Myanmar's Long Road to National Reconciliation

Myanmar's Long Road to National Reconciliation

Myanmar's Long Road to National Reconciliation

Myanmar's Long Road to National Reconciliation


In late 2004, Myanmar's best known general and long-serving leader of the military regime, General Khin Nyunt, was suddenly dismissed. This shock development, perpetrated by a regime that has defied all predictions of its demise and disintegration, generated widespread uncertainty both inside and outside the country. Official reassurances about continuing the 2003 "Road Map" process left many questions about the path ahead unanswered. Would political dialogue with opposition groups be resumed? How would increasingly restive ethnic groups respond? Would nascent civil society groups be able to play a role in national reconciliation? How would the new leadership deal with the flagging economy? What are the prospects for the large but underfunded and highly regulated agricultural sector?


Robert H. Taylor

Introduction: Background to Possible Futures

The Myanmar proverb quoted in the title of this paper was first told to me by a friend when, more than twenty years ago, I lamented the slow pace at which we were then travelling in a frequently malfunctioning Volkswagen bus up the old winding road from Mandalay to Maymyo. When, in the reign of King Mindon, a young man was, in his turn, lamenting the slow pace at which they were travelling by ox cart on a pilgrimage to Bagan, his wise father assured him that “if we travel merely a furlong a day, where can Bagan go?”

The road to Myanmar’s third constitution has now been travelled for more than sixteen years, but only in August 2003 were we shown a skeletal “road map” to the eventual destination. the reputed cartographer has now left the stage, but the map remains intact. How closely it will be followed remains to be seen, though the government was quick to emphasize that Prime Minister General Khin Nyunt’s departure would . . .

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