Democracy Panel



Myanmar Amidst a Pandemic and a Coup

Le Myanmar face à une pandémie et un coup d'État


Saturday, October 23, 2021


16:15 – 18:00

VenueVenue 4Venue 4


Chair/Président: Constant Courtin, University of British Columbia

Discussant/Intervenant: Constant Courtin, University of British Columbia

Event poster


Ethnic Insurgent Cohesion and Fragmentation in Post-Coup Myanmar

Alexandre Paquin-Pelletier, Cornell University

This paper examines the factors that account for insurgent cohesion and fragmentation in the post-coup context in Myanmar. It argues that although contextual and ideational factors matter to insurgent cohesion, cohesion is more robust where insurgent groups build their movement on strong pre-war networks and are able to provide public goods. These two factors help create inclusive inter-elite alliances and turn individuals into “citizens” of a larger ensemble shape inter-ethnic dynamics. The paper examines the case of Kachin, where the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has experienced pushbacks from Rawang, Lisu, and Shan-ni minorities. The paper shows that interethnic tensions in Kachin are the outcome of: 1) incomplete inter-elite alliances due to the uneven spread of Christian networks through which nation-builders worked; and 2) the variable and declining capacity of the KIO to provide public goods inclusively across all their state. The paper concludes by suggesting that pre-war networks and state-like capacity will determine whether EAOs remain cohesive or fragmented in this new phase of Myanmar's long civil war. Patterns of cohesion and fragmentation are crucial to the future of Myanmar’s civil war, whether the main cleavage remains the same or shift into inter-ethnic conflict.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Ethnic Minority Women in Myanmar’s Conflict Zones

Cassandra Preece, Political Science Department, McMaster University; Elaina Nguyen, Social Justice Institute, University of British Columbia; Aye Lei Tun, Political Science Department, McMaster University

Predating the COVID-19 pandemic, women in Myanmar’s conflict zones such as Rakhine state have experienced significant inequalities in areas such as labour, food security, education, availability of health services, and access to information. These have only been exacerbated since the start of the pandemic. Despite common knowledge that the impacts of COVID-19 are raced and gendered, there is an alarming lack of information that thoroughly accounts for how the COVID-19 pandemic and government policy have impacted ethnic minority women in Myanmar. This paper explores the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minority women in Myanmar’s conflict zones by drawing upon qualitative data sources including local and national newspapers and NGO reports. We focus on three areas where the interaction between COVID-19, government responses, and conflict-related circumstances has negatively impacted ethnic minority women: 1) marginalized ethnic women and domestic sexual violence, exacerbated by both armed conflict and lockdown policy responses to COVID-19; 2) ethnic minority women and access to health information during regional internet shutdowns; and 3) disproportionate economic consequences brought about by restrictions on assembly and lockdowns. Findings from this paper contribute to our understanding of the pandemic’s long-term security consequences for ethnic minority women in Myanmar, elucidating areas where future responses and aid will be necessary. Of particular significance considering the recent February 2021 military coup in Myanmar, this research will reflect on the overlap between crises like the pandemic and the disparities associated with conflict.

COVID-19 and People of Myanmar: After Coup

Min Thang, Theology Department, Shan State Baptist Theological Seminary

Since independence in 1948, Myanmar has faced civil war and ethnic and religious conflicts for many decades. Since 1962, Myanmar has been under the military control and there have been abuses of human rights. After almost 70 years, again the military seized power in a coup on 01 February 2021, overthrowing the elected civilian government. The military has detained a number of politicians, artists, and civilian leaders. Before the coup, Myanmar faced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ban on large gatherings but in the following weeks, there were a few people protesting and later on massive protests in major cities and rural areas alike, calling for the release of all political detainees and a reinstatement of the democratically elected government. The so-called Generation Z is playing a key role in anti-coup protests—it is the biggest protest movement since 1988 and the 2007 Saffron Revolution in Myanmar. According to AAPP as of 10 August 2021, 965 people are now confirmed killed during the coup and total of 5,534 people are currently under detention. The international community condemned the military coup, the so-called State Administration Council, and the name change into the caretaker government. Today, many youth and civilians are resisting the coup with handmade guns—Tu Mae in the local language—calling it the Tu Mae Revolution. This paper attempts to explain the coup, the Tu Mae Revolution, and the political crisis in Myanmar. This paper examines the challenges of civilians and youth resistance during the coup and during the COVID-19 pandemic in Myanmar. What are the domestic and international communities responses to the military coup in Myanmar?

Reform, COVID-19, and the Coup: Myanmar Teachers’ Voice in Authoritative Institutional Culture and During Crisis Time

Thu Ya Aung, Texas State University

Myanmar education started to become centralized just before the country's independence from the British in 1948. Since then, centralization has gained momentum, particularly during the successive authoritarian regimes after the 1962 coup. With the transition to a pseudo-democratic government in 2011, Myanmar embarked on education reform. However, the top-down nature of policy implementation is still prevalent despite some decentralization moves. The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down the education reform process, and schools have been closed for about a year. After the military staged a coup on February 1, the situation has been deteriorating day by day. Despite all of the chaos, the State Administrative Council (SAC), which was founded by the military, has been organizing training workshops and pressuring all school principals and teachers to attend. Many teachers have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement to prevent the SAC from fully running the government. In fact, the voice of Myanmar teachers was virtually silenced before the 2011 political transition. However, with the establishment of teachers' unions, teachers have been able to reveal their voices after the 2011 political transition, particularly in unofficial spheres. By analyzing the Facebook posts from a Facebook group called 'The forum where basic education teachers express their feelings' (Translation from the Burmese), this study explores Myanmar teachers' attitudes towards education reform activities, the Myanmar Government's COVID-19 response in the education sector, and the February 1 military coup.

Pre-colonial Roots of Colonial Coercion: Evidence from British Burma

Htet Thiha Zaw, University of Michigan

Given fiscal constraints, how did colonial states allocate coercion within their territories? This paper proposes a new explanation for variation in colonial coercion: the extent of pre-colonial state consolidation. When the pre-colonial state achieved control over local society via capture of local agents, the latter became more compliant to the state’s demands and received less coercion from the colonial state. I evaluate this argument in British Burma, exploiting two novel data sources: revenue inquests collected by the precolonial state that recorded the new local headman appointments in 1784, and colonial gazetteers that recorded the distribution of colonial police in 1912. I find that villages closer to locations with newly-appointed headman before colonization received significantly fewer colonial police. The main results are not explained by spatial correlation, local tax base, or the presence of other colonial institutions. Further evidence shows that these differences in colonial coercion also influence political violence patterns after independence.

CCSEAS Conference 2021 |