixty long years of total pause. Since then, the landmark process has only grown in size and scope and is today one of the most complex peacemaking projects in the world. The expansion began right after October 2015 when eight Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Accord (NCA), an instrument drawn up by the Sein administration. With the popularly-elected government of Suu Kyi and President Htin Kyaw taking charge six months later, national reconciliation became the sine qua non of democratic transition, thus giving fresh impetus to the whole peace process.

The Suu Kyi/Kyaw administration, since taking over, has erected a massive bureaucracy of political dialogue. At the top is the super management body, the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) that is disaggregated into ‘Working Committees’ for different thematic focus areas. The UPDJC oversees the ‘Peace Commission’, the official negotiating body of the government. Another pivotal organ is the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JCM), which is mandated with the responsibility to ensure ceasefires are not breached and complaints related to the same reach the government.

In terms of the dialogue structure, the entire process is bifurcated into two templates: union-level and regional talks. While the former is undertaken through the biannual Union Peace Conference (UPC), also known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC), the latter takes place through a triad of NationalLevel Dialogues based on region, ethnicity, and topic. The inputs from these local dialogues are sent to the Working Committees, subsequent to which they are taken up for deliberations at the UPC.

Suu KyiThe unique feature about Myanmar’s post-2015 dialogue process is that it is heavily federal in nature, at least on paper. This is crucial because the ultimate objective of the process of national reconciliation is to achieve a federal union, a vision that emerged right after the country’s independence in 1947 but was truncated by one decade of intense civil strife and sixty more of repressive military rule. More importantly, the union-to-state level disaggregation of the dialogue process is absolutely imperative in a country like Myanmar where there is not one single thread of demography, but rather variegated pockets of ethnic constituencies that carry a strong sense of distinct identity and unique political ambitions for their respective communities. This becomes sharper in certain ethnic quarters that are represented by powerful and heavily-armed EAOs, like the Kachins, Shans, Palaungs, and Mons. Hence, considering local opinion within the process of national reconciliation becomes indispensable for any union-level peacemaker in Burma.

Roadblocks to Peace

As the State Counsellor has stated bluntly, the road to peace is long and hard. The past one year has made it amply clear that national reconciliation is a goal that cannot be achieved through a top-down agenda. Neither can the government claim to have achieved peace through flash in the pan successes. It needs patience, understanding, and most importantly, non-coercive inducement through real political and economic incentives.

The fundamental problem in the dialogue process is structural i.e. the obligation for an EAO to sign the NCA in order to participate in talks with the government. Some EAOs prefer the other way: to participate in the talks first and then sign the NCA. This has led to the emergence of two distinct sets of negotiating parties: signatories and non-signatories. Several commentators in the past have pointed out that the eight EAOs who have signed the NCA are far less influential and powerful than the ones who haven’t signed it. The latter group includes large groups like the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), United Wa State Army (UWSA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K). Hence, unless the government manages to get the latter on board, peace will remain a distant dream.

But, while the dialogue process has been running fairly smooth with the signatories, Naypyidaw’s engagement with the nonsignatories has hit rough waters. Till about May 2017, the government had been negotiating with only one supra-group of non-signatories i.e. the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). However, since early 2017, this 11-member collective of opposition EAOs began to show signs of internal fissure, especially after the November 2016 attacks in the border town of Muse (Shan State) by four EAOs – KIA, TNLA, MNDAA, AA – who identified themselves under a new umbrella body called ‘Northern Alliance (NA)’. Subsequently, in February 2017, the UWSA convened a meeting of eight non-signatory EAOs in the de facto Wa capital of Pangsangh and announced the adoption of a new path for reconciliation, away from the NCA. Three months later, certain members of the Pangsangh collectively decided to remove themselves from the UNFC and follow their own path to peace under the UWSA’s leadership. This has rendered the entire dialogue process much more convoluted and time-consuming.

Moreover, despite the mammoth bureaucracy of political dialogue, the government has been unable to implement the key provisions of NCA in entirety, which has ultimately led to delayed talks and unhappy stakeholders. While the government successfully held national-level dialogues in some regional quarters, it failed to organize them in two crucial states – Rakhine and Shan. The former is represented by the Arakan National Party (ANP) and the latter, in part, by the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S), both of which have signed the NCA. This not just resulted in ANP and RCSS questioning the government’s intent, but also a critical three-month delay in hosting the second 21CPC. RCSS/ SSA-S, in addition, has confronted intermittent offensive maneuvers from the Tatmadaw (military) in the past one year, which has spurred a new trust gap between them and the union government.

Another critical lapse in the peace process has been the lack of effective mediators from the government’s side. Several EAOs have repeatedly complained about the dearth of individuals who could suitably communicate their sentiments and demands to both the civilian government and the Tatmadaw. This has led to a regressive communication gap between the core negotiating parties, leading to sporadic ceasefire violations, mismatched agendas, and most importantly, a widening of the trust deficit between key parties. This has also resulted in the intervention of third-party negotiators – like China – who thus have been able to throttle their own vested interests into the dialogue process and gain disproportionate political leverage.

Of all obstructions in the peace process, however, the most visible has been the continued armed conflict in the north between the NA members and the Tatmadaw. Intense and continued fighting has sharpened the trust deficit between Naypyidaw and the northern groups, which are extremely pivotal to any permanent peace arrangement that Myanmar might see in the near future. The violence has also had humanitarian repercussions, with thousands rendered displaced because of the Tatmadaw’s attritional counterinsurgency campaign that focuses on cutting off the economic channels and popular support bases of recalcitrant EAOs.

The military’s relentless offensives in the frontier areas have pushed the local population to question the motives of the union government and any ‘peace’ it might attempt to impose by force. The State Counsellor has tried to address this issue by engaging with community-level stakeholders in the frontier regions, like the Kachin Baptist Organisation (KBO), to regain the lost trust.

The Way Ahead

The Myanmar of today, is by no means, the Myanmar of the dark yesteryears. The new administration, in furtherance of the Sein government, has displayed the immense political will to move towards a permanent negotiated settlement to end the civil conflict for good. The NLD led Parliament’s prioritization of the peace agenda and Suu Kyi’s design to involve a wide range of political actors and stakeholders (including international entities) are the testimony to this. New platforms for dialogue have been created and new mechanisms of political engagement established. These are significant developments for a country that was miles away from national reconciliation just a decade back.

However, much work remains to be done. An elaborate bureaucracy will remain futile, and rather counterproductive, if not backed by capacity-building, institutional training of personnel, and real participatory engagement of all stakeholders. Truth is that every single individual, in her or his own capacity, is a stakeholder in the ongoing peace process. Sixty years of continuous unrest has decisively affected the lives of the entire population. Given the diversity in political imagination and the multiplicity of identities, the union government absolutely cannot afford to keep the talk process centralized.

It has to devolve to the ground, right down to the block-level so that no stakeholder is left out. For this, the government must make sure that the national-level dialogues happen on time and in fact, the state-level dialogue channels are diversified and disaggregated.

The government must also urgently commission specialized interlocutors who have a way with not just the various EAOs, but also the army. In this case, Naypyidaw would do well by recruiting respected individuals with experience of dealing with specific ethnic quarters, like the Kachins or the Mons or the Nagas. This could bridge the trust gap between the government and the frontier populations. More crucially, Naypyidaw must ensure that there is symmetry in the agenda for peace. A dialogue process cannot be accompanied by an offensive counterinsurgency design insofar as the non-state armed groups are not stirring trouble unilaterally. In a situation otherwise, the overall space for reconciliatory dialogue would remain restricted.

Thus, Myanmar still has a long way to go before it can reach any semblance of permanent, durable peace. Having said this, the last one year stands out as a bright ray of hope for the conflict-weary people of the country who now seek constructive development and equal participation in public life, all in a collective attempt to reverse more than half a century of political, economic, social, and cultural regression

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the editorial team of Myanmar Matters

History Of Burma

Early Burma

History Of BurmaThe Nation we know as Burma was first formed during the goldenage of Pagan in the 11th century. King Anawratha ascended the throne in 1044, uniting Burma under his monarchy. His belief in Buddhism lead him to begin building the temples and pagodas for which the city of Pagan (above) is renowned. Pagan became the first capital of a Burmese kingdom that included virtually all of modern Burma. The golden age of pagan reached its peak in during the reign of Anawratha’s successor,Kyanzitta (1084-1113), another devout Buddhist, under whom it aquired the name
” City of four million pagodas “.

Under Colonial Rule

Although Burma was at times divided into independent states, a series of monarchs attempted to establish their absolute rule, with varying degrees of success. Eventually, an expansionist British Government took advantage of Burma’s political instability. After three Anglo-Burmese wars over a period of 60 years, the British completed their colonization of the country in 1886, Burma was immediately annexed as a province of British India, and the British began to permeate the ancient Burmese culture with foreign elements. Burmese customs were often weakened by the imposition of British traditions.

The British also further divided the numerous ethnic minorities by favouring some groups, such as the Karen, for positions in the military and in local rural administrations. During the 1920s, the first protests by Burma’s intelligentsia and Buddhist monks were launched against British rule. By 1935, the Students Union at Rangoon University was at the forefront of what would evolve into an active and powerful movement for national independence. A young law student Aung San, executive-committee member and magazine editor for the Students Union, emerged as the potential new leader of the national movement. In the years that followed, he successfully organized a series of student strikes at the university, gaining the support of the nation.

Independence and Democracy

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Aung San seized the opportunity to bring about Burmese independence. He and 29 others, known as the Thirty Comrades, left Burma to undergo military training in Japan. In 1941, they fought alongside the Japanese who invaded Burma. The Japanese promised Aung San that if the British were defeated, they would grant Burma her freedom. When it became clear that the Japanese would not follow through with their promise, Aung San quickly negotiated an agreement with the British to help them defeat the Japanese.

History Of BurmaHailed as the architect of Burma’s new-found independence by the majority of Burmese, Aung San was able to negotiate an agreement in January 1947 with the British, under which Burma would be granted total independence from Britain. Although a controversial figure to some ethnic minorities, he also had regular meetings with ethnic leaders throughout Burma in an effort to create reconciliation and unity for all Burmese.

As the new leader drafted a constitution with his party’s ministers in July 1947, the course of Burmese history was dramatically and tragically altered. Aung San and members of his newly-formed cabinet were assasinated when an opposition group with machine guns burst into the room. A member of Aung San’s cabinet, U Nu, was delegated to fill the position suddenly left vacant by Aung San’s death. A Burma was finally granted independence on January 4, 1948, at 4:20am – a moment selected most auspicious by an astrologer.

For the next ten years, Burma’s fledging democratic government was continuously challenged by communist and ethnic groups who felt under-represented in the 1948 constitution. Periods of intense civil war destabilized the nation. Although the constitution declared that minority states could be granted some level of independence in ten years, their long-awaited day of autonomy never arrived. As the economy floundered, U Nu was removed from office in 1958 by a caretaker government led by General Ne Win, one of Aung San’s fellow thakins. In order to “restore law and order” to Burma, Ne Win took control of the whole country including the minority states, forcing them to remain under the jurisdiction of the central government. Although he allowed U Nu to be re-elected Prime Minister in 1960, two years later he staged a coup and solidified his position as Burma’s military dictator.

Burma Under a Dictatorship

History Of BurmaNe Win’s new Revolutionary Coucil suspended the constitution and instituted authoritarian military rule. Full attention turned to the military defeat of communist

and ethnic-minority rebel groups. The country was closed off from the outside world as the new despot promoted an isolation ideology based on what he called the Burmese Way to Socialism. Superstitious, xenophobic and ruthless, for the next three decades Ne Win set a thriving nation on a disatrious path of cultural, environmental and economic ruin. Outside visitors were few and restricted to Rangoon, Mandalay and a handful of other tightly controlled towns close to the central plains. Insurgency remained endemic and in many areas of Burma armed struggle became a way of life.

The People’s Demands Are Met With Bullets

In July 1988 Ne Win suddenly announced that he was preparing to leave the stage. Seeing at last a possible escape from military rule, economic decline and routine human rights abuses, thousands of people took to the streets of Rangoon.

Demonstrations broke out across the country during the so-called "Democracy Summer" that followed. But on August 8, 1988 troops began a four day massacre, firing into crowds of men, women and children gathered in Rangoon. At least 10,000 demonstrators were killed across the country.

Demonstrations broke out across the country during the so-called "Democracy Summer" that followed. But on August 8, 1988 troops began a four day massacre, firing into crowds of men, women and children gathered in Rangoon. At least 10,000 demonstrators were killed across the country.Thousands of students and democracy advocates fled to the border regions under ethnic control and forged alliances with ethnic resistance movements. Some of these groups include the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), the All Burma Student Democratic Front, the Democratic Alliance of Burma, and the longstanding National Democratic Front situated in Manerplaw (the former headquarters of the Karen National Union which fell to SLORC in January 1995). Together these groups formed the National Council of the Union of Burma, an umbrella organization representing all the groups.A Leader Emerges

It just so happened that during this time of unrest in 1988, Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of independence hero Aung San, who had been living abroad, returned to Burma to care for her ailing mother. Her devotion kept her there and brought her into the political foray. Attempting to quell international condemnation for its violence, the military announced it would hold multi-party elections. Under the persuasion of students and others opposed to the regime, Aung San Suu Kyi and like-minded colleagues founded the National League for Democracy (NLD). Her party quickly gathered country-wide support. Just when democratic changes seemed imminent Ne Win commandeered the army from behind the scenes to take over the country in a staged “coup”.

On September 18, 1988, control of the country was handed to a 19-member State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) and a vicious crackdown followed. Although committed to non-violence, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest in July 1989 for “endangering the state” and kept there for the next six years. Desperate to improve their image and generate foreign investment, the SLORC went ahead on May 27, 1990 and held the multi-party elections they had promised. Despite the SLORC’s severe repression against members of opposition parties (Aung San Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest) and the complete lack of freedom of expression throughout the country, Suu Kyi’s NLD party swept to victory with 82% of the vote. Surprised and outraged, the SLORC refused to acknowledge the election results and has retained its repressive grip on power ever since.

Current Situation

Eventhough Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in May of 2002 the military has refused to relinquish power. The generals have not engaged in any sort of dialogue. The humanitarian situation in Burma is disasterous and civil war still ravages the border areas. The effect of military rule has been a severly impoverished and underdevelopmed nation, Burma has rated as the second least developed nation on the United Nations Development Index. Peace, democracy and the most basic human rights do not exist. Millions have been forced to flee due to military rule and are scattered all over the world longing for the day when they can return to their homeland and be re-united with the families and live in peace.

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Agriculture in Myanmar

Agriculture, which includes crop production, hunting, fishing, and forestry, is the mainstay of the Burma economy. This sector is responsible for much of the income and employment in the country. About 60 percent of the GDP comes from agriculture, and as much as 65 percent of the labor force is employed in this sector alone. Burma produces enough food to feed its entire population. In the absence of purchasing power, however, many people go hungry. Further, about a third of the rural households do not have any land or livestock. Only half of the arable 45 million acres is under cultivation.

Rice is the most important agricultural commodity of Burma. Rice production increased from 5,200,000 metric tons in 1950 to 16,760,000 metric tons in 1993. The crop is cultivated along the river valleys, coastal areas, and in the Irrawaddy River delta. A wide variety of crops are cultivated in the northern dry zone. Rubber and other commercially useful products are cultivated in the Irrawaddy and Tenasserim regions. Agricultural products form the bulk of the export trade and include rice, teak, prawns, beans and pulses, and opiates.

Burma’s agriculture is heavily dependent on the monsoon rains. While some areas suffer from too much rain, other regions receive too little. Government efforts in the 1990s increased the amount of irrigated land to 2.2 million acres. Many agricultural products like tobacco, sugar, groundnut, sunflower, maize, jute and wheat, however, have not reached their pre-1985 production levels. This reduction is offset by higher production in rice, pulses and beans. Rice production increased due to supportive government policies as well as favorable market forces. According to Asian Development Bank estimates, however, real annual growth in agriculture declined from 5.0 percent in 1996-97 to 3.7 percent in 1997-98 and to 2.8 in the 1998-99 fiscal years. Further, per-acre yield of the crops has not increased because of inadequate application of fertilizers and pesticides. One factor that helped to improve production was the removal of government controls over the agricultural sector.

Deforestation has been a major concern in Burma. The slash-and-burn method of agriculture is destroying the forests of the country, causing soil erosion and depletion of fertility. Periodic droughts, floods, landslides, and cyclones sometimes have devastating effect on agriculture. For example, flooding in Pegu and Irrawaddy during the 1997-98 growing season did considerable damage to rice production. Consequently, Burma exported only 28.4 thousand metric tons of rice in the 1997-98 season as opposed to 93.1 thousand metric tons in the previous year.

The heavy reliance on monsoons is a major handicap for Burmese agriculture. The authorities have recently renovated dams and reservoirs, built new ones, pumped water from rivers and streams and taken other measures to improve irrigation. More remains to be done in this regard. Another impediment to agricultural improvement is the inability of farmers to secure adequate loans to enhance cultivation. Private lenders charge exorbitant rates, and there are not enough banking institutions to serve people in the rural areas. As a result, farmers are not able to buy fertilizers and pesticides for their crops. Financial services need to be improved to make funds available to the cultivators.

The economic liberalization policies of the military junta have transformed the agricultural sector. Under the new economic system, the government distributed land among the landless, improved irrigation facilities, and increased the floor price of paddy that the government procures from the farmers. Some private activity in the export sector has been allowed since economic liberalization began in 1989. Consequently, the share of the agricultural sector in the GDP has gone up.

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Lifestyle In Myanmar

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Lifestyles and Activities
Despite modern changes and globalized cultural blending, Myanmar people have been able to preserve their own lifestyles and activities that have existed since time immemorial. The people of Myanmar communicate in their own language, wear their own style of clothing including the longyi, relish their own style of food, pray in their own way, play their own games, celebrate their own festivals, receive treatment with their own traditional medicines, and perform their own rituals remaining as Myanmar as possible in every aspect. Many of the life styles and activities are unique to Myanmar people. For example, the Shin Pyu or novitiation ceremony, which allows a young boy to experience temporary monastic life, is a religious practice virtually nonexistent in other parts of the world. Although some of Myanmar’s beliefs, superstitions, customs and lifestyles have gradually disappeared, many still remain and are cherished and highly valued by the majority of the people.




Family is very important in Burma. When asked how many people are in their family many people sometimes give a number in 40s or 50s as uncles, great aunts, second cousins, many of whom live nearby, are often considered part of the immediate family. Burmese have a difficult time understanding why family members in America live in cities in different parts of the country. [Source: Joel Swerdlow, National Geographic, July 1995]

A newly married couple may live with the parents of one partner (often the parents of the wife) but soon establish their own household. The nuclear family is the primary domestic unit, but it may include extended family members such as unmarried siblings, widowed parents, or more distant unmarried or widowed relatives. The husband is nominally the head of the household, but the wife has considerable authority. Women are responsible for most domestic chores. [Source: Countries and Their Cultures ]

The nuclear family tends to be more common than extended families. Relationship are based more on relative age, generation, comparability and sex than by kinship. There are no kinship based groups beyond the family. Terms of address reflect relative age, seniority and respect rather than a category of kinship. The strongest bond in a family has traditionally been between mother and daughter which remain strong throughout life.

Nuclear families tend to live in their own compounds. But many household are made up of extended families or compound families. Descent is reckoned bilaterally. Traditionally, there were no family names. Property generally is divided equally among the children after the parents die. Under Myanmar law, children can inherit their parents’s property irrespective of sex.

Family Relations and Socialization in Myanmar

Hong Sar Channaibanya, a Burmese-born Australian, wrote: “Although personal issues are regarded as a private matter the family has a role in influencing important life decisions if a person is not married or lives in their parents’ home. Parents expect some return from children when they are getting old. Serving and caring for parents is regarded as good practice and gains an individual merit from a spiritual perspective. Relations between parents and children are exceptionally strong in both good and bad times. Offering parents money and other material support is widely approved of and indeed expected in the community and families expect to shoulder their burdens together. [Source: Hong Sar Channaibanya, Canberra, Australia May 2010 ++]

“Burmese women usually maintain cultural practice as a social norm at home. They expect a secure relationship and financial support from their husband. Women manage domestic issues in the household and the man expects these to be done to be done whilst he is earning a living. However, some women prefer to work in the paid workforce while also raising children at home. There is no problem with a woman earning and raising children as long as the woman still feels secure in her relationship. ++

“Family cohesion is reflected in shared cooking and eating during festivals. For example people will commonly gather at the parent’s house to eat and cook for several days over a major festival. Grand parents can also be important carers of grandchildren. They may care for several or even seven children without financial reward, but then sons and daughters are expected to care for their parents in the later years.Young people and children are expected to obey their parents and elder siblings and freedom of expression is not widely practice at home. Older people always play a big role in decisions for younger people, rightly and wrongly. In fact acceptance of difference is not commonly practiced in society at large. People rarely value different opinions and comments either at home or at workplace and a sense of compromise is seldom valued.” ++

Happy Myanmar Family

According to Myanmar government: “Much has been said about the institution of family in Myanmar as based on specific duties and responsibilities on the part of husband, wife, parents and offspring. These rights and duties are taken seriously and adhered to closely (although being human there may be lapses). Love and respect. rights and responsibilities are the foundations of a Myanmar family irrespective of religious creed. This holds true today as it did in ancient times and is a tradition that we hold dear. But there is another basic element that knits a family together although it has not been given much prominence. And that is the love and humour that is very much a part of Myanmar family life. Not much has been said about the fun and laughter that a Myanmar family enjoys, but it is there. The ability of the Myanmar people to look on the lighter, if not funny side of life, is carried over into family relationship. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information =]

“There is the evening meal with the family around the table. The first choice morsel goes to father, but it somehow gets back to the tiniest tot or others in turn. The parents eat sparingly if they are not affluent and see that the children get the lion’s share. But you should listen to the chatter and banter at the dinner table. Father teases one or the other of the children. Myanmar children can be mischievous and deliberately let cats out of the bag. – about mother scrimping on meat and groceries to buy the latest ‘batik’. Or someone or other will say artlessly that father’s breath smells tangy or sour- if he has had a secret nip or two on the way home much to mother’s annoyance. =

A pre-teen son will try to support a staggering drunken father and put him to bed and an elder daughter babysits younger brothers and sister for mother who is out trying to supplement the family’s income. When such a family comes into a windfall, they will all get dressed in their best and get on a crowded bus or mini-bus to go the pagoda or to the zoo if they should happen to live in Yangon. In smaller towns and villages they will go to a video hall (for want of a better word) or go see an all-night drama (zat pwe) at some pagoda festival. The children will gorge themselves on ice-lollipops and all kinds of roasted things – corn. peanuts. pumpkin and sunflower seeds or a wide variety of Myanmar snacks. Each of them, if lucky, may have a helium balloon or at the very least a Myanmar papiere mache doll to play with. ++

“If a foreign visitor is observant enough, he will probably see on weekends or on holidays a family dressed in their best: the youngest child in the mother’s arms. the second youngest astride the father’s shoulders and the rest tugging at mother’s skirt or father’s pasoe straggling along the sidewalk on their way to catch a bus home. The parents look hot and exhausted and the children are tired too. But for them all it has been a day of fun and excitement, a day they will talk about for a long time afterwards, till the next holiday comes around.

Men and Gender Divisions in Myanmar

There are no sharp division of labor. Men cook and take care of babies. Women are bared only from monkhood. Myanmar parents favour their sons over their daughters but the latter are treasured as well. Daughters are not considered a burden as no dowry is paid to the bridegroom when they marry. Traditional Myanmar women are not aggressive and usually play second fiddle to their husbands. Women are expected to help with the household chores and take care of their aged parents more than men. Where social life is concerned, unmarried women and young men tend to mix with members of the same sex. Between married couples public displays of affection are rarely seen. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information =]

The father of a family is the “Ein Oo Nat” (Lord of the forefront of the house). Which also implies that the mother rules the rest of the household. The term “Lord of the front of the house” will probably conjure up a stern and remote figure to be approached warily with humility and respect. Far be it. There is even a popular song “Hpay Hpay Gyi Ko Chit Tai” meaning “We love big Daddy”. Generally, we think father melts quicker than mother when a child sheds a few crocodile tears. Mother sees through the children’s foibles and fables and when she picks up a cane children are apt to run crying to father. =

According to Countries and Their Cultures: “Both men and women do agricultural work, but individual tasks are often gender-specific. Men prepare the land for planting and sow seeds, and women transplant rice seedlings. Harvesting is done by both men and women. Men thresh the rice. Most domestic work is done by women. During ceremonies, however, men are involved in food preparation. A variety of traditional handicrafts are made within the household or by specialists. Items of metal, wood, or stone generally are made by men, and weaving usually is done by women. Pottery, basketry, plaiting, making lacquerware, and making umbrellas can be done by men or women. Small-scale market selling and itinerant trading are conducted by both sexes. Transportation of goods or people by animal, carts, boat, or motor vehicle is done mainly by men. Religious specialists and traditional curers generally are male, but sometimes they are female. Spirit mediums can be male or female. Traditional theatrical and musical performances involve both genders. Women work mainly in teaching and nursing. [Source: Countries and Their Cultures **]

Women in Myanmar

Burmese women have traditionally had more freedoms than other women in Southeast Asia. They retain name after marriage, wears no wedding rings and have property rights and freedom of movement. However, military rule has undermined the status of women, especially at the higher levels of government and commerce. Women, however, play a significant role in the political opposition to the regime.

Historically, women in Burma (Myanmar) have had a unique social status in Burmese society. According to the research made by Daw Mya Sein, Burmese women “for centuries – even before recorded history” owned a “high measure of independence” and had retained their “legal and economic rights” despite the influences of Buddhism and Hinduism. Burma once had a matriarchal system that includes the exclusive right to inherit oil wells and the right to inherit the position as village head. Burmese women were also appointed to high offices by Burmese kings, can become chieftainesses and queens. [Source: Wikipedia]

According to Myanmar government: “The Status of women in the Union of Myanmar is unique. Traditionally, women have enjoyed equal rights with men in all crucial areas such as education, health, employment, social and political activities. As women represent more than half the population of the nation, the active participation of the womenfolk is vital in the State’s endeavours to build a developed nation. Therefore, the national policies and programs for the advancement of women both in urban and rural areas, especially in the border areas have been given priority to enable the State to utilize the full strength of women. [Source: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Myanmar]

Women of Burma: a Tradition of Hard Work and Independence

In 1958, Daw Mya Sein wrote in The Atlantic: “To people who come to Burma for the first time there are two things about the status of our women that seem to impress them with particular force. My foreign friends have often told me that they are surprised to see an ordinary Burmese woman sitting at her stall in a bazaar, dressed in the usual htamein and jacket, her hair arranged on top of her head in the traditional manner, often smoking a cigar—and handling her trade with all the hard-headed business acumen of a man. Or, in an agricultural family, the wife may be helping with the planting, the reaping, the winnowing. If her husband is a cartman, a Burmese woman may perform her share of the labor. You can see her in business houses, signing contracts and making decisions for the firm, or find her in any of the professions or in parliament. It all seems quite different from the familiar picture of the down-trodden, backward Asian woman. [Source: Daw Mya Sein, The Atlantic, February 1958 <<]

“Yet on a social occasion you will often find that the Burmese women cluster together on one side of the room and leave their men to talk to each other in a group of their own. You will see, at a meal, that the men are served first, that their wives offer them every deference within the home. On a street there is nothing unusual in the sight of a man walking ahead while his wife follows a few paces behind carrying the bundles. <<

“The apparent paradox of these observations is, in fact, quite an accurate indication of the rather special place that Burmese women occupy in our society. For centuries —even before recorded history, from all we can deduce—Burmese women have accepted as their right a high measure of independence. The Buddhist and the Hindu influences that came to our country at a somewhat later date may have modified the social status of women, but we have always retained our legal and economic rights. In my own research work in the village system of Burma I have even found vestiges of a matriarchal system which must have flourished here at one time. The inheritance of certain oil wells, for instance, belonged exclusively to women; in some cases the inheritance to the headmanship of a village was through the female line. To this day we have no family surnames in Burma and a woman keeps her own name after marriage. <<

“Much of what appears to be a retiring attitude among Burmese women in their social life is actually explained by the difference of Burmese manners from Western manners. In the West the tradition of chivalry (in however diluted a form) dictates many of the surface attitudes to women. We have no such tradition in Burma, but I don’t think that our women feel inferior as a result. They have considerable authority in the home — they usually handle the family finances, for instance —and in many ways more freedom than Western women. Because of our family system, there are nearly always cousins or sisters or aunts or other relatives who live in the household. This means that there is always someone in the family to take care of the children and the mother is free to have a job or profession outside the home. The children, meanwhile, are taught at an early age to help in the house and in their mother’s work outside. You will, for example, often find a girl of seven or eight sitting with her mother in a shop, learning how to sell the goods or helping out during a busy time. <<

“Altogether, in our social life as well as in our public life, we feel that we, as Burmese women, occupy a privileged and independent position. It is a position for which we are trained — almost imperceptibly, and with love and security—from childhood. It is a position which is not limited either by marriage or by motherhood, and which allows us, eventually, to fit ourselves into the life, the work, and all the rewards that our country has to offer equally with our men. <<

Daw Mya Sein, born in 1904 in Moulmein, is of Mon and Arakanese stock. Her distinguished career typifies the increasingly active role of women in Burmese public life. Mother of two children, she has still found time to be headmistress of several schools, editor and broadcaster, first roman elected to the Rangoon City Corporation, delegate to the London Round Table Conference of 1931 and the Paris UNESCO Conference of 1946, President of the National Council of Women, and a leader in social work. She is Lecturer in history at Rangoon University and has made two lecture tours in the United Stales.

History of Women in Myanmar

Daw Mya Sein wrote in The Atlantic: “Our more recent history has done little to diminish our ancient rights. During the days of the Burmese kings, women were frequently appointed to high office and became leaders of a village, chieftainess, and even ruled as queen. And in a series of Burmese folk tales concerning wise and remarkable decisions in law, which have been collected by Dr. Htin Aung, the judge in each of the stories is a woman called “Princess Learned-in-the-Law.” All these fields of administration, government service, law, medicine or business are always open to any Burmese woman who wishes to enter them. [Source: Daw Mya Sein, The Atlantic, February 1958 <<]

“With this background of history and custom in Burma, it is not really surprising that Burmese women have accepted their place in public life as a natural part of their status in society. On landed estates in the past it often happened that a woman, after she had been left a widow, more than doubled or trebled the family property through her own efforts. Before the war, businesses were mostly in the hands of foreigners, but in postwar Burma, as business opportunities arose for Burmese, the women as well as the men took advantage of them. The idea of big businesses, of import-export firms, of offices or shops being run by women (which so surprises the foreigner) seems perfectly ordinary to the Burmese. Equally, women have responded to the educational openings in postwar Burma. For example, at the last university convocation that I attended, about half of the graduating class in the school of medicine were women. <<

“In politics we have never had much of a feminist movement because in our society the problem of equal rights had never arisen. However, under British rule Burma was considered part of India and we were governed according to the same constitution. In 1927, therefore, we did have a little bit of a feminist movement to abolish the clause which provided that women could not stand for election to the Legislative Council. We Burmese women took it for granted that this disqualification clause should be deleted, so we thought we would have a token demonstration. About ten of us sent out an appeal to the women of Rangoon to join in showing our support for a resolution introduced in the Legislative Council for the deletion of the sex-disqualification clause. More than a hundred women came to the office of the Rangoon City Corporation (of which we were allowed to be members) and we marched with banners and placards to the Legislative Council, followed through the streets by a large crowd of spectators. <<

“We were amazed to discover that the British officials were not very keen about women getting into the Legislature. We assumed that it must be the British Government that made the objection because they knew that the women who would seek election were bound to back the nationalists. Several of us were warned against joining the demonstration. I was called up twice by certain officials and was told that it would be to my detriment to make this protest. When our procession set out we found the streets were heavily guarded by mounted police. The Secretariat building has four gates, and when we reached it we found that three of them were closed, chained and padlocked. At the fourth a mounted policeman gave us a letter from the Commissioner of Police telling us to disperse. We broke up quite peacefully, certain that we had made our point. <<

“I think that ours was one of the first political demonstrations in Burma, and although we were not immediately successful, our feminist feeling lasted only two years. In 1929 a woman was elected for the first time to the Legislature. Since then we have had no trouble, and at the present moment we have six women members in parliament.” <<

Inheritance and Family Roles of Women in Myanmar

Daw Mya Sein wrote in The Atlantic: “In most of Asia women have had to fight for equality with men primarily on three matters: marriage, divorce, and inheritance. In Burma we have been singularly fortunate in possessing this equality even before we knew it was a problem.,,, In Asia a woman’s right of inheritance has, perhaps, occasioned more acrimonious argument and fiercer resistance than any other single aspect of women’s status. Political rights and franchise have come to Asian women comparatively easily — with less opposition, in fact, than Western women found — but the question of equality in inheritance is still hotly debated in many parts of Asia. Here too, Burmese women find that their traditional law recognizes them equally with men, and all through our history we have had full inheritance rights. [Source: Daw Mya Sein, The Atlantic, February 1958 <<]

“These rights are ensured by the rather odd fact that under Burmese Buddhist Law neither a man nor a woman can write a will. All property must be handed on according to the laws of succession. This means that during a marriage a husband and wife are joint owners of all property acquired during their marriage. If the man dies first, the woman automatically inherits — and, besides, she becomes the head of the family with full authority. In the same way, if a woman dies first, the man inherits. If he has more than one wife, there are laws laid down to deal with the complications of inheritance that this situation might raise, laws, that is, which decide which part of the property was accrued before marriage, which part during the marriage, and how it should be divided. Only when both the parents die do the children divide the property among themselves, and then, too, sons and daughters inherit equal shares. <<

“With this degree of freedom and equality in our public life, how does it happen that Burmese women seem, within the family, to accept a subservient position? In this I think, perhaps, that appearances are rather deceptive to the foreigner. In Burmese society we have never had the kind of parties and entertainments that are usual in the West. We have, of course, our own amusements — a shinpyu ceremony or a big wedding party or something like that — at which we meet. In the cities, especially Rangoon, where “Western-style parties” are beginning to be part of our life, we are apt to carry over our own social habits. The men will sit together and the women will sit together because it is assumed that they have more to say to one another. At a big dinner party or an informal picnic, it is quite customary to feed the men first because we know that on the whole they are the busy ones who may have an appointment or work that they must fulfill. We take this still further — even if a woman has a job or a profession, when her husband is transferred to another place or post, she will leave her work and start again in the place where he is assigned. We like to give precedence to our men in our own homes because we acknowledge them, until their death, as head of the household. Possibly we can afford to offer them this courtesy because we are secure in our rights and status. But part of the deference we offer them stems from the influence of Buddhism in our country. We believe that when a new Buddha comes to the world it will be as a man (though, to be sure, one of us who is now a woman may, in a later life, be born as a man and eventually progress to Buddhahood). We feel that this gives men an inherent superiority: mentally, they can reach higher than women.” <<

Women’s Rights and Abuse of Women in Myanmar

In Myanmar there were no legal restrictions against a husband/father physically abusing his wife or child. Domestic violence has traditionally been regarded as private matter. Parents play a key role in dealing with domestic crisis and provide a mediation process for families with conflict. Siblings tend to be the most trusted people in the family when a crisis occurs in the family. Older sisters take a mother role if the mother is not at home. [Source: Hong Sar Channaibanya, Canberra, Australia May 2010]

In 2000, the Asian Women’s Resource Exchange (AWORC) published a report entitled Human Rights in Burma from the Forum News (August 1998) describing that by tradition, Burmese women are maternal self-abnegators, meaning that these women “consistently forego their own needs in order to give their children first priority.” The report also indicated that rural and urban Burmese women were affected by the deteriorating economic climate in Burma. As a result, Burmese families were “increasingly prioritizing the rights of males over females to limited resources.” These changes affected the access of Burmese women to nutrition, medical services, vocational training, and other educational opportunities. Burmese women became unwilling porters and unpaid laborers for the military, including becoming victims of slavery, murder, torture, rape, and attacks. Historically, urban Burmese women “enjoyed high levels of social power” but later became confronted with restrictions on speech and limitations in acquiring high level positions in both private and public offices. According to AWORC, only a few number of Burmese women receive education related to reproductive rights and safe birth control practices, thus making them prone to being infected by HIV and AIDS. [Source: Wikipedia]

“The Myanmar National Committee for Women’s Affairs (MNWCWA) was formed on 3 July 1996 and its patron is Secretary-1 of the State Peace and Development Council General Khin Nyunt. Under MCCWA, the Myanmar National Working Committee for Women Affairs (MNCWA) was established on 7 October 1996. It was followed by the formation of State, Division, District and Township (grass-roots) levels working committees for women’s affairs throughout the country. The working committee has identified six critical areas of concern that are considered to be the most relevant for advancement of Myanmar women. They are education, health, economy, violence against women, the girlchild, and culture. More recently, seventh critical area of concern, i.e. women and environment has been added to the national activities. Myanmar became a State Party to the Convenion on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on 22 July 1997. [Source: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Myanmar]

Myanmar’s Women Forced to Be Chinese Brides

Some girls and young women are kidnaped and taken to China and sold as brides. David Eimer wrote in The Telegraph, “Aba was just 12-years-old when she left her hometown of Muse in Burma to visit Yunnan Province in China’s far southwest. When she crossed the border, she was expecting to spend only a few hours away from home. But it would be three long years before Aba saw her family again. Like thousands of other young girls and women from Burma, she had been duped into coming to China so she could be sold into a forced marriage to one of the growing number of Chinese men who – because there are not enough girl babies born in China – cannot find wives any other way. [Source: David Eimer, The Telegraph, September 4, 2011 <>]

“During her time in China, Aba endured routine beatings, while never being able to communicate with her family or even go outside on her own. Above all, she lived with the knowledge that she was destined to be married to the son of the family that had bought her – as if she was one of the pigs or chickens that ran around their farm. “I was sold for 20,000 Yuan (£1,880),” said Aba. “I was too young to get married when they bought me. It was later that they told me I had to get married to their son. I was lucky in a way. If I had been two or three years older when I was taken, I’d be married to him now.” <>

“Most people wouldn’t consider it fortunate to be kidnapped as a child and sold into virtual slavery. But Aba is one of the lucky ones. Not only did she escape a forced marriage, but she was rescued and was able to return home. For most of the women from Burma who are sold as unwilling brides in China, there are no happy endings. Instead, they face at best lives of misery and drudgery. At worst, they are driven to suicide. No one knows how many thousands of women are trafficked into China each year to be the wives of the men known as guang gun, or bare branches, the bachelors in rural areas who cannot find brides by conventional means. What is certain is that it is a number increasing all the time.

Min Naing, chief of the Special Anti-Human Trafficking Police Unit in Naypyidaw, told The Irrawaddy the root cause of the problem was the shortage of women in China, where decades of the one-child policy has meant there are millions more men than women in the country. Poor Burmese women living in border areas are taken in by promises of a good life, and well paid work, on the other side of the border. The official figures only include cases where Burmese authorities have been able to rescue the victim, and may only represent a fraction of the true number of Burmese women trafficked into China. [Source: Lawi Weng, the Irrawaddy, December 24, 2013]

“Thirty years of China’s one-child policy has combined with the traditional Chinese preference for male children to create a devastating gender imbalance. It is estimated that 120 boys are now born in China for every 100 girls. According to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, that means by 2020 some 24 million men will be unable to find wives. “The one-child policy has had a considerable impact. Where you have a demographic imbalance, you have a situation where women are in demand. Sometimes, that demand is met through legitimate marriage brokers. Other times it is met by non-legitimate means,” said David Feingold, the International Coordinator for HIV/Aids and Trafficking in Unesco’s Bangkok office, and the writer and director of the 2003 documentary Trading Women. <>

Human Trafficking Trade Between China and Myanmar

David Eimer wrote in The Telegraph, “Desperate poverty and frequent food shortages in Myanmar make it very easy for the traffickers to trick women into leaving for China and jobs that will never materialise. Instead, the women are sold as wives. Prices for the women range from 6,000 to 40,000 Yuan (£560-£3750), depending on their age and appearance. According to the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (Kwat), a Thai-based NGO that helps trafficked Burmese women, around 25 per cent of the women sold in China are under 18. “The men always want healthy, young women who can produce babies. The women are really just regarded as baby-making machines,” said Julia Marip, the head of Kwat’s anti-trafficking programme in Yunnan Province. [Source: David Eimer, The Telegraph, September 4, 2011]

Once Aba arrived in Ruili, a scruffy border town in Yunnan that is the main transit point for trafficked women from Burma, she was sold to a family who owned a cotton farm in the northeast of China. Now almost 16 and pretty with a shy smile, Aba is one of three children of a casual labourer and an unemployed mother. Thankfully, Aba escaped being paraded in public in front of potential buyers, which is the fate of many trafficked women. It is a brutal and dehumanising experience. “Sometimes they’ll be sold in markets that are held in parks. The traffickers will put the women in nice dresses and make-up. It’s very cruel, because the women are happy to be wearing nice clothes, which they’ve never had before, and then they are sold like vegetables,” said Miss Marip. <>

Myanmar Woman Endures and Escapes a Forced Marriage in China

“I couldn’t speak Chinese at first, so I couldn’t understand what chores I had to do, so I would make mistakes. Then the mother would beat and slap me,” said Aba. “I was afraid a lot of the time and very lonely because I had no friends to talk to. I cried a lot. In the beginning, they told me gently to stop crying. Later on, they would shout at me when I cried.” [Source: David Eimer, The Telegraph, September 4, 2011]

David Eimer wrote in The Telegraph, “Escaping was not an option; she had no money and no idea where she was in China, while the family made sure she couldn’t slip away. “They watched me all the time. I wasn’t allowed to go out on my own.” One day, she discovered why she was being guarded so closely. She was told that she was to be married to the 20 year-old son of the family. “I had no idea that was why they had taken me until then. I refused but they told me I had to marry him,” said Aba. <>

“Virtually all women sold as forced brides find themselves trapped in what is essentially a marital prison. “Most trafficked women don’t escape. We can’t help them,” said Miss Marip. Faced with the hopelessness of their situations, some choose to end their lives by swallowing the fatal chemical pesticides used on farms, the most common way to commit suicide in the Chinese countryside. <>

“But Aba did avoid a forced marriage. During a routine identity card check in her area, the police discovered that she was a foreigner and she was taken away, just weeks before she was due to be wed. “I explained what had happened to me and the police went to see the family. They told them, ‘You can’t buy people, they’re not animals’. They asked me if I wanted to prosecute them but I said, ‘no’. I just wanted to forget it and go home,” said Aba. <>

“Three years after she had disappeared from her parents’ lives, Aba walked alone across the Chinese/Burmese border and returned to her home. “My parents were very shocked to see me. They started crying and so did I. I was so happy to see them,” said Aba. Her mother and father had tried to find their daughter. “They went to the Muse police and told them I had been kidnapped and taken to China. But the police asked for 6,000 Yuan (£560) to investigate and my parents couldn’t afford to pay,” said Aba. According to Kwat, that is the standard response of the Burmese authorities to cases of trafficked women. On the other side of the border, the Chinese police devote more energy to combating the domestic trafficking of children than they do to investigating the gangs who bring in women from overseas. <>

“Until last year, the tiny minority of trafficked women who do escape were treated as illegal immigrants and imprisoned until they could be repatriated. For Unesco’s David Feingold, there is only so much the authorities can do anyway. “The idea that police enforcement can stop trafficking is ludicrous. The US hasn’t been able to do it and they have almost unlimited resources. You have to address the underlying economic and social issues that prompt migration across borders,” he said. <>

“Aba knows as well as anyone what they are. Four months ago, the high unemployment in Burma saw her return to Ruili illegally in search of a job. Now, she earns 650 Yuan (£60) a month working as a waitress in a restaurant. Her time as a trafficked teenager has left her speaking fluent Mandarin, which enables her to blend in with the locals. Learning Chinese, though, is scant compensation for the three years of her life that was stolen from her. “I still hate the family for what they did to me,” said Aba. “I think I always will.” <>

Police Rescue 56 Burmese Women Trafficked to China

In December 2013, Lawi Weng wrote in the Irrawaddy, “Burma’s national anti-human trafficking police rescued 56 women taken to China against their will in the first 11 months of this year, an official said. Min Naing, chief of the Special Anti-Human Trafficking Police Unit in Naypyidaw, told The Irrawaddy that women taken to China were the largest single group among the 244 people the agency rescued in 2013 up to the end of November. Another 20 cases were women trafficked across the border into Thailand, he said. [Source: Lawi Weng, the Irrawaddy, December 24, 2013 =]

“There were 56 cases from China. They were from Shan State and were trafficked and forced to marry with Chinese men,” said Min Naing. The unit rescued over 100 people trafficked to China last year. He said that in these cases, Chinese men typically bought women from brokers in Burma and took them over the border to marry them. Many of the women were forced to work without pay, and were raped, he said. “It is rare to see they were treated like a wife after they got married. We found that some people who married them sold them to other men for sex,” Min Naing said, added that in some cases there was evidence the rescued women had been tortured while in China. =

“In November, Burmese and Chinese police collaborated to close down a matchmaking agency that was allegedly luring Burmese women in northern Shan State border towns into marriages with Chinese men. The agency’s Chinese manager was deported from Burma after authorities found that the company was recruiting Burmese brides with promises including earnings of $400 per month in China. =

“Among the other cases dealt with by the anti-human trafficking unit this year, 33 involved people under 16 years old and another 25 involved people aged 16-18. The majority of all those trafficked and rescued, 164, were women. There were 75 men and 176 women convicted of crimes in the cases, he said. Under Article 24 of Burma’s Penal Code, a human trafficking conviction carries a sentence of between 10 and 20 years.” =

In 2006, six Myanmar nationals were jailed for life or other “fixed terms” for selling 23 Myanmar girls to Chinese peasants as wives Xinhua reported. The girls were smuggled to Anhui Province in 2005.

Rapes by Myanmar Security Forces in Ethnic Areas

Francis Wade wrote in The Guardian: “At least 13 women, including teenagers, have been subjected to prolonged rape by Burmese security forces in a remote village in the western state of Arakan. Human rights groups have warned that the incident threatens to trigger further violence in a region where several waves of ethno-religious rioting since June last year have killed more than 1,000 people. The women all belong to the Muslim Rohingya minority, which has borne the brunt of fighting between Muslim and Buddhist communities. One victim, an 18-year-old girl who cannot be named for security reasons, described how a group of uniformed soldiers from Burma’s border security unit, known locally as NaSaKa, entered her house in northern Maungdaw township shortly after midnight on 20 February. [Source: Francis Wade, The Guardian, February 26, 2013 ><]

“They took us separately to different places and tortured and raped us,” she said, referring also to her mother and younger sister, 15. The ordeal lasted until dawn, she said. “They came in and out of the house at least 15 times. They also beat my mother with a gun and dragged her outside to the road and beat her to the ground.” According to the victim, 13 people in the village were assaulted. Chris Lewa, head of the Arakan Project, which has monitoring teams in Maungdaw township, said she had separately confirmed that at least 11 people were raped that night. ><

“The incident comes eight months after the rape of a 26-year-old Buddhist woman by three Rohingya men triggered fierce rioting across Arakan state , and a state of emergency remains in place. Arakanese and Rohingya communities have clashed a number of times. Animosity toward the Muslim group is widespread among Arakanese, many of whom consider them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. “Sexual violence by Nasaka against Rohingya women has been documented for many years,” says Matthew Smith, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, adding that prosecutions are rare for rapes committed by security forces. ><

“Khin Ohmar, founder of the Women’s League of Burma, said that such ordeals terrorise the community. “I’ve heard of cases where rape survivors are kicked out of their village because the village head is so scared of retribution if they complain to the Burma army.” She said that incidents like these happen “every time the army moves into remote areas”, and that punishment is normally just transferral to another area “where rape continues but with different women”. She thinks that the 20 February incident probably had its roots in “ethno-centric chauvinism and hatred” of the Rohingya. Following the attacks, villagers fled into nearby forests and across the border into Bangladesh, said Lewa. The victim told the Guardian that she and the other women had received treatment at a local clinic. The extent of their injuries is unclear, although one 19-year-old woman is believed to be in a critical condition. ><

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Travel Information Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy,,, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.



This year’s annual report published by Global Peace Index has shown that Myanmar continues moving in the right direction towards becoming a more peaceful country. Myanmar’s peace rankings have been increasing steadily for the last few years and the 2016 Global Peace Index has ranked it as the 115th most peaceful country in the world. In 2013 Myanmar was ranked 140th, in 2014 136th, and in 2015 it was ranked 130th in the Global Peace Index. In order to decide these rankings a total of 23 different factors are considered which include conflicts being fought by the country, terrorism, military expenditure etc. The study covers 163 countries and this year Iceland was declared as the most peaceful country in the world while Syria was considered to be the least peaceful. Myanmar’s significant increase in rank in the Global Peace Index can be attributed to peaceful elections being conducted in the end of 2015, increasing political stability and the signing of a multiparty cease fire agreement with armed rebel groups.