The new civilising mission: Myanmar (Burma) at the hands of latter-day Orientalists

Dr Zarni is the founder of the Free Burma Coalition and Visiting Research Fellow, Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford. He recently wrote a controversial article in the New Statesman challenging common perceptions about Myanmar.

Most recently, the Bush Administration has succeeded in putting Myanmar, a former British colony of Burma, on the Security Council’ agenda as one of 150 permanent discussion items. Beijing calls Washington’s framing of its neighbour as ‘threat to world peace’ “preposterous” and promises in no uncertain terms to block any binding Myanmar resolution at the Council.

Dr Zarni will dissect the politics of the demonisation of Myanmar by both the Bush Administration and the well-meaning but misguided “pro-democracy” Western campaigners and lobbyists, who have unintentionally amplified his country’s economic hardship and political isolation. He will also examine the political impact of the West’s decade-long fixation with Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and with the minority guerrillas once loyal to the British. See article in New Statesman. Finally, he will look at the role of the United States and the United Kingdom in creating the conditions that gave rise to the ascent of the military government and its role as a unifying force in Myanmar.