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Burma Redux

Burma Redux: Global Justice and the Quest for Political Reform in Myanmar

Ian Holliday
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Burma Redux
    Book Description:

    Contemporary Myanmar faces a number of political challenges, and it is unclear how other nations should act in relation to the country. Prioritizing the opinions of local citizens and reading them against the latest scholarship on this issue, Ian Holliday affirms the importance of foreign interests in Myanmar's democratic awakening, yet only through committed, grassroots strategies of engagement encompassing foreign states, international aid agencies, and global corporations.

    Holliday supports his argument by using multiple sources and theories, particularly ones that take historical events, contemporary political and social investigations, and global justice literature into account, as well as studies that focus on the effects of democratic transition, the aid industry, and socially responsible corporate investing and sanctions. One of the only volumes to apply broad-ranging global justice theories to a real-world nation in flux, Burma Redux will appeal to professionals researching Burma/Myanmar; political advisers and advocacy groups; nonspecialists interested in Southeast Asian politics and society and the local and international problems posed by pariah states; general readers who seek a richer understanding of the country beyond journalistic accounts; and the Burmese people themselves -- both within the country and in diaspora. Burma Redux is also the first book-length study on the nation to be completed after the contentious general elections of 2010.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50424-9
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Ian Holliday
  4. Author’s note
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acronyms
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Map of Myanmar
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    For nearly 25 years since a brief eruption of mass pro-democracy protests in the middle months of 1988, Myanmar has been governed by an entrenched military machine that centralizes power, enforces rigid control, projects an abrasive nationalism, wages war on its own people, commits widespread human rights abuse, fosters systemic corruption, enriches itself and its associates, and drastically curtails the life chances of the vast majority of its citizens. For more than a quarter-century before that, from 1962 to 1988, the country then known as Burma was ruled by an autocratic regime installed by military coup and dominated by a...

  8. 1 Dependence and disintegration
    (pp. 25-40)

    Contemporary Myanmar cannot be understood by focusing solely on a quarter-century of heightened global attention since pro-democracy protests were crushed by a brutal military machine and a landslide general election victory generated no perceptible change in domestic politics. Rather, the nationwide uprising and violent crackdown witnessed in the middle months of 1988 and the vacuous political contest staged in May 1990 need to be set in the context of what went before: not only 40 years of sovereign Burma from 1948 to 1988, but also the struggle against both imperialism and fascism that preceded independence, the experience of colonial rule...

  9. 2 Dominion and dissent
    (pp. 41-58)

    At 4:20 on the morning of January 4, 1948, amid fanfare and expectation, Burma threw off the dependence that for decades had been its political condition and confronted the world as a sovereign state. Dominion no longer rested in British hands or Japanese, and the country was not even a member of the British Commonwealth. In formal political terms, the future was now a matter for Burmese people alone to determine. At the same time, however, the new Union of Burma was ravaged not only by warfare conducted on its territory in brutal and devastating campaigns that saw first Japan...

  10. 3 Dictatorship and deadlock
    (pp. 59-80)

    The directorate that brutally restored military power in September 1988 subjected the country it was soon to call Myanmar to fresh dictatorship. Initially taking the name SLORC before nearly a decade later becoming the SPDC, the junta comprehensively reaffirmed military supremacy. Not until 2011 was any attempt made to give state structures some detachment from the military machine. For analytical purposes, then, the years of junta rule can be treated as a fairly unified, though by no means static, interval. At the outset, however, it is important to be clear that drawing boundaries around this era is not to overlook...

  11. 4 Democracy and deliberation
    (pp. 81-102)

    Disintegration under colonial rule, dissent under military-backed state socialism and deadlock under martial law combined to create a situation in which Myanmar today faces major political challenges. For the military leaders who retain control and seized a degree of political initiative through constitutional reforms underpinning a return to civilian government in 2011, the pathway is clear and will comprise full institutionalization of discipline-flourishing democracy. For activists in the democratic camp and minority ethnic nationalities, by contrast, any attempt to return to a political track congruent with all that the notion of Burma now signifies is likely to require at least...

  12. 5 Inattention and involvement
    (pp. 103-122)

    The crushing of Burma’s democracy movement in 1988 and the installation of a formal military junta ensured that the country slowly came to the attention of the wider world as a candidate for external action. Indeed, the stark contrast between revolution in many parts of the globe and reaction in this corner of Southeast Asia ultimately played a key role in establishing its international notoriety. Instead of assuming an apparently rightful place as a transitional polity, Myanmar was left out in the cold alongside post-Tiananmen China and a clutch of other renegade states. Being a lot smaller, a lot less...

  13. 6 Injustice and implication
    (pp. 123-144)

    While Myanmar has long triggered deep concern among foreigners, policies implemented to date have registered limited success and are now openly disputed by both insiders and outsiders. It is therefore necessary to think again. In an age of humanitarian engagement driven by generic notions of global justice, this chapter seeks to do that by turning to core principles. Specifically, it looks to contemporary political philosophy to clarify the duties of justice in this case and determine not what the wider world might do to help local people, but rather what the dictates of global justice indicate it must do. The...

  14. 7 Intervention and interaction
    (pp. 145-162)

    Examined from the standpoint of global justice, a prima facie case for external engagement with Myanmar is readily made. Viewed solely from that perspective, however, the demands of justice can be established only very imprecisely. While a small set of perfect duties can perhaps be identified and necessary tasks of repair specified, a much larger set of imperfect duties generates few clear pointers to action. This chapter therefore follows up by developing a procedure to help sort distinct modes of engagement and allow for justifiable choices to be made between alternatives. It also seeks to ensure that both rightsbearers and...

  15. 8 Intercession and investment
    (pp. 163-182)

    At a time when global policy responses to entrenched military control in Myanmar are failing and contested, heavy duties of mostly imperfect justice nevertheless weigh on outsiders. Using processes of interactive intervention to structure analysis, this chapter explores substantive options. The opening section surveys both discursive and assertive possibilities, and for three main reasons argues for discursive. The second section looks in some detail at practical ways forward within this domain, and outlines an agenda going well beyond business as usual for outsiders. The third section follows up by considering the external actors who might be drawn in to implement...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 183-204)

    The twist the Burma story took in the late 1980s, when the early phases of an apparent transition to democracy were decisively curtailed by the country’s entrenched military elite, is often cast as a modern variant of the morality plays that flourished in late medieval Europe. In one telling, Aung San Suu Kyi features as the protagonist embodying the core virtues and highest political aspirations of a repressed, fearful and impoverished nation. “Burma’s Saint Joan” is how an October 1995 Vanity Fair cover put it.¹ Her antagonists are presented neither as seven deadly sins nor as a lengthy parade of...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 205-276)
  18. Index
    (pp. 277-288)