Burma: Legacies of Political Activism and Authoritarian Rule

August 28, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for dinner in Rangoon, Burma, on December 1, 2011.

In the past 18 months, Burma, also known as Myanmar, unexpectedly released more 600 political prisoners including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Laureate and de facto leader of the opposition movement. Internet websites such as the BBC and Gmail have ceased to be blocked. Parliament passed legislation that included a labor law that allows unions, illegal since 1974, and laws outlawing forced labor. The Press Censorship Board no longer requires publications to have all articles approved in advance. The National Human Rights Commission was established by President Thein Sein to investigate current incidences of rights violations by the government.

And while the security apparatus that can incarcerate anyone who speaks out against the government – rules, regulations and the authorities that enforce them—remains intact, such laws are currently not being enforced in Rangoon and Mandalay. These are important signals, not yet institutionalized, that demonstrate that political space is broadening in Burma’s core areas. Less change is seen in the ethnic periphery areas of the country. Recent anti-Rohingya rioting, continued active military conflict in Kachin state, and lack of political freedoms outside of large cities, continues and is at odds with this new Burma.

Read the rest of Linnea M. Beatty’s insightful dissertation by clicking the “Download” button or by opening the attached PDF.

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