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TNI-BCN Project on Ethnic Conflict in Burma
Transnational Institute (TNI), Burma Centrum Nederland (BCN)... This joint TNI-BCN project aims to stimulate strategic thinking on addressing ethnic conflict in Burma and to give a voice to ethnic nationality groups who have until now been ignored and isolated in the international debate on the country.

Websites/Multiple Documents

Title: Land Grabbing
Date of publication: 2012
Description/subject: "What rural dwellers in the Global South experience as land grabbing, tends to be seen in the Global North as ‘agricultural investment’. The World Bank has been at the forefront of a drive to legitimate these investments, convening to win support for a code of conduct based on Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) principles. Many key civil society groups reject the proposal for a code of conduct, objecting to the top-down process by which it was formulated and arguing that it was more likely to legitimate than prevent land grabbing. Instead, these groups stood behind the FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines for Responsible Land Investment, which had been under development since the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development in 2009 and had proved a much more inclusive process..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute
Format/size: html, pdf
Date of entry/update: 05 May 2012


Title: TNI-BCN Project on Ethnic Conflict in Burma
Description/subject: This joint TNI-BCN project aims to stimulate strategic thinking on addressing ethnic conflict in Burma and to give a voice to ethnic nationality groups who have until now been ignored and isolated in the international debate on the country.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI), Burma Centrum Nederland (BCN)
Format/size: html. pdf
Date of entry/update: 23 August 2012


Title: Transnational Institute Burma Project
Description/subject: Important papers on Burma/Myanmar including: Financing Dispossession; Ending Burma’s Conflict Cycle?; Conflict or Peace? Ethnic Unrest Intensifies in Burma; Burma's Longest War: Anatomy of the Karen Conflict; Ethnic Politics in Burma: The Time for Solutions; A Changing Ethnic Landscape: Analysis of Burma's 2010 Polls; Unlevel Playing Field: Burma’s Election Landscape; Burma’s 2010 Elections: Challenges and Opportunities; Burma in 2010: A Critical Year in Ethnic Politics...
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute
Format/size: html, pdf
Date of entry/update: 09 March 2012


Title: Transnational Institute: Drugs and Democracy - Related websites and documents: Burma
Description/subject: Useful set of links on drugs and Burma
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute
Format/size: html, pdf
Date of entry/update: 19 July 2009


Individual Documents

Title: Burma’s Ethnic Challenge: From Aspirations to Solution
Date of publication: October 2013
Description/subject: Conclusion: "Ultimately, it must be for Burma’s peoples to decide their political future. As in previous times of change, the present landscape looks uncertain and complex. But for the first time in decades, the issues of peace, democracy and promises of ethnic equality agreed at Burma’s independence are back for national debate and attracting international attention. This marks an important change from the preceding years of conflict and malaise under military rule, and expectations are currently high. It is vital therefore that opportunities are not lost and that the present generation of leaders succeed in achieving peace and justice where others before them have failed. Realism and honesty about the tasks ahead are essential. Burma’s leaders and parties, on all sides of the political and ethnic spectrum, still have much to achieve.".....Recommendations: "To end the legacy of state failure, the present time of national transition must be used for inclusive solutions that involve all peoples of Burma. The most important changes in national politics have started in many decades. Now all sides have to halt military operations and engage in sociopolitical dialogue that includes government, military, ethnic, political and civil society representatives. Political agreements will be essential to achieve lasting peace, democracy and ethnic rights. National reconciliation and equality must be the common aim. The divisive tradition of different agreements and processes with different ethnic and political groups must end. In building peace and democracy, peoplecentred and pro-poor economic reforms are vital. Land-grabbing must halt, and development programmes should be appropriate, sustainable and undertaken with the consent of the local peoples. Humanitarian aid should be prioritized for the most needy and vulnerable communities and not become a source of political advantage or division. As peace develops, internally displaced persons and refugees must be supported to return to their places of origin and to rebuild divided societies in the ethnic borderlands. The international community must play a neutral and supportive role in the achievement of peace and democracy. National reform is at an early stage, and it is vital that ill-planned strategies or investments do not perpetuate political failures and ethnic injustice."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI), Burma Centrum Nederland
Format/size: pdf (1.13MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs16/TNI-Burma%92s_Ethnic_Challenge-From_Aspirations_to_Solution-en.p...
Date of entry/update: 07 December 2013


Title: Access Denied - Land Rights and Ethnic Conflict in Burma
Date of publication: May 2013
Description/subject: The reform process in Burma/Myanmar by the quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein has raised hopes that a long overdue solution can be found to more than 60 years of devastating civil war... Burma’s ethnic minority groups have long felt marginalized and discriminated against, resulting in a large number of ethnic armed opposition groups fighting the central government – dominated by the ethnic Burman majority – for ethnic rights and autonomy. The fighting has taken place mostly in Burma’s borderlands, where ethnic minorities are most concentrated. Burma is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries. Ethnic minorities make up an estimated 30-40 percent of the total population, and ethnic states occupy some 57 percent of the total land area and are home to poor and often persecuted ethnic minority groups. Most of the people living in these impoverished and war-torn areas are subsistence farmers practicing upland cultivation. Economic grievances have played a central part in fuelling the civil war. While the central government has been systematically exploiting the natural resources of these areas, the money earned has not been (re)invested to benefit the local population... Conclusions and Recommendations: The new land and investment laws benefit large corporate investors and not small- holder farmers, especially in ethnic minority regions, and do not take into account land rights of ethnic communities. The new ceasefires have further facilitated land grabbing in conflict-affected areas where large development projects in resource-rich ethnic regions have already taken place. Many ethnic organisations oppose large-scale economic projects in their territories until inclusive political agreements are reached. Others reject these projects outright. Recognition of existing customary and communal tenure systems in land, water, fisheries and forests is crucial to eradicate poverty and build real peace in ethnic areas; to ensure sustainable livelihoods for marginalized ethnic communities affected by decades of war; and to facilitate the voluntary return of IDPs and refugees. Land grabbing and unsustainable business practices must halt, and decisions on the allocation, use and management of natural resources and regional development must have the participation and consent of local communities. Local communities must be protected by the government against land grabbing. The new land and investment laws should be amended and serve the needs and rights of smallholder farmers, especially in ethnic regions.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI), Burma Centre Netherlands
Format/size: pdf (161K-OBL version; 3.22MB-original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/accesdenied-briefing11.pdf
Date of entry/update: 14 May 2013


Title: FPIC Fever: Ironies and Pitfalls
Date of publication: May 2013
Description/subject: Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)... Text box extracted from "Access Denied - Land Rights and Ethnic Conflict in Burma" by TNI/BCN, May 2013 at http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs15/TNI-accesdenied-briefing11-red.pdf
Author/creator: Jennifer Franco,
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI), Burma Centre Netherlands
Format/size: pdf (44K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs15/TNI-accesdenied-briefing11-red.pdf
Date of entry/update: 17 May 2013


Title: The Kachin Crisis: Peace Must Prevail
Date of publication: March 2013
Description/subject: Conclusions and Recommendations: * The government should halt all offensive operations against the KIO and other armed ethnic forces. Armed conflict will worsen, not resolve, Burma’s ethnic and political crises. The violence contradicts promises to achieve reform through dialogue, and undermines democratic and economic progress for the whole country. * Ethnic peace must be prioritised as an integral part of political, economic and constitutional reform. Dialogue must be established to include ethnic groups that are outside the national political system. * Restrictions on humanitarian aid to the victims of conflict must be lifted. With hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in the ethnic borderlands, a long-term effort is required to ensure that aid truly reaches to the most vulnerable and needy peoples as part of any process of peace-building. * Economic and development programmes must benefit local peoples. Land-grabbing and unsustainable business practices must halt, and decisions on the use of natural resources and regional development must have the participation of local communities and representatives. * The international community must play an informed and neutral role in supporting ethnic peace and political reform. Human rights’ progress remains essential, all ethnic groups should be included, and economic investments made only with the consultation of local peoples.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI), Burma Centre Netherlands
Format/size: pdf (430K)
Date of entry/update: 12 March 2013


Title: Developing Disparity - Regional Investment in Burma’s Borderlands
Date of publication: 21 February 2013
Description/subject: "Burma has entered a pivotal stage in its political and economic development. The advent of a new quasi-civilian government has raised the prospect of fundamental reforms. This has sparked great investment interest among governments and the private sector in the region and beyond, to extract the country’s natural-resource wealth, and to develop large-scale infrastructure projects to establish strategic ‘corridors’ to connect Burma to the wider economic region. The country is touted as Asia’s “final frontier” for resources and investment and as Asia’s next “economic tiger”. These large scale investment projects focus on the borderlands, where most of the natural resources in Burma are found. These areas are home to poor and often marginalised ethnic minority groups, and have been at the centre of more than 60 years of civil war in Burma – the longest running in the world. These war-torn borderlands are now in the international spotlight as regions of great potential but continuing poverty and grave humanitarian concern. The report warns that foreign investment in these resource-rich yet conflict-ridden ethnic borderlands is likely to be as important as domestic politics in shaping Burma’s future. Such investment is not conflict-neutral and has in some cases fuelled local grievances and stimulated ethnic conflict. Economic grievances among ethnic groups – often tied to resource extraction from the borderlands to sustain the government and business elites – have played a central part in fuelling the civil war. While regional investment could potentially foster economic growth and improve people’s livelihoods, the country has yet to develop the institutional and governance capacity to manage the expected windfall. Burma is emerging from decades under military rule, and the foreign-funded mega projects have not, to date, benefited local communities. Land-grabbing has increased, and the recent economic laws and new urban wealth have not brought about tangible improvements for the poor. If local communities are to benefit from the reforms, there need to be new types of investment and processes of implementation. The government should direct investment towards people-centred development that benefits household economies. There is a need to resolve conflict through dialogue and reconciliation. These are the hallmarks of a robust and healthy democracy. In their absence, the development of Asia’s final frontier will only deepen disparity between the region’s most neglected peoples and the new military, business and political elites whose wealth is rapidly increasing."
Author/creator: John Buchanan, Tom Kramer and Kevin Woods (Series Editor, Martin Smith)
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI), Burma Centre Netherlands
Format/size: pdf (1.7MB-OBL version; 3.37K-original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs14/Burmasborderlands-red.pdf
Date of entry/update: 21 February 2013


Title: Land Grabbing in Dawei (Myanmar/Burma): a (Inter) National Human Rights Concern
Date of publication: September 2012
Description/subject: "Land grabbing is an urgent concern for people in Tanintharyi Division, and ultimately one of national and international concern, as tens of thousands of people are being displaced for the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Dawei lies within Myanmar’s (Burma) southernmost region, the Tanintharyi Division, which borders Mon State to the North, and Thailand to the East, on territory that connects the Malay Peninsula with mainland Asia. This highly populated and prosperous region is significant because of its ecologically-diversity and strategic position along the Andaman coast. Since 2008 the area has been at risk of massive expulsion of people and unprecedented environmental costs, when a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Thai and Myanmar governments, followed by a MoU between Thai investor Italian-Thai Development Corporation (ITD) (see Box 1) and Myanma Port Authority, granted ITD access to the Dawei region to build Asia’s newest regional hub. Thai interest in Dawei is strategic for two reasons. First, the small city happens to be Bangkok’s nearest gateway to the Andaman Sea, and ultimately to India and the Middle East. Second, the project links with a broader regional development plan, strategically plugging into the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) East-West Economic Corridor, a massive transport and trade network connecting Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam; the Southern Economic Corridor (connecting to Cambodia); and the North-South Economic Corridor, with rail links to Kunming, China. If all goes as planned, the Dawei SEZ project, with an estimated infrastructural investment of over USD $50 billion will be Southeast Asia’s largest industrial complex, complete with a deep seaport, industrial estate (including large petrochemical industrial complex, heavy industry zone, oil and gas industry, as well as medium and light industries), and a road/pipeline/rail link that will extend 350 kilometers to Bangkok (via Kanchanaburi). The project even has its own legal framework, the Dawei Special Economic Zone Law, drafted in 2011 to ensure the industrial estate is attractive to potential investors..."
Author/creator: Elizabeth Loewen
Language: English
Source/publisher: Paung Ku and Transnational Institute (TNI)
Format/size: pdf (164K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.tni.org
Date of entry/update: 15 October 2012


Title: Prospects for Ethnic Peace and Political Participation in Burma/Myanmar, Bangkok, July 8-9, 2012: Conference Report
Date of publication: 09 July 2012
Description/subject: "In July, TNI-BCN hosted a two-day conference, involving a diversity of ethnic groups from different areas of Burma/Myanmar, with the theme “prospects for ethnic peace and political participation”. Those taking part included 30 representatives from Burmese civil society, parliament and armed opposition groups. Political events in Burma are continuing to unfold rapidly, but reform is still at a tentative and early stage. Under the Thein Sein government, Burma has entered its fourth era of political transition since independence in 1948. Previous hopes for ethnic peace and the establishment of democratic structures and processes have been disappointed. A military coup in 1962 ended the post-independence parliamentary era, and the national armed forces (Tatmadaw) have dominated every form of government since. Meanwhile conflict has continued unabated in the ethnic borderlands. In recent months, new trends – many of them positive – have begun to reshape the landscape of national politics. Ceasefires have been agreed with the majority of armed ethnic forces; the National League for Democracy (NLD) has elected representatives in the national legislatures; Western sanctions are gradually being lifted; and the World Bank and other international agencies are returning to set up office in the country. Such developments are likely to have a defining impact on ethnic politics, which remains one of the central challenges facing the country today"..."In summary, Burma is now at a sensitive stage in its political transition. Under the Thein Sein government, encouraging prospects for the future have undoubtedly emerged. But reform is still at a very early stage, and there should be no underestimation of the difficult challenges that lie ahead. Ethnic conflict and military-dominated government continue in many areas and, after decades of division, intensive efforts are still required to bring about an inclusive and lasting peace. A new parliamentary system is in place, but further attention will be needed on such issues as electoral, census, land tenure rights, education, investment and economic reform to guarantee the rights of all peoples. Independent institutions must also strive to grow in an environment where power and decision-making are often in the hands of small elites. And, as events move quickly, it is vital that all parts of the country are included. The history of state failure has long warned of the debilitating consequences of political and ethnic exclusions."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute, Burma Centrum Nederland
Format/size: pdf (268K)
Date of entry/update: 23 August 2012


Title: Burma at the Crossroads - Maintaining the Momentum for Reform
Date of publication: June 2012
Description/subject: Conclusions and Recommendations: "* After decades of division in national politics, the recent steps towards reconciliation and democratic reform by the Thein Sein government are welcome. The participation of the National League for Democracy in the April by-elections, new ceasefires with armed ethnic opposition groups and prioritization of economic reforms are all initiatives that can contribute to the establishment of peace and democracy. * The momentum for reform must now continue. Remaining political prisoners must be released; a sustainable ceasefire achieved with the Kachin Independence Organisation and other armed opposition groups; and the provision of humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons and other vulnerable peoples needs to be accelerated. * The 2015 general election is likely to mark the next major milestone in national politics. In the meantime, it is vital that processes are established by which political reform and ethnic peace can be inclusively developed. Burma is at the beginning of change – not at the end. * The international community should support policies that encourage reconciliation and reform, and which do not cause new divisions. Burma’s needs are many, but local and national organisations are ready to respond. Aid priority should be given to health, education, poverty alleviation, displaced persons and other humanitarian concerns."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute, Burma Centrum Nederland (Burma Policy Briefing Nr 9)
Format/size: pdf (279K-OBL version; 496K-original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/bpb9.pdf
Date of entry/update: 06 June 2012


Title: Why peace and land security is key to Burma's democratic future - Interview with Tom Kramer
Date of publication: May 2012
Description/subject: Analysis of the social costs of large-scale Chinese-supported rubber farms in northern Burma suggests that the future for ordinary citizens will be affected as much by the country's chosen economic path as the political reforms underway.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI)
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 09 September 2012


Title: Assessing Burma/Myanmar’s New Government - Challenges and Opportunities for European Policy Responses
Date of publication: 09 March 2012
Description/subject: Amsterdam, 22 & 23 February 2012 "A two-day conference under Chatham House rule was organized on 22-23 February in Amsterdam by BCN-TNI to assess ongoing social and political changes in Burma/Myanmar under the government of President Thein Sein. Sixty people at­tended, including representatives of Bur­mese civil society as well as international non-governmental organisations, diplo­mats and academics.Burma/Myanmar is in the midst of its most important period of political transition in over two decades. Previous times of government change since independence have led to conflict and division rather than inclusion and national progress. Thus the conference focused on developments in five key areas – politics, ethnic relations, the economy, social and humanitarian affairs, and the international landscape – in order to consider the challenges and opportunities that present changes bring. Analysis during the conference reflected the rapid speed of recent change, welcoming the potential that this provides for reconciliation and addressing long-neglected needs. But progress also requires realism and the inclusion of all citizens to foster stability and national advancement. The rapprochement between the government and National League for Democracy, promised economic change and recent spread of ethnic ceasefires are providing grounds for optimism that Burma/Myanmar could be embarking on a road to democratisation and reform. Western governments are keen to support such processes. But the social and political landscape is uneven, with differences between Yangon, for example, and the rest of the country. Burma/Myanmar is at the beginning of a new time of socio-political change – not at an end. It is thus essential that domestic and international policies are reflective of realities and support inclusive reform. The divisions and state failures of the past must not be repeated. In politics, the new government under President Thein Sein appears determined to make the new constitutional system work. Censorship has reduced; many political prisoners have been released; and the door opened to political exiles and international critics. But there remain many uncertainties about how the new political system will evolve. Through the Union Solidarity Development Party, a governmental transition has taken place from the military State Peace and Development Council. But it is unclear how the NLD, ethnic and other opposition parties will fit into the political process. Peace talks in the coming month and parliamentary by-elections on 1 April may answer some of these questions. But, in the meantime, there are many shades of grey in the functioning of government..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute, Burma Centrum Nederland (Burma Policy Briefing Nr 8)
Format/size: pdf (206K)
Date of entry/update: 09 March 2012


Title: Ending Burma’s Conflict Cycle? Prospects for Ethnic Peace
Date of publication: February 2012
Description/subject: Conclusions and Recommendations: * The new cease-fire talks initiated by the Thein Sein government are a significant break with the failed ethnic policies of the past and should be welcomed. However, the legacy of decades of war and oppression has created deep mistrust among different ethnic nationality communities, and ethnic conflict cannot be solved overnight. * A halt to all offensive military operations and human rights abuses against local civilians must be introduced and maintained. * The government has promised ethnic peace talks at the national level, but has yet to provide details on the process or set out a timetable. In order to end the conflict and to achieve true ethnic peace, the current talks must move beyond simply establishing new cease-fires. * It is vital that the process towards ethnic peace and justice is sustained by political dialogue at the national level, and that key ethnic grievances and aspirations are addressed. * There are concerns about economic development in the conflict zones and ethnic borderlands as a follow-up to the peace agreements, as events and models in the past caused damage to the environment and local livelihoods, generating further grievances. Failures from the past must be identified and addressed. * Peace must be understood as an overarching national issue, which concerns citizens of all ethnic groups in the country, including the Burman majority.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute, Burma Centrum Nederland (Burma Policy Briefing Nr 8)
Format/size: pdf (272K - OBL version; 457K - original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/bpb8.pdf
Date of entry/update: 21 February 2012


Title: Financing Dispossession - China’s Opium Substitution Programme in Northern Burma
Date of publication: February 2012
Description/subject: "Northern Burma’s borderlands have undergone dramatic changes in the last two decades. Three main and interconnected developments are simultaneously taking place in Shan State and Kachin State: (1) the increase in opium cultivation in Burma since 2006 after a decade of steady decline; (2) the increase at about the same time in Chinese agricultural investments in northern Burma under China’s opium substitution programme, especially in rubber; and (3) the related increase in dispossession of local communities’ land and livelihoods in Burma’s northern borderlands. The vast majority of the opium and heroin on the Chinese market originates from northern Burma. Apart from attempting to address domestic consumption problems, the Chinese government also has created a poppy substitution development programme, and has been actively promoting Chinese companies to take part, offering subsidies, tax waivers, and import quotas for Chinese companies. The main benefits of these programmes do not go to (ex-)poppy growing communities, but to Chinese businessmen and local authorities, and have further marginalised these communities. Serious concerns arise regarding the long-term economic benefits and costs of agricultural development— mostly rubber—for poor upland villagers. Economic benefits derived from rubber development are very limited. Without access to capital and land to invest in rubber concessions, upland farmers practicing swidden cultivation (many of whom are (ex-) poppy growers) are left with few alternatives but to try to get work as wage labourers on the agricultural concessions. Land tenure and other related resource management issues are vital ingredients for local communities to build licit and sustainable livelihoods. Investment-induced land dispossession has wide implications for drug production and trade, as well as border stability. Investments related to opium substitution should be carried out in a more sustainable, transparent, accountable and equitable fashion. Customary land rights and institutions should be respected. Chinese investors should use a smallholder plantation model instead of confiscating farmers land as a concession. Labourers from the local population should be hired rather than outside migrants in order to funnel economic benefits into nearby communities. China’s opium crop substitution programme has very little to do with providing mechanisms to decrease reliance on poppy cultivation or provide alternative livelihoods for ex-poppy growers. Chinese authorities need to reconsider their regional development strategies of implementation in order to avoid further border conflict and growing antagonism from Burmese society. Financing dispossession is not development."
Author/creator: Tom Kramer & Kevin Woods
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI)
Format/size: pdf (2.7MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/tni-financingdispossesion-web.pdf
Date of entry/update: 23 February 2012


Title: Conflict or Peace? Ethnic Unrest Intensifies in Burma
Date of publication: June 2011
Description/subject: "...The breakdown in the ceasefire of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) with the central government represents a major failure in national politics and threatens a serious humanitarian crisis if not immediately addressed. Over 11,000 refugees have been displaced and dozens of casualties reported during two weeks of fighting between government forces and the KIO. Thousands of troops have been mobilized, bridges destroyed and communications disrupted, bringing hardship to communities across northeast Burma/Myanmar.1 There is now a real potential for ethnic conflict to further spread. In recent months, ceasefires have broken down with Karen and Shan opposition forces, and the ceasefire of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) in south Burma is under threat. Tensions between the government and United Wa State Army (UWSA) also continue. It is essential that peace talks are initiated and grievances addressed so that ethnic conflict in Burma does not spiral into a new generation of militarised violence and human rights abuse..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI) & Burma Centrum Nederland (BCN). Burma Policy Briefing Nr 7, June 2011
Format/size: pdf (407K)
Date of entry/update: 25 June 2011


Title: Burma's New Government: Prospects for Governance and Peace in Ethnic States
Date of publication: 29 May 2011
Description/subject: Conclusions and Recommendations: * Two months after a new government took over the reins of power in Burma, it is too early to make any definitive assessment of the prospects for improved governance and peace in ethnic areas. Initial signs give some reason for optimism, but the difficulty of overcoming sixty years of conflict and strongly-felt grievances and deep suspicions should not be underestimated... * The economic and geostrategic realities are changing fast, and they will have a fundamental impact – positive and negative – on Burma’s borderlands. But unless ethnic communities are able to have much greater say in the governance of their affairs, and begin to see tangible benefits from the massive development projects in their areas, peace and broadbased development will remain elusive... * The new decentralized governance structures have the potential to make a positive contribution in this regard, but it is unclear if they can evolve into sufficiently powerful and genuinely representative bodies quickly enough to satisfy ethnic * There has been renewed fighting in Shan State, and there are warning signs that more ethnic ceasefires could break down. Negotiations with armed groups and an improved future for long-marginalized ethnic populations is the only way that peace can be achieved.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI) & Burma Centrum Nederland (BCN). Burma Policy Briefing Nr 6, May 2011
Format/size: pdf (352K - OBL version; 1.1MB - original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/bpb6.pdf
Date of entry/update: 30 May 2011


Title: Burma's Longest War: Anatomy of the Karen Conflict
Date of publication: 28 March 2011
Description/subject: "Political grievances among Karen and other ethnic nationality communities, which have driven over half a century of armed conflict in Burma/Myanmar, remain unresolved. As the country enters a period of transition following the November 2010 elections and formation of a new government, the Karen political landscape is undergoing its most significant changes in a generation. There is a pressing need for Karen social and political actors to demonstrate their relevance to the new political and economic agendas in Burma, and in particular to articulate positions regarding the major economic and infrastructure development projects to be implemented in the coming years. The country's best-known insurgent organisation, the Karen National Union (KNU), is in crisis, having lost control of its once extensive 'liberated zones’, and lacks a political agenda relevant to all Karen communities. Meanwhile the government's demand that ceasefire groups, such as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, transform into Border Guard Forces under direct Burma Army control throws into question the future of various armed groups that have split from the KNU since the 1990s. In this context, Thailand-Burma border areas have seen an upsurge in fighting since late 2010. Nevertheless, the long-term prospect is one of the decline of insurgency as a viable political or military strategy. Equitable solutions to Burma's social, political and economic problems must involve settling long-standing conflicts between ethnic communities and the state. While Aung San Suu Kyi, the popular leader of the country's democracy movement, seems to recognise this fact, the military government, which holds most real power in the country, has sought to suppress and assimilate minority communities. It is yet to be seen whether Karen and other ethnic nationality representatives elected in November 2010 will be able to find the political space within which to exercise some influence on local or national politics. In the meantime, civil society networks operating within and between Karen and other ethnic nationality communities represent vehicles for positive, incremental change, at least at local levels."
Author/creator: Ashley South
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute, Burma Centrum Nederland
Format/size: pdf (2MB - OBL version; 2.3MB - original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs11/TNI-BurmasLongestWar-AshleySouth-red.pdf
Date of entry/update: 29 March 2011


Title: Ethnic Politics in Burma: The Time for Solutions
Date of publication: February 2011
Description/subject: Conclusions and Recommendations: * An inclusive endgame has long been needed to achieve national reconciliation. But political and ethnic exclusions are continuing in national politics. If divisions persist, Burma’s legacy of state failure and national under-achievement will continue... * The moment of opportunity of a new government should not be lost. It is vital that the new government pursues policies that support dialogue and participation for all peoples in the new political and economic system. Policies that favour the armed forces and military solutions will perpetuate divisions and instability... * Opposition groups must face how their diversity and disunity have contributed to Burma’s history of state failure. If they are to support democratic and ethnic reforms, national participation and unity over goals and tactics are essential. All sides must transcend the divisions of the past... * As the new political era begins, the international community should prioritise policies that promote conflict resolution, political rights and equitable opportunity for all ethnic groups in national life, including the economy, health and education. Continued repression and exclusion will deepen grievances – not resolve them.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI) & Burma Centrum Nederland (BCN). Burma Policy Briefing Nr 5, February 2011
Format/size: pdf (462K - OBL version; 1.26 - original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/TNI-BCN%20Burma%20policy%20briefing%20no.%205.p...
Date of entry/update: 30 May 2011


Title: A Changing Ethnic Landscape: Analysis of Burma's 2010 Polls
Date of publication: December 2010
Description/subject: "...The elections held in Burma on 7 November 2010 were not free and fair. The manipulation of the vote count was even more blatant than those parties and individuals who decided to participate, despite the unlevel playing field, had expected. This has severely limited the opposition’s representation in the legislatures, and it has seriously damaged the credibility of the new government to be formed in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, the significance of the elections should not be underestimated. This was a point made in advance of the elections by many opposition parties that took part, that they were participating not out of any misguided sense that the polls would be credible, but because of the important structural shifts the elections should bring: a generational transition within the military leadership, an array of new constitutional and political structures, and some space to openly debate political issues. A positive evolution is not inevitable, but those major changes present new opportunities that should be recognized and utilized. The release of Aung San Suu Kyi also presents important opportunities for the country, even if the motives behind it may have been questionable. This paper provides an overview of the final election results, and discusses the implications for the functioning of the legislatures. While the regime-created Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) together with the armed forces have overwhelming control of the national legislatures and the legislatures in the Burman-majority regions, the picture is more complex in the ethnic-state legislatures. The main focus of this paper is on the opportunities that may exist for improving the governance of ethnic areas. In this respect, the relative success of some ethnic parties must be set against the fact that several others were excluded from the elections, and that a dangerous confrontation continues between the government and several ceasefire groups..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute, Burma Centrum Nederland
Format/size: pdf (176K)
Date of entry/update: 15 December 2010


Title: Unlevel Playing Field: Burma’s Election Landscape
Date of publication: 01 October 2010
Description/subject: Conclusions and Recommendations: "• The elections will be Burma's most defining political moment for a generation. However the electoral process lacks democratic and ethnic inclusion. Without such inclusion, the country's political crises are likely to continue. • The electoral playing field is tilted in favour of the regime’s USDP due to strict regulations on registration, the cost of registering candidates, and the limited time for parties to organize. • Even if the voting is fair, ‘establishment’ parties, together with military appointees, are likely to control a majority of seats in the new legislatures. 37 political parties will participate in the elections. But most have small regional or ethnic support bases. • Despite the restrictions, democratic opposition parties participating in the polls want to make the best use of the limited space available. The elections begin new arrangements and contests in Burmese politics, which will play out over several years. Outcomes remain unpredictable. • Ethnic exclusion and lack of polls in many minority areas mean that the election will not resolve the country's ethnic conflicts. The regime’s promotion of Border Guard Forces rather than political dialogue with armed opposition groups has also increased tensions. To establish peace, there must be equitable participation, bringing rights and benefits to all peoples and regions."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute, Burma Centrum Nederland (Burma Policy Briefing Nr 3 October 2010)
Format/size: pdf (160K)
Date of entry/update: 01 October 2010


Title: Withdrawal Symptoms - Changes in the Southeast Asian drugs market
Date of publication: August 2008
Description/subject: The Golden Triangle is closing a dramatic period of opium reduction”, wrote UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa in his preface to the 2007 survey on Opium Poppy Cultivation in South East Asia. “A decade long process of drug control is clearly paying off.” According to the survey, the region produced one-third of world opium production in 1998, now down to only about 5 percent. The once notorious region “can no longer be called Golden Triangle on the reason of opium production alone.” There has clearly been a significant decline in opium production in Southeast Asia over the past decade in spite of a resurgence in Burma (Myanmar) in the last two years. In this study, we try to assess the causes and consequences, and come to the conclusion that the region is suffering a variety of ‘withdrawal symptoms’, leaving little reason for optimism. The rapid decline has caused major suffering among former poppy growing communities in Burma and Laos, making it difficult to characterise developments as a ‘success story’. Meanwhile, the market of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) has increased rapidly and higher heroin prices are leading to shifts in consumer behaviour. While the total numbers of opium and heroin users may be going down, many have started to inject and others have shifted to a cocktail of pharmaceutical replacements, representing largely unknown health risks. Confronted with harsh domestic repression and little support from the international community, both farmers and users in the region are struggling to find coping strategies to deal with the rapid changes. Drug control officials have presumed that reducing opium production would automatically lead to a reduction in drug consumption and drugrelated problems. The reality in Southeast Asia proves them wrong. Had quality treatment services been in place, more drug users may have chosen that option. In the absence of adequate health care and within a highly repressive law enforcement environment, however, most are forced to find their own ‘solutions’. Harm reduction services are still only accessible to a tiny proportion of those who need them in the region, even though most countries have now adopted the basic principles in their policy framework. China, especially, has started to significantly scale up needle exchange and methadone programmes to prevent a further spreading of blood-borne infections. In 1998, the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting signed the declaration for a Drug-Free ASEAN by 2020 and two years later even decided to bring forward the target year to 2015. Countries elaborated national plans to comply with the deadline putting huge pressure on rural communities to abandon poppy cultivation and traditional opium use and on police to arrest as many users and traders as possible. This also led to the 2003 ‘war on drugs’ in Thailand in which thousands of drug users and small-scale traders were killed. The 2008 status report on progress achieved towards making ASEAN and China drug-free, “identifies an overall rising trend in the abuse of drugs”, however, and acknowledges that “a target of zero drugs for production, trafficking and consumption of illicit drugs in the region by 2015 is obviously unattainable”. This TNI publication makes extensive use of the research carried out by our team of fifteen researchers working in Burma, Thailand, Laos and Yunnan province in China. Hundreds of interviews were conducted with farmers, users and traders. We cannot thank them enough for their motivation and courage. Most prefer to remain anonymous and continue their research to detect new trends and help fill gaps in knowledge that have become apparent while writing this first report. A more detailed publication incorporating their latest findings is due at the end of this year. We intend to discuss our outcomes with authorities, civil society and researchers in the region with a view to contributing to a better understanding of the changes taking place in the regional drugs market and to design more effective and humane drug policy responses for the future.
Author/creator: Tom Kramer, Martin Jelsma
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI) Debate Papers No. 16
Format/size: pdf (688K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.idpc.net/publications/changes-in-southeast-asian-drugs-market
Date of entry/update: 11 August 2010


Title: HIV/AIDS and drug use in Burma/Myanmar
Date of publication: May 2006
Description/subject: "...The simultaneous spread of HIV/AIDS and the growing number of injecting drug users is fuelling the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Current pro-grammes reach only a small proportion of IDUs with harm reduction interventions. There are no existing programmes available for IDUs who are sexually active to protect themselves and their sexual partners from HIV. The second major risk group are sex workers. Current programmes reach only a very small number of them, and the number of AIDS deaths among them is estimated to be high. In order to effectively address the spiralling numbers of HIV/AIDS infected drug users, is it extremely important for all stakeholders involved to acknowledge the HIV/AIDS epi-demic and the need for harm reduction poli-cies. It is key for all sides to de-politicise HIV/AIDS. The international community needs to make a firm international commitment to stem and reverse the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Burma. It should ensure sufficient and long-term financial support for HIV/AIDS and harm reduction programmes. The SPDC needs to provide adequate space for humanitarian aid to take place. The new guidelines that have been proposed by the government should be amended to ensure direct and unhindered access for interna-tional aid agencies to local communities. The space for initial harm reduction initiatives is encouraging, but needs to be scaled up in order to be effective. Perhaps the most serious shortcoming how-ever is the fact that local community-based organisations in Burma have not been able to participate in the debate about interna-tional humanitarian aid to Burma. In parti-cular, in the discussions about the funding for programmes on HIV/AIDS, People Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), and drug users or the organisations that represent them, have not been consulted or been able to partici-pate in the formulation of polices and deci-sion-making processes that have such tre-mendous impact on their health, livelihoods and lives. The international community should also support and strengthen efforts by drug us-ers and PLWHA to organise themselves. This will enable them to voice their opinion and represent their interests better at the local as well as international level. It will also contribute to civil society building and de-mocratisation in the country."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute/Burma Centre Netherlands
Format/size: pdf (354 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/brief17.pdf
Date of entry/update: 11 August 2010


Title: Downward Spiral: Banning Opium in Afghanistan and Burma
Date of publication: June 2005
Description/subject: "...Opium farmers in Afghanistan and Burma are coming under huge pressure as local authorities implement bans on the cultivation of poppy. Banning opium has an immediate and profound impact on the livelihoods of more than 4 million people.These bans are a response to pressure from the international community. Afghan and Burmese authorities alike are urging the international community to accompany their pressure with substantial aid. For political reasons, levels of humanitarian and alternative development aid are very different between the two countries. The international community has pledged several hundred millions for rural development in poppy growing regions in Afghanistan. In sharp contrast, pledged support that could soften the crisis in poppy regions in Burma is less than $15 million, leaving an urgent shortfall. Opium growing regions in both countries will enter a downward spiral of poverty because of the ban.The reversed sequencing of first forcing farmers out of poppy cultivation before ensuring other income opportunities is a grave mistake.Aggressive drug control efforts against farmers and small-scale opium traders, and forced eradication operations in particular, also have a negative impact on prospects for peace and democracy in both countries. In neither Afghanistan nor Burma have farmers had any say at all in these policies from which they stand to suffer most. It is vital that local communities and organisations that represent them are given a voice in the decision-making process that has such a tremendous impact on their livelihoods..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI)
Format/size: pdf (340.59 K)
Date of entry/update: 11 August 2010


Title: DRUGS AND CONFLICT IN BURMA (MYANMAR): Dilemmas for Policy Responses
Date of publication: December 2003
Description/subject: "Burma is on the brink of yet another humanitarian crisis. In the Kokang region, an opium ban was enforced last year, and by mid-2005 no more poppy growing will be allowed in the Wa region. Banning opium in these Shan State regions adds another chapter to the long and dramatic history of drugs, conflict and human suffering. TNI tries to bring nuance to the polarised debate on the Rangoon-focussed political agenda, the demonising of the ceasefire groups and repressive drug policy approaches. Hundreds of thousands of farmers who depend on the opium economy risk being sacrificed in an effort to comply with international pressures about drug-free deadlines. Community livelihoods face being crushed between the pincers of the opium ban and tightened sanctions. The unfolding drama caused by the opium bans is forcing the international community to rethink its strategies. Enforcement of tight deadlines will result in major food shortages and may jeopardise the fragile social stability in the areas. To sustain the gradual decline in opium production, alternative sources of income for basic subsistence farmers have to be secured. Without adequate resources, the longer-term sustainability of ‘quick solutions’ is highly questionable. Since military authorities are eager to comply with promises made, law enforcement repression is likely to increase, with human rights abuses and more displacement a potential outcome. The only viable and humane option lies in a simultaneous easing of drug control deadline pressures and increasing international humanitarian aid efforts. Both require stronger international engagement of a different kind to that we have seen so far."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute
Format/size: pdf (1.5MB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.tni.org/archives/reports/debate9.pdf
Date of entry/update: 11 August 2010


Title: "Axe-handles or willing minions?" International NGOs in Burma
Date of publication: 05 December 1997
Description/subject: "The issue of how International Non Governmental organisations (INGOs) should approach operating in Burma is a thorny one. This was particularly so in the early 1990s. Many development workers and the expatriate democracy movement felt that an NGO presence would provide the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)[i], with much needed legitimacy. Warnings were sounded: INGOs would fall prey to the SLORC's manipulation, aid would be stolen and sold to profit the government, INGOs would be used in SLORC propaganda and meaningful development would not reach those it was intended for. They would become “willing minions” executing the SLORC’s agendas. INGOs were urged that their priority should be the large refugee populations in neighbouring countries who were the most visible and accessible victims of the SLORC's misrule. Despite the heat of the debate in 1993, some fifteen INGOs have entered Burma and more continue to arrive to explore the environment (and some have subsequently withdraw).[ii] What has their experience been? As Burma approaches its thirty-fifth year of military rule, what are the issues for INGOs wanting to work with Burmese? What possibilities could be explored for facilitating the growth of civil society? What attitude should INGOs adopt towards the democracy movement inside Burma? This paper examines these questions, with a focus on INGO experience, and begins by outlining a theoretical model for understanding the variety of INGOs and how their approach to operating in Burma might be categorised..."... This paper is one of four presented at the conference organised by TNI and the Burma Centrum Nederland on December 4 and 5, 1997 in the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, 'Strengthening Civil Society in Burma. Possibilities and Dilemmas for International NGOs'. A book of the same name, containing edited versions of the papers, an introduction and notes on the authors was subsequently published by Silkworm Books, Chiangmai 1999.
Author/creator: Marc Purcell, Australian Council for Overseas Aid
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute/Burma Centrum Nederland
Format/size: html (267K), Word (167K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs3/purcellpaper.doc
Date of entry/update: 10 August 2005


Title: A Void in Myanmar: Civil Society in Burma
Date of publication: 05 December 1997
Description/subject: "The term 'civil society' has been prominent in the history of Western intellectual thought for about two hundred years. Its con­notative vicissitudes, its origins and previous political uses from Hegel and Marx and beyond in a sense reflect a microcosm both of poli­ti­­cal and social science theory. For a period reflection on civil society was out of style, an anachronistic concept replaced by more fashionable intellectual formulations. Today, however, the term has once again come back into significance. Here, however, we are not concerned with its history, but rather with its contemporary use, as defined below, as one means to under­stand the dynamics of Burmese politics and society..."... This paper is one of four presented at the conference organised by TNI and the Burma Centrum Nederland on December 4 and 5, 1997 in the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, 'Strengthening Civil Society in Burma. Possibilities and Dilemmas for International NGOs'. A book of the same name, containing edited versions of the papers, an introduction and notes on the authors was subsequently published by Silkworm Books, Chiangmai 1999.
Author/creator: David Steinberg
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute/Burma Centrum Nederland
Format/size: html (85K), Word (67K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs3/Steinbergpaper.doc
Date of entry/update: 03 June 2003


Title: ETHNIC CONFLICT AND THE CHALLENGE OF CIVIL SOCIETY IN BURMA
Date of publication: 05 December 1997
Description/subject: "...The peaceful and lasting solution to the long-running ethnic conflicts in Burma is, without doubt, one of the most integral challenges facing the country today. Indeed, it can not be separated from the greater challenges of social, political and economic reform in the country at large. Since the seismic events of 1988, Burma has remained deadlocked in its third critical period of political and social transition since independence in 1948. However, despite the surface impasse, the political landscape has not remained static. During the past decade, the evidence of desire for fundamental political change has spread to virtually every sector of society, and, at different stages, this desire for change has been articulated by representatives of all the major political, ethnic, military and social organisations or factions. That Burma, therefore, has entered an era of enormous political volatility and transformation is not in dispute..."... This paper is one of four presented at the conference organised by TNI and the Burma Centrum Nederland on December 4 and 5, 1997 in the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, 'Strengthening Civil Society in Burma. Possibilities and Dilemmas for International NGOs'. A book of the same name, containing edited versions of the papers, an introduction and notes on the authors was subsequently published by Silkworm Books, Chiangmai 1999.
Author/creator: Martin Smith
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute/Burma Centrum Nederland
Format/size: html (255K), Word (150K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs3/smithpaper.doc
Date of entry/update: 10 August 2005


Title: No Room to Move : Legal Constraints on Civil Society in Burma
Date of publication: 05 December 1997
Description/subject: "The development and maintenance of civil society - that is, free associations of citizens joined together to work for common concerns or implement social, cultural or political initiatives which compliment, as well as compete with the state - depends upon the citizens of any state being able to enjoy fundamental freedoms: freedom of thought, opinion, expression, association and movement. Underscoring and defending these freedoms must be an independent judiciary and the guarantee of the rule of law. In Burma today, none of these conditions exist. There is no freedom of the press in Burma: government censorship is heavy-handed and pervasive. While the opening up of the economy since 1988 had lead to a proliferation of private magazines and access to affordable video and satellite equipment has also resulted in a massive expansion of small scale video companies and TV/Videos parlours around the country, the organs of state censorship have kept pace with these developments, and virtually every sentence and every image which is produced by the indigenous media has to passed by the government's censorship board, and all non-local media are also carefully monitored and controlled. The Burmese services of the BBC, VOA and the Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma are often jammed; CNN and World Service broadcasts which include issues sensitive to the government mysteriously loose sound. New laws have been promulgated to restrict access to the internet, and it has been reported that the government has also purchased technology from Israel which can monitor and censor e-mail messages, and other equipment from Singapore to monitor satellite phones...".... This paper is one of four presented at the conference organised by TNI and the Burma Centrum Nederland on December 4 and 5, 1997 in the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, 'Strengthening Civil Society in Burma. Possibilities and Dilemmas for International NGOs'. A book of the same name, containing edited versions of the papers, an introduction and notes on the authors was subsequently published by Silkworm Books, Chiangmai 1999.
Author/creator: Zunetta Liddell
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute/Burma Centrum Nederland
Format/size: html (90K), Word (71K)
Alternate URLs: http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docs3/liddellpaper.doc
Date of entry/update: 10 August 2005


Title: Strengthening Civil Society in Burma: Possibilities and Dilemmas for International NGOs
Date of publication: 05 December 1997
Description/subject: Links to 4 Papers from the conference of this name, Amsterdam, 4-5 December 1997, organised by the Burma Center Netherlands & Transnational Institute... (Also published by Silkworm Books, Chiangmai 1999, with Introduction and notes on the authors)... A Void in Myanmar: Civil Society in Burma by David Steinberg... Ethnic conflict and the challenge of civil society in Burma by Martin Smith... No Room to Move: Legal Constraints on Civil Society in Burma by Zunetta Liddell... "Axe-handles or willing minions?" International NGOs in Burma by Marc Purcell
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute/Burma Centrum Nederland
Format/size: html (3K)
Date of entry/update: 10 August 2005