The optimism provoked by Myanmar’s political reforms in 2011-2012 has now given way to a sense that the uneven nature of change in this nation of 54 million has lead to instability and uncertainty.
The liberalization of critical sectors and expansion of certain freedoms – such as political and legal opportunities for expression and mobilization – contrasts with the entrenchment of structural problems. It becomes ever more difficult to tackle ethnic marginalization and conflict, over-dependence on natural resource extraction, inadequate public services, and problems of under-capacity in the civilian bureaucracy.
The result is the build up of a toxic environment in which classism, racism, and bigotry threaten to rend Myanmar’s already delicate social fabric.
The contributors to this volume bring unique perspectives and methodologies to bear to unravel Myanmar’s tangled challenges. Whether it is through studying corruption by analyzing the country’s real estate bubble, assessing civil society advocacy capacity against extractive industries, or gauging the strength – and surprising weakness – of Myanmar’s military, the volume employs unconventional approaches and analytical rigor to address a fundamental question: is Myanmar itself unraveling?
Pavin Chachavalpongpun is an associate professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University.
Elliott Prasse-Freeman is an assistant professor in Sociology/Anthropology at the National University of Singapore.
Patrick Strefford is an associate professor of International Relations at Kyoto Sangyo University.