Decentralization and Minority Representation in Post-Transition Myanmar: A Comparative Perspective
MYANMAR STUDIES PROGRAMME SEMINAR
About the Seminar
Since the transition to civilian rule in 2011, the government of Myanmar has launched a process of negotiation to end civil war, reform the country’s political system, and institutionalize a new relationship with ethnic minority groups. To what extent are current negotiations likely to produce a model of governance that accommodates the historical grievances of Myanmar’s ethnic minorities? Based on a current book project (with Ardeth Thawnghmung and Alexandre Pelletier), I argue that the process of decentralization under the Constitution of 2008 is creating a de facto model of accommodation that diverges significantly from ethnic minorities’ expectations. I compare Myanmar’s current decentralization trajectory with the experiences of Aceh and Papua in Indonesia, and show that measures to introduce more fiscal and administrative autonomy at the state-level fall short of providing levels and guarantees of ethnic minority power that will satisfy their long-term demands. The divergent experiences of Aceh and Papua reveal pernicious effects from which lessons can be drawn in Myanmar’s current negotiation process.
About the Speaker
Jacques Bertrand is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Collaborative Master’s Program in Contemporary East and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Toronto. He is a core faculty member of the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies (Asian Institute), of which he was the founding director. A graduate of Princeton University (PhD), he also holds degrees from the London School of Economics and McGill University. His work has focused mainly on ethnic conflict, nationalism, and democratic politics in Southeast Asia. Professor Bertrand was a co-investigator and executive member of Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Major Collaborative Research Initiative on Ethnicity and Democratic Governance. He is currently working on a book manuscript titled Democratization and Substate Nationalist Conflict in Southeast Asia, and directing a United States Institute of Peace-funded project titled “Institutionalizing Minority Representation In Post-Transition Myanmar.” Additionally, Professor Bertrand recently began a large comparative project on resource booms and inequality in emerging democracies, with a particular focus on Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil.