Forecasting Political Stability in Myanmar

October 24, 2013 • Eduardo Zachary Albrecht

Myanmar News Coverage

The chart above illustrates the rising and falling levels of news coverage of Myanmar over the past nine months.

Peaks correspond to moments of light or no coverage, while troughs represent times of increased momentum in the news concerning ongoing ethnic and political tensions in the country. The line graph is compiled using data from Recorded Future that measures the intensity of sentiment in the mainstream media. Organizing Recorded Future data in this way gives us a picture of recurring patterns, and allows us to develop insights into how developments may unfold in the near future.

Lately, the line has been trending up.

As the ethnic and political tensions in Myanmar calm down, news media outlets have been decreasing their coverage of the country. The green dot on the chart corresponds to September 24, when a number of positive events concerning Myanmar lined up to reinforce the idea things might get better. The green dot is, in fact, a positive forecast derived from the application of predictive algorithms to past data, using an original methodology developed in the research project Ethnographic Edge.

For more information on how the algorithms work and the forecasts generated, please visit my crisis forecasting website.

That week, rising levels of trust between Myanmar and the international community brought us to consider good news about the country was likely to increase over the next several weeks. The World Bank, for example, reported they will extend a $140 million interest-free loan to Myanmar to refurbish a power station in the southern part of the country. At the same time, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the government would allow international inspectors more access to facilities thought to have the potential to develop nuclear technology.

The Asahi Shimbun reported five Japanese companies just concluded agreements with Myanmar’s aviation authority to modernize equipment for all of the country’s major airports. This followed Shinzo Abe’s announcement to cancel the country’s $1.74 billion debt. The Japanese government also announced plans to relax visa requirements with Myanmar in an effort to boost tourism and to promote the country’s economy.

A Recorded Future visualization from that week, in fact, quickly reveals to us the connection between the country, the World Bank, and a number of Japanese Corporations, like Nissan and Mitsubishi.

Burma Connection With Organizations

A recent report by Yun Sun published by the Stimson Center points out there has been a sharp increase in international investment in Myanmar, and a sharp decrease in Chinese investment, over the past few years. Following recent political changes, recent quibbles over profit sharing and pollution at Chinese-owned mines, dams, and pipelines, Myanmar has been trying to detach itself from its economic over-dependence on China and move towards Western investors.

The Burmese government also started to take measures to put an end to recent anti-Muslim violence believed to have been instigated by an extremist Buddhist group called the 969. The Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, a government-appointed body that oversees Myanmar’s Buddhist monkhood, recently stepped in and banned all anti-Muslim organizations, and a directive intended to check the influence of the 969 movement was also put in place. Over the past few months, a number of violent attacks by Buddhist groups have attracted the world’s attention.

In a meeting with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a peace conference in Prague, the Dalai Lama urged the violence to come to an end, reiterating non-violence as a pillar of the Buddhist faith. Aung San Suu Kyi also touched on the issue of violence against minorities in Myanmar saying the problem lied in the current constitution, written by the military dictatorship and ratified in what she calls a farce referendum in 2008. She called for a modification of the constitution in order to meet the necessities of the entirety of the population, including minorities, and thereby to eradicate the roots of the conflict.

Aung San Suu Kyi Reference

The reference citing the event can be easily found via Recorded Future, as seen above.