The Complexities of Myanmar’s International Makeover

Posted: 5th December 2013
The Complexities of Myanmar’s International Makeover

Our friends at Ethnographic Edge recently published a thoughtful piece on recent economic and media policy developments in Myanmar. Particularly notable are the reminders of complex social pressures and very serious human rights issues that remain a challenge as the country attempts to revamp its international image.

Myanmar seems to be making efforts to improve its image on the international scene before the year ends. This week, the Ministry of Information announced that the BBC, along with three other international news agencies, had been given official permission to open a new bureau in the country.

… Over the past two years, the country has opened its doors to a number of industries, which led to large-scale tenders originated largely from foreign firms. As Myanmar hopes to develop the presence of foreign investors, the government will surely attempt to mitigate the attention being given to instances of ethno-religious violence. …

Reports by Ethnographic Edge have noted that deep-seated ethnic and religious tensions are difficult to hide, despite the authorities’ best efforts. There has been a trend in many conflict-prone countries to hide their issues with minorities in an attempt to keep a stable face toward the international business community. However, if the underlying grievances are not address, cosmetic changes do little to stop sporadic violence from flaring up.

This is especially true when the underlying tensions are being exacerbated, not quashed, by the very reforms that the country is going through. To make space for the incoming factories, ports and plants, Myanmar’s government has confiscated precious land and displaced a significant number of people – often moving people of one religious/ethnic group into areas of another.

This leads us to consider that the good news reported above, of money and media flowing in from the West, may actually be bad news for those sections of the population that have been most unsettled by the latest reforms. There is yet another social dilemma developing in Myanmar that researchers at Ethnographic Edge point out, and which might lead to more tensions down the line.

The full piece can be found at Asia Sentinel.