Myanmar’s stabilisation challenges

Question

What communities in Myanmar are most at risk of violent conflict and displacement and what are the main sources of resilience that are mitigating tensions or preventing conflict from escalating? What role can the international community play in the above?

Summary

The communities currently most at risk of, and affected by, conflict and violence are those living in the Kokang Self-Administered Zone and in other parts of northern Shan State. Other affected communities include those in Kachin, Rakhine, Chin and Kayin States. The community most affected by the threat of forced displacement is the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group, in Rakhine State. The nature of conflict in these areas ranges from occasional to frequent clashes between armed groups and government forces. In addition to armed conflict, Rakhine State suffers from tensions between the Muslim and Buddhist communities.

Sources of resilience include:

  • Institutionalisation of peace-making: Both the previous and current governments declared their commitment to ending conflict in Myanmar. Peace initiatives and inter-faith dialogues have taken place.
  • Myanmar’s considerable economic potential: A number of economic reforms have been undertaken and economic growth is strong, although it has been slowing recently.
  • Strengthened civil society: The previous government’s decision to allow issue-driven CSOs to operate in Myanmar has led to a proliferation of such organisations.
  • Education: The previous government undertook steps to reform the education system in Myanmar in a bid to end discrimination against ethnic minorities.
  • Release of political prisoners: A significant number of political prisoners have been released since the new National League for Democracy led government came to power.
  • Increased press freedom: Extensive media reform has resulted in a proliferation of ‘alternative’ information and has increased scrutiny of the government.

International actors could provide assistance through, for example:

  • technical support for the conclusion, implementation and monitoring of ceasefire agreements;
  • support for an inclusive national political dialogue;
  • various forms of assistance for recovery and development; and
  • support for educational reform.

The report includes detailed recommendations from the literature for international actors.

Suggested citation

Strachan, A.L. (2017). Myanmar’s stabilisation challenges (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.