After decades of military rule, Myanmar’s 2010 General Election appeared to be a watershed moment and inspired hopes that Myanmar was embarking upon what the World Bank dubbed as a ‘triple transition’: from authoritarian military rule to democratic governance, from a centrally directed economy to a market-oriented economy, and from 60 years of conflict to peace in the country’s border areas. The election of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2015, following a landslide victory for her National League for Democracy (NLD) Party, led to renewed hopes that a peaceful resolution could be found to the country’s longstanding armed conflict. Yet, alongside Myanmar’s formal peace process, the country’s ethnically-diverse border areas have experienced some of the worst violence for more than twenty-five years, notably the devastating army-led attacks against the country’s Rohingya population and renewed fighting in the northeast of the country in Kachin State and northern Shan State. This talk explores why peacebuilding efforts continue to face huge challenges despite the country’s democratic transition and formal peace process. Focusing predominantly on northern Myanmar’s borderlands with China, this talk emphasises the need to situate the current peace process within a deeper understanding of the contested and unresolved processes of state-building and to understand how the current peace process is founded upon the troubled legacy of decades of military rule, exclusionary nationalism and highly unequal power structures.
Dr Patrick Meehan is a post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS, and a Co-Investigator on a four research project entitled ‘Drugs and (dis)order: Building sustainable peacetime economies in the aftermath of war’. Funded by the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), this project explores the political economy of drugs and war to peace transitions in borderland regions of Afghanistan, Colombia and Myanmar. His research explores the dynamics of violence, conflict and development, and engages specifically with the relationship between drugs and processes of statebuilding and peacebuilding, with a primary focus on Myanmar’s borderlands with China and Thailand. He has also conducted research for The UK Government (Stabilisation Unit), the World Bank, Conciliation Resources and Christian Aid.
8th March 2021