Myanmar: Beyond Politics to Societal Imperatives

Myanmar: Beyond Politics to Societal Imperatives

Myanmar: Beyond Politics to Societal Imperatives

Myanmar: Beyond Politics to Societal Imperatives

Synopsis

Seeking to look beyond the day-to-day headlines and judgemental comments on developments in Myanmar, Myanmar: Beyond Politics to Societal Imperatives looks at the underlying issues which the country faces regardless of its political future.

Excerpt

Professor David Steinberg, one of the contributors to this volume, had organized an international conference at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, in Washington, D. C. in November 2002. The theme of the conference was “Burma: Reconciliation in Myanmar and the Crises of Change”. Among the participants were three of the contributors to this volume in addition to Professor Steinberg. This was one of innumerable such conferences which have been held in Asia, Europe, and North America since the late 1980s to discuss the current political, economic, and societal issues of Myanmar. Unlike most of these conferences which go over the same ground again and again, this one challenged participants to think of new initiatives and departures which might be constructive in attempting to open up and understand the seemingly intractable nature of Myanmar’s problems and issues. Coming fourteen years after the political upheaval, which led to the coming to power of the current military government, and twelve years after the annulled election, which many once saw as a first giant step towards that end, that challenge was most appropriate.

One of the ideas which emerged from the discussions was that an academic conference should be held in Myanmar in order to try to understand how people within the country felt about the issues upon which so many thousands of words have been expended abroad. While since 1995 the Universities Historical Research Centre had been holding international conferences on social science and humanities issues at Yangon University, and a number of international scientific, commercial, and technical seminars had been held within Myanmar since the government had reopened the society to greater international exposure and joined many international organizations, many people assumed that the authorities would never permit independent discussions between foreign scholars and Myanmar citizens on the country’s sensitive issues.

Thanks to the encouragement of Mr K. Kesavapany, Director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), an opportunity to test that proposition was created in February 2003, when a proposal to hold . . .

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