There are several cases of ethnic-separatist rebellion in Southeast Asia. 1 Each has its own distinct origins, grievances and goals, but the aim here is to examine one theme which recurs in most discussions of ethnic rebellion: the argument that the cause of such movements is the domination of the state by the ethnic majority community. 2
Burma offers a useful case for the study of ethnic rebellions. The cultural and linguistic structure of Burmese society is complex, but the majority-minority dimension is clear. The majority linguistic group are the Burmans, 3 who comprise about twothirds of the total population and who have traditionally inhabited the central Irrawaddy plain. The largest minority groups are the Shan, Kachin, Chin and Karen. 4 The earliest of the rebellions involved communist and separatist unrest amongst the Arakanese, in the western Irrawady plain. The conflict between Karen and Burman armed forces began in 1949 and stimulated similar outbreaks amongst Karenni, Mon and Pao groups. By the late 1950s, the further expansion of state intervention had precipitated separatist rebellions amongst the Kachin and the Shan. Since then, virtually all of the minority linguistic groups in Burma has been involved, at one time or another, in insurgency against the state. While some of this dissidence has taken a communist direction, ethnic disaffection has remained a central factor. 5 Some of the movements have demanded outright secession, though most would apparently now settle for some form of autonomy within a federal Burma, but repeated attempts at negotiation have failed.
The confrontational and protracted nature of the disputes can be traced in part to military stalemate, but there is also a