Myanmar’s National League for Democracy at a Crossroads [GIGA Focus Asien, 01/2017]

Focus | ASIA
Richard Roewer
Myanmar’s National League for Democracy
at a Crossroads
GIGA Focus | Asia | Number 1 | April 2017 | ISSN 1862-359X
Democratic transition in Myanmar appears to have come to a standstill.
Western analysts have focused on the political constraints faced by the Na-
tional League for Democracy (NLD) under Aung San Suu Kyi. Most refer to
the still-excessive power of the military to explain the party’s governance
failure. However, a closer look suggests that the NLD is not only unable but
is also unwilling to lead according to democratic principles.
• Since its re-establishment as a political party in 2011, the NLD has mobilized
voters by propagating liberty, equality, and justice – thus fanning the hopes of
those longing for an end to authoritarian state policies. Now, over a year after
its landslide victory, these hopes are beginning to crumble as the NLD fails to
live up to its convictions.
• Ethnic minorities have criticised the lack of progress in ensuring their rights
in the face of military operations in the north-east and the west of the country.
Human rights advocates have condemned Aung San Suu Kyi’s passivity towards
the military’s persecution of the Rohingya minority in Rakhine State and the
NLD’s downplaying of the conflict.
• The media faces increasing intimidation instead of enjoying freedom of speech,
while state media channels continue to produce old-style propaganda.
• NLD members are worried about the decline of democratic decision-making
within the party. They are demanding a more transparent and efficient chain
of communication to address urgent concerns and deeper integration of junior
party members.
Policy Implications
The NLD’s tacit approval of the military’s actions and its increased disconnection
from the democratic values on which it was elected have raised concerns over the
party’s will to continue along its chosen path. To support Myanmar’s transition,
European decision-makers need to strengthen their relations with the Myanmar
government and press for policies that support transparency, accountability,
and the protection of human rights. To be successful, policymakers should em-
ploy an approach that combines economic cooperation incentives and careful
diplomatic counsel.
Richard Roewer
Research Fellow/Doctoral Student
GIGA German Institute of Global
and Area Studies
Leibniz-Institut für Globale
und Regionale Studien
Neuer Jungfernstieg 21
20354 Hamburg
2 GIGA FOCUS | ASIA | NO. 1 | APRIL 2017
Democratic Legitimacy at Risk
Under the leadership of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for
Democracy (NLD) assumed power in Myanmar on 30 March 2016 after more than
a half-century of military rule. The news of the NLD’s landslide victory in the 2015
general elections was celebrated in Myanmar and abroad as a sign of the impending
democratisation of the South East Asian nation. Indeed, the NLD has enjoyed iconic
status for many years due to its decade-long struggle for free and fair elections and
its promise to support key democratic values if elected. The party reiterated this
during its election campaign, which focused on internal peace, national reconcili-
ation, the creation of a federal system, amending the constitution, and improving
the lives of the people.
Considering the sheer scope of these aims, it is easy to see how the NLD would
struggle to translate them into actions. After all, the military still holds 25 per cent
of seats in parliament and remains in control of the Ministries of Defence, Home
Affairs, and Border Affairs, which operate almost independently from the rest of the
government. Moreover, the NLD’s election victory and assumption of power were
marred by uncertainty over Aung San Suu Kyi’s role in government since the con-
stitution barred her from becoming president of Myanmar. The NLD did, however,
overcome this by creating the role of state counsellor of Myanmar, thus ensuring
that Aung San Suu Kyi could serve as leader of the new government – a move that
represents the first success of the new government. The government was also able
to revoke the 1975 State Protection Act – which had allowed the government to
declare a state of emergency, suspend basic citizen rights, and effectively imprison
members of the opposition – and the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, which was
similarly used to oppress political dissidents.
Against this backdrop, political successes have generally been few and far be-
tween. Few voters and fewer researchers would have expected the NLD to be able to
resolve decades-old issues within a year of assuming power. The problem, however,
is that many issues have not only been slow to improve, they have actually become
significantly worse over the past year.
Although the NLD might not be able to end the deadlock in a highly complex
peace process, it could have taken more measures to ensure that ethnic conflicts
did not intensify. And while the NLD government would not have been able to veto
the military’s persecution of the Rohingya in Rakhine State, it could have eased the
plight of the minority significantly by initiating a process that would have reinstated
their citizenship rights. The curtailment of the media is worrying too because the
NLD acts on its own account and could implement measures that would prevent
NLD politicians suing constituents for defamation and grant access to international
observers but chooses not to.
Internally, the party has transformed over the last year and has increasingly
engaged in top-down decision-making. This governance style is at times reminis-
cent of the former military-backed regime, which lacked transparency and account-
ability. The NLD’s approach to dealing with the country’s most pressing issues has
started to undermine the NLD government’s legitimacy both domestically and in-
ternationally. Thus, after almost a year in power the NLD finds itself at a cross -
roads. The way the party chooses to govern during its first term will ultimately show
whether the NLD is capable of maintaining its image as a champion of democratic
3 GIGA FOCUS | ASIA | NO. 1 | APRIL 2017
values and the party to lead Myanmar to a brighter future. Understanding Myan-
mar’s ongoing transformation process necessitates a broader understanding of the
way the country is governed. It is therefore crucial to differentiate between issues
the NLD is unable to resolve due to external constraints and issues the NLD seems
unwilling to resolve due to its own convictions. This paper facilitates this broader
understanding by exploring the state of ethnic conflicts, freedom of speech, and
governance modes inside the ruling party and discussing these aspects in their wid-
er historical contexts.
No Peace in the North-East
Since November 2016, violence has been escalating in the north-eastern states of
Kachin and Shan, having an increasing impact on civilian populations. Since early
March 2017 more than 20,000 refugees from the Kokang self-administered zone
in Shan State have fled to China following violent clashes between the Tadmadaw
(Myanmar army) and a number of ethnic minority militias. Yanghee Lee, the special
rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, claims that there are an
estimated 7,000 newly displaced persons in Kachin State, with nearly the entire
population of three internally displaced persons (IDP) camps having been relocated
for the second or third time (UNHCR 2017: 12). In fact, there were 98,000 IDPs
in the states of Kachin and Shan in December 2016 according to the United States
Agency for International Development (USAID 2016).
In the north-east, ethnic armed groups have fought the Tatmadaw for decades
in their pursuit of self-administration (ideally) within a federal system. Such rights
would have been ensured if the historical Panglong Agreement had been enacted.
General Aung San, Aung San Suu Kyi’s father and Myanmar independence hero,
negotiated the agreement with ethnic leaders in 1947. In fact, the NLD government
has modelled its own national reconciliation efforts on the Panglong conference for-
mat, launching the 21st Century Panglong Conference, which shall take place every
six months (Hlaing Lynn 2017). The first session, held in August 2016, was attended
by over 700 participants, of which only 150 represented armed groups. Groups that
refused to negotiate – namely, the Arakan Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation
Army, and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army – were deliberately
excluded from the conference. In this respect, the NLD is continuing the approach
of the prior government, which had insisted on the signing of an elaborate ceasefire
agreement as a precondition for talks about regional autonomy. As a result, peace
talks remain deadlocked.
The NLD appears to be stuck because making concessions along the lines of cre-
ating a federal state system would require amending the constitution, which cannot
be changed with less than 75 per cent support of parliament. Since the military and
the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) continue to
hold 25 per cent and 6.8 per cent of the seats in parliament, respectively, altering
the constitution is unlikely to occur in the near future. The NLD therefore needs
the support of the ethnic armed groups and the areas they control in order to form
an alliance that could create the chance to amend the constitution and, in turn, to
grant self-administration rights. Yet, representatives of ethnic armed groups are
apparently unwilling to enter into such an alliance and sign a new ceasefire agree -
4 GIGA FOCUS | ASIA | NO. 1 | APRIL 2017
ment without solid guarantees (Lintner 2017). The NLD government finds itself
trapped between the uncompromising positions of the ethnic armed groups, on the
one hand, and the Tatmadaw, on the other, and thus unable to make significant
The lack of progress in the peace process is worrying. More worrying still is the
situation of humanitarian access in Kachin and Shan States. According to Pierre
Peron, a Myanmar-based spokesperson with the United Nations Office for the Coor -
dination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the situation is currently worse than
at any point in the past few years (Lewis 2016). Furthermore, the Joint Strategy
Team for Humanitarian Response in Kachin and Northern Shan States points out
that the continued politicisation of humanitarian relief by the Myanmar govern-
ment has significantly reduced the chances for humanitarian access on the ground
(Joint Strategy Team 2016). The NLD government thus appears to be following in
the footsteps of past military and military-backed governments. Not only does this
approach not correspond to the NLD’s goal to make Myanmar a fairer and more
democratic country that upholds basic human rights, it is also serves to deepen
existing divides.
Continued Persecution of the Rohingya in the West
In Rakhine State the Muslim Rohingya minority has been persecuted for decades.
The state, however, had seen little involvement by organised armed ethnic minor-
ity groups in the conflict until the 9 October 2016 attacks on border police posts
by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Formerly known as Harakah al-
Yaqin or the Faith Movement, this insurgent group demands – among other things
– citizenship rights, access to relief aid, freedom of movement and religion, political
representation, education opportunities, the return of property, and the return of
Rohingya refugees. About 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims are denied citizenship in
Myanmar, effectively restricting their right to free movement and their access to
services like education and health care. This denial is based on the discriminatory
1982 Citizenship Law and a historically flawed narrative that denounces the exist -
ence of the Rohingya in Rakhine State prior to 1823. [1]
The last wave of violence against the Rohingya minority following the attack of
border police posts is not unprecedented but did reflect new levels of cruelty. Since
the October 2016 attacks that led to death of nine police officers, the army has been
undertaking a clearance operation in Northern Rakhine State. According to Yang-
hee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar,
this amounts to crimes against humanity. An estimated 24,000 people remain in-
ternally displaced in the state, while approximately 69,000 have fled to Bangladesh.
Impartial observers have been denied access to the area, but testimonies gathered
reported extrajudicial killings; enforced disappearances; arbitrary detention; rape;
physical assault; torture; cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment;
looting and the appropriation of property; the destruction of property; and ethnic
and religious discrimination and persecution (OHCHR 2017).
As in Myanmar’s north-eastern states, the NLD has little control over the mili-
tary. Yet, it is surprising that the party chose to deny all claims of human rights
abuses, defend the army’s military operation, and limit humanitarian assistance
1 Art. 3 states that “Na-
tionals […] that have settled
in any of the territories
included within the State as
their permanent home from
a period anterior […] 1823
are Burma citizens.”
5 GIGA FOCUS | ASIA | NO. 1 | APRIL 2017
to the area. In a widely shared social media post from early November 2016 the
spokesperson of the state counsellor’s office, Zaw Htay (2016), responded to satel-
lite imagery that showed the remains of burned down villages by writing “Believe it
or not! Local Muslim community burned their own village-market down.” In Janu-
ary he posted pictures of burned down villages in Rakhine State in what appeared
to be a still picture from an Al Jazeera broadcast with the word “Fake” covering
the pictures, claiming that the broadcast had unveiled them as fabricated (State
Counsellor Office Information Committee 2017). Al Jazeera, however, had used to
pictures as an example of real images of the conflict zone.
Prior to the Tatmadaw’s clearance operation, the government had asked former
UN secretary general Kofi Annan to head a commission assessing the tensions in
Rakhine State. However, in December 2016 Annan distanced himself from the ac-
counts of grave human rights abuses in the state, telling the BBC that “there are
tensions, there has been fighting, but I wouldn’t put it the way some have done”
(BBC 2016). Only on 16 March 2017 did he call for the Rohingya to be relocated to
Myanmar and the IDP camps to be closed in an interim report by the Advisory Com-
mission on Rakhine State (2017). The NLD was fast to respond, stating that “the
large majority of the recommendations will be implemented promptly with a view
to maximum effectiveness. The implementation of a few will be contingent upon the
situation on the ground but we believe there will be speedy progress” (Ministry of
the Office of the State Counsellor 2017).
Yet, the statement all too closely resembled the press release that followed the
publication of a UN report on 3 February 2017 which unveiled the extent of alleged
human rights abuses. At the time, the government had assured that it would take
the allegations very seriously, but it has done nothing to ease the plight of the reli-
gious minority.
An investigative commission set up by the NLD and headed by the former mili-
tary general U Myint Swe repeatedly denied having found evidence of many of the
atrocities committed. After the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on 24
March 2017 to dispatch an independent fact-finding mission to Myanmar, the My -
anmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quick to dissociate itself from the resolution.
The press release stated that “the establishment of an international Fact Finding
Mission would do more to inflame, rather than resolve the issues at this time. It
is not in accord with the situation on the ground and the national circumstances,”
claiming instead that “the government of Myanmar is fully committed to the pro-
motion and protection of human rights” (The Republic of the Union of Myanmar
President Office 2017).
It is difficult to see the rationale behind the NLD’s “deny, defend, and dismiss”
strategy, which seems reminiscent of former military governments’ attempts to
categorically deny and dismiss any allegations about human right abuses in the
country. Even without having the means to interfere with the Tatmadaw’s clear-
ance operation, the government could have openly condemned the atrocities and
taken a number of measures to improve the general situation of the Rohingya. Such
measures should have included granting access for humanitarian actors and inde-
pendent investigative commissions. This would have facilitated a faster and more
effective response to the humanitarian crisis and could have saved lives. Moreover,
the government has undertaken no steps to ensure basic rights for the persecuted
minority, such as initiating a process to repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law. Rather
6 GIGA FOCUS | ASIA | NO. 1 | APRIL 2017
than being unable to take action, the NLD government seems to have chosen not to
take action – which will likely exacerbate tensions in the future.
Declining Freedom of Speech
Besides reconstituting the “deny, defend, and dismiss” narrative, the NLD has also
unexpectedly repealed progress made on the issue of freedom of speech in the coun-
try. Given the NLD comprises a large number of former political prisoners, many
constituents and observers expected the party to end persecution based on repres-
sive laws. Yet, according to the UN, an estimated 170 persons are currently serving
prison terms for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expres-
sion and of association and assembly.
PEN Myanmar, an organisation that promotes the freedom of expression, says
that at least 38 people have been charged with online defamation since the NLD
assumed power (McPherson and Win Diamond 2017). Most have been charged un-
der Article 66 (d) of the 2013 Telecommunications Law, which establishes impris-
onment of up to three years for actions such as “Extorting, coercing, restraining
wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening to any
person using any Telecommunications Network.” In reality the law is used as tool
to silence critics of the government. The key issue is that the NLD is not only taking
no measures to repeal the 2013 Telecommunications Law, it is also actively using it
to silence its critics.
As the Guardian reported, Aung Win Hlaing – an activist and member of the
National Democratic Force party (set up by former NLD members who wanted to
contest the 2010 elections) – was jailed for nine months in September 2016 for call-
ing President Htin Kyaw an “idiot” and “crazy” in a Facebook post (Lakhdir 2016).
Meanwhile, Fiona MacGregor was fired by the Myanmar Times for reporting on
sexual violence that occurred during the military’s clearance operation in Rakhine
State (Holmes 2016).
The unexpected deterioration of free speech under the NLD also extends to
state-owned media. After the Thein Sein government ended prepublication censor-
ship in August 2012, some controversial articles were printed in dailies like the
state-run Kyemon. Now, however, such outlets have reverted back to whitewashing
coverage of government policy. The English-language The Global New Light of My-
anmar responded to the international outcry over the events in Rakhine State with
a series of editorials and opinion pieces that called for the removal of the Muslim
community from the state. Moreover, the paper argued that foreign journalists and
humanitarian actors were working closely with terrorists. In addition, stories about
other ethnic conflicts are problematic as they are picked up directly from the mili-
tary’s Myawaddy news agency (Khaing 2017). It is difficult to measure the negative
impact such articles have on the population, but it is easy to see that they are help-
ing to strengthen existing divides. Despite this, the NLD government’s minister for
information, Pe Myint, has so far shown no will to put the state media under greater
scrutiny. Such unwillingness combined with the active use of repressive laws by
NLD policymakers stands in stark contrast to the democratic principles the party
ostensibly propagates.
7 GIGA FOCUS | ASIA | NO. 1 | APRIL 2017
Lack of Trust and Effective Governing Structures inside the NLD
The NLD’s continued centralisation of decision-making powers is reflective of ear -
lier authoritarian governance modes and at odds with the democratic principles
it promotes. The major decision-making bodies within the party are supposed to
be the 120-member Central Committee (CC) and the 16-member Central Executive
Committee (CEC) – the members of the latter are appointed by the party chairper-
son. However, at the time of writing, the CC had not met for 10 months, and party
policymaking was generally being carried out in the CEC. When Aung San Suu Kyi
became state counsellor, she could not continue to chair the CEC due to consti-
tutional restrictions. Thus, a secretariat of five senior CEC members was founded
to govern the body. Nevertheless, long-term NLD members and parliamentarians
agree that the CEC is not well organised. Three members of the CEC secretariat
are based in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, while the other two are based at NLD
headquarters in Yangon. As a consequence, communication within the CEC is often
ineffective and has no functioning mechanisms in place to give instructions to party
Decision-making structures were also weakened by the dissolution of policy
committees (e.g. on education and health care) following the NLD’s election victory.
Many of the committee members and chairpersons became members of parliament.
However, instead of appointing new committee members, the NLD chose to dis-
solve the committees and forego their policy expertise. Consequently, communica-
tion within the party has become a major issue and is hampering functionality since
CEC members can often not be approached directly and there are no mechanisms
for bringing up issues. The problem is intensified by the virtual absence of the CEC
members, who mostly focus on supervising members of parliament rather than on
the party. Thus, the party has adopted a top-down approach to decision- and policy-
making, which has seen transparency and accountability levels decrease.
An obvious answer for why the committees were discontinued and new mem-
bers were not added to the CEC is that there is a lack of qualified successors. How -
ever, this reason has not been confirmed by voices from inside the party. On the
contrary, many NLD functionaries believe that there are enough well-qualified and
experienced NLD members who could take on such responsibility. Still, these can-
didates are not trusted by the CEC or other senior members. Many of the CEC mem-
bers, all of whom are over 65 years old, were persecuted for their political actions
by past military or military-backed governments. This might add to their unwilling-
ness to entrust younger party members with such key political responsibilities, par-
ticularly those aged between 40 and 60 years old and who have long entered their
professional careers. Distributing responsibilities on the basis of age and experi-
ence is common practice in Myanmar and not limited to the NLD. The NLD should,
however, be a role model and champion the inclusion of the younger generation.
After all, doing so would add valuable expertise to the party and would increase the
chances of the NLD remaining a strong party once the current leadership retires.
A number of NLD members argue that this is a major problem for the party
because it misses out on valuable expertise, especially concerning new technologies
and education. The firm belief that party management should be left to senior fig -
ures has been reiterated by Aung San Suu Kyi. An anecdote often retold by members
of the NLD youth organisation cites a response she made at a NLD youth training
8 GIGA FOCUS | ASIA | NO. 1 | APRIL 2017
camp. When asked why he was participating, one attendee answered that he wanted
to assume responsibility in order to change the country for the better. Aung San Suu
Kyi replied with a curt “no way.” The problem of delegation and the lack of involve-
ment of those under 60 is a recurring issue in parliament too, where committee
posts are almost never given to those below 60 and all chairpersons are over 65.
Consequently, many NLD members feel left out of the political process (author’s
interviews, September 2016).
They are also worried about the policy focus of the party, which rests almost
entirely on the peace process. Many realise that the peace process will likely remain
unsuccessful without amending the constitution. However, they also recognise that
the military is unlikely to allow the constitution to be altered any time soon. Mem-
bers are worried about the NLD gambling away its political capital by focusing on a
single issue (that they deem impossible to resolve) while giving too little attention
to economic and education policies (a point raised multiple times during interviews
with NLD members for this paper).
A functioning party structure that promotes the participation of its members is
crucial for effective leadership. Transparency and accountability are integral parts
of a democratic government. The NLD is currently operating below its potential
in both effectiveness and democratic approach to governance. Here, the NLD is
not constrained by external forces; it is able to swiftly implement changes if such
changes are needed. A stable democratic transition necessitates an effective govern-
ing party that adheres to democratic principles. So far, however, the NLD seems to
be unwilling to transform itself.
Navigating the Crossroads
The NLD’s unwillingness to unequivocally pursue the country’s democratic transi-
tion is likely motivated by a strategy that takes into account the current division of
power in the country. National reconciliation is the NLD’s focus because succeeding
in that undertaking would put the party in a stronger position to change the con-
stitution. So in the meantime, the party seemingly believes that it is best to adopt
policies that are least likely to cause rifts with the military. Hence, it is keeping in
line with the former government’s approach of declining any concessions to armed
ethnic groups prior to a nationwide ceasefire agreement. The same line of thinking
may also explain why they are downplaying human rights abuses and why the party
leadership seems to believe that tight-knit decision-making structures are most ef-
fective for coordinating policy during the volatile transition period.
Yet, this ambiguous strategy is a dangerous gamble because it is leading the
NLD astray from the democratic principles on which it was elected: the protection
of human rights and ethnic minorities in the name of equality, the implementation
of democratic decision-making structures that ensure accountability and transpar-
ency, and equal attention to the wide array of policy areas necessary for increasing
Governing Myanmar democratically and resolving the most pressing policy is-
sues is a difficult task, and nobody should expect miracles to happen overnight. Eu -
ropean policymakers should, however, strive to address the prevailing issues in the
country as a part of their increased cooperation with Myanmar following the lifting
9 GIGA FOCUS | ASIA | NO. 1 | APRIL 2017
of most sanctions in 2013. In doing so, they should differentiate between those is-
sues that call for decisive pressure based on international agreements that Myan-
mar’s new government has signed or should feel obliged to adhere to and those that
require careful consultation and capacity support.
The former includes the need for increased humanitarian access in Kachin,
Shan, and Rakhine States as well as access for objective investigators and the me-
dia. Moreover, it must entail pressure to repeal repressive laws and a call to end the
persecution of journalists and critics of the government. The consultation-based
approach should include broader governance questions such as the way the NLD
rules. In this regard foreign policymakers cannot make demands; nevertheless, they
should offer their expertise and support.
Increased cooperation along these lines will only be possible if European poli-
cymakers are willing to make two commitments. First, they need to understand that
European economic undertakings in Myanmar are not merely means through which
to secure profits in the world’s fastest growing economy, but rather are incentives
which can be used to bring about positive change. Second, they need to make an
increased effort to understand the historical, political, and cultural processes that
shape Myanmar today. Too often issues are perceived within the limited time frame
of a mandate, leading to insufficiently context-sensitive understandings of the dy -
namics that shape political processes. In particular, the persecution of the Rohingya
is often viewed as a recent development that followed the violent clashes in 2012,
overlooking the fact that the present conflict, which has turned into one of the most
disruptive ethnic conflicts in South East Asia (Medha 2016), is the outcome of a
decades-long systematic undertaking to drive the Rohingya out of Rakhine.
Myanmar and the NLD are at a historic crossroads. Yet, there are many prom-
ising prospects for feasible change that would strengthen democratic values like
equality, justice, and the rights of ethnic minorities. These include the repeal of
repressive and discriminatory laws, closer cooperation with international actors on
humanitarian issues, and the restructuring of the NLD to ensure transparency and
accountability. European policymakers need to assist the Myanmar government to
identify these prospects and implement the changes needed.
Advisory Commission on Rakhine State (2017), Interim Report and Recommen-
dations, Advisory Commission on Rakhine State,
app/uploads/2017/03/Advisory-Commission-Interim-Report.pdf (20 March
BBC Asia (2016), Kofi Annan Downplays Claims of Myanmar Genocide, in: BBC, (7 March 2017).
Hlaing Lynn, Nyan (2017), Panglong Conference Likely Delayed to March, Says
Govt, in: Frontier Myanmar,
ence-likely-delayed-to-march-says-govt (9 March 2017).
Holmes, Oliver (2016), Myanmar Journalist Says She Was Fired over Story on Mili-
tary Rape Allegations, in: The Guardian,
nov/04/myanmar-times-journalist-fired-fiona-macgregor (16 March 2017).
Joint Strategy Team (2016), Urgent Requests: Concerns and Requests Related to
10 GIGA FOCUS | ASIA | NO. 1 | APRIL 2017
the Humanitarian Situation in Kachin and Northern Shan States, Myanmar, in:
Progressive Voice of Myanmar,
tent/uploads/2016/10/JST-Humanitarian-Situation-.pdf (9 March 2017).
Khaing, Htun (2017), The NLD’s New Chapter in Propaganda, in: Frontier Myan-
mar, (31
March 2017).
Lakhdir, Linda (2016), Freedom of Speech Remains Illusory in the New Burma, in:
The Irrawaddy,
remains-illusory-in-the-new-burma.html (9 March 2017).
Lewis, Simon (2016), U.N. Says 15,000 Flee into China as Myanmar’s Army Bat-
tles Ethnic Rebels, in: Reuters,
idUSKBN1490LJ (12 March 2017).
Lintner, B. (2017), No Peace in Sight for Myanmar, in: Asia Times, www.atimes.
com/article/no-peace-sight-myanmar/ (10 March 2017).
McPherson, Poppy, and Cape Win Diamond (2017), Free Speech Curtailed in Aung
San Suu Kyi’s Myanmar as Prosecutions Soar, in: The Guardian, www.theguard-
mar-prosecutions-soar (16 March 2017).
Medha (2016), India a Home Only to Hindus? New Refugee Policy Exacerbates
Tensions, GIGA Focus Asia, Number 08 (December), Hamburg: GIGA, (31 March
Ministry of the Office of the State Counsellor (2017), Press Release, Ministry of
249 (19 March 2017).
OHCHR (2017), Interviews with Rohingyas Fleeing from Myanmar since 9 Oc-
tober 2016, OHCHR,
3Feb2017.pdf (12 March 2017).
State Counsellor Office Information Committee (2017), in: Facebook, www.face-
1861/?type=3&theater (15 March 2017).
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar President Office (2017), Gov't UN Rakhine
investigation, in: President Office ,
rakhine-state-affairs/id-7428 (19 April 2017).
UNHCR (2017), A/HRC/34/67 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation
of Human Rights in Myanmar, in: OHCHR,
dpage_e.aspx?m=89 (10 March 2017).
USAID (2016), Burma – Complex Emergency, in: USAID,
Complex%20Emergency%20Fact%20Sheet%20%234.pdf (12 March 2017).
About the Author
Richard Roewer has been a member of the GIGA Doctoral Programme since Octo-
ber 2016. His research focuses on the way pro-democracy parties influence political
transition processes in Myanmar and South Africa. He has previously worked for
the Model International Criminal Court (MICC) as a country manager for Myanmar.
11 GIGA FOCUS | ASIA | NO. 1 | APRIL 2017
Mr. Roewer holds a BA (Hons) in Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics from Heythrop
College and an MSc in Global Governance and Emerging Powers from Birkbeck
College, University of London. His research interests include transformation pro-
cesses, political party development, and the interplay between religion and politics.,
Related GIGA Research
The members of the GIGA Research Programme 1 – Accountability and Participa-
tion analyse institutional change, political processes, and social developments in in-
clusive and restrictive political contexts. They look to understand how the demand
for accountability produces expectations and norms for political participation. In
contrast to conventional understandings that define autocracies and transform -
ing states negatively by their lack of accountability and electoral legitimacy, the
research team Authoritarian Politics focuses on the policies and alternative modes
of political accountability often employed by those states.
Members of the research team Identities, Ideology, and Conflict (part of GIGA
Research Programme 2 – Peace and Security) study how religious and social identi-
ties affect forms of contentious politics. Moreover, the team analyses how religion
and ethnicity combined with material factors shape the trajectories of conflicts.
Related GIGA Publications
Ansorg, Nadine, and Sabine Kurtenbach (eds) (2017), Institutional Reforms and
Peacebuilding: Change, Path-Dependency and Societal Divisions in Post-War
Communities, Abingdon/New York: Routledge.
Bünte, Marco, and Jörn Dosch (2015), Myanmar: Political Reforms and the Recali-
bration of External Relations, in: Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 34,
2, 3-19,
Dosch, Jörn, and Jatswan S. Sidhu (2015), The European Union’s Myanmar Policy:
Focused or Directionless?, in: Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 34,
2, 85-112,
Flesken, Anaïd (2014), Researching Ethnic Relations as the Outcome of Political
Processes, GIGA Working Paper, No. 251 (August), Hamburg: GIGA, www.giga- .
Stokke, Kristian, Khine Win, and Soe Myint Aung (2015), Political Parties and Pop-
ular Representation in Myanmar’s Democratisation Process, in: Journal of Cur-
rent Southeast Asian Affairs, 34, 3, 3-35,
12 GIGA FOCUS | ASIA | NO. 1 | APRIL 2017
The GIGA Focus is an Open Access publication and can be read on the
Internet and downloaded free of charge at
focus. According to the conditions of the Creative Commons licence Attri-
bution-No Derivative Works 3.0 this publication may be freely duplicated,
circulated and made accessible to the public. The particular conditions
include the correct indication of the initial publication as GIGA Focus and
no changes in or abbreviation of texts.
The GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies – Leibniz-Institut für Globale und
Regionale Studien in Hamburg publishes the Focus series on Africa, Asia, Latin America,
the Middle East and global issues. The GIGA Focus is edited and published by the GIGA.
The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily
reflect those of the institute. Authors alone are responsible for the content of their articles.
GIGA and the authors cannot be held liable for any errors and omissions, or for any con-
sequences arising from the use of the information provided.
General Editor GIGA Focus Series: Dr. Sabine Kurtenbach
Editor GIGA Focus Asia: Prof. Dr. Heike Holbig
Editorial Department: Errol Bailey, Christine Berg

GIGA | Neuer Jungfernstieg 21
20354 Hamburg