Myanmar: State, Society and Ethnicity ミャンマー――国家、社会、民族

Japanese Below

Edited by Narayanan Ganesan and Kyaw Yin Hlaing (Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2007)

The book explores a number of issues that are central to a proper understanding of Myanmar and the reasons for its current state of being. Chapters 2 and 3 discuss Myanmar in relation to other countries in Southeast Asia. The issues addressed in these preliminary chapters are the nature of state-society relations, and minorities and their involvement in state-building. The issue of ethnic minorities is rather important in the case of Myanmar since approximately 140 different ethnic groups were catalogued by the British colonial authorities prior to independence.

Chapters 4 and 5 examine historical developments and their subsequent impact on the course of political developments in the country. Chapter 4 by Robert Taylor emphasizes the accidental nature of colonial political developments and how British colonial policy was neither discrete nor consistent. The following chapter by Kei Nemoto looks at the Japanese invasion and occupation of Burma: it outlines the “special relationship” that has existed between the countries in the post-War period and the critical role of the Japanese Minami Kikan, a secret organization, in furthering the relationship. The chapter also identifies and examines the various groups of Myanmar nationals to be found in Japan and their activities and affiliations.

Chapters 6 through 7 elaborate on various aspects of political and economic development in Myanmar. The first of these chapters by David Steinberg traces how the concept of political legitimacy is obtained and exercised in Myanmar. The subsequent chapter fleshes out the intricacies of associational life in the country and how the severe restraints placed on group activities have affected the political-economy of state-society relations. The final chapter in this cluster identifies the state of human security in Myanmar, looking at relevant aspects of human well-being such as food, health, economic and environmental availability and the limitations upon them.

The last group of chapters identifies and traces developments pertaining to three of the largest ethnic minority groups in Myanmar; they examine the Karen, Kachin and Shan communities. Importantly, these chapters also provide first-hand information on how the Karen and Kachin ethnic insurgent groups negotiated ceasefire agreements with the military government. Additionally, the chapters examine how these communities are trying to rebuild their lives peacefully after more than five decades of conflict. The final chapter of the book contains an impassioned plea against the Western sanctions regime, arguing that sanctions have only hurt the well-being and livelihoods of ordinary citizens rather than the elite which they have been aimed at.