The ISEAS Myanmar Studies Programme organised a webinar on “Myanmar’s 2020 Vote: A Post-Election Analysis” to hear different perspectives and research viewpoints on some of the key factors that contributed to the election outcome, and looking ahead to how this outcome would shape the post-election landscape.
This webinar presented insider views on how mainstream and new media in Myanmar report on issues that are deemed important in the country’s transition. Panellists at this webinar addressed the question of whether or how media reporting in an election year informs and influences voters’ views and attitudes, especially those of young (and first-time) voters.
In ISEAS’ first webinar, Dr Andrew Ong examines how Wa political culture and its understanding of the political world shape the UWSA’s relations with Myanmar, China and the international community. He also lays out a set of considerations for engagement with the UWSA and the implications of those considerations for the peace process in one of the world’s longest-running civil wars.
About the Seminar
Myanmar’s Constituency Development Funds (CDF) were introduced in 2014 by the first post-junta Union legislature. Popular in developing countries and emerging democracies alike, CDFs are funding arrangements that channel public money from the government directly to electoral constituencies for small infrastructure and local development projects. Members of parliament commonly hold sway over the way these funds are allocated annually. CDF schemes have long remained controversial among communities of donors, anti-corruption agencies and civil society watchdogs for their potential for corruptive business and political clientelism. Drawing on recent field research, this lecture will investigate initial patterns of “pork barrel” politics in Myanmar under both the late USDP government (2014-16) and early NLD administration (since 2016). How have elected legislators used their annual CDFs? How has “pork” been allocated and distributed? Has the process been monitored and evaluated? What impact have these “pork barreling” programs had on local economic development? Has there been any indication of partisan use of these funds? The long-term objective of this study is to better understand how the politics of distribution and legislative pork barreling are emerging in post-junta Myanmar, and whether the negative impacts observed in other sociopolitical contexts and post-authoritarian societies, such as corruption, vote-buying, and political clientelism, can also impede, or foster, citizen participation and government accountability in the country.
About the Speaker
Renaud Egreteau (PhD Paris, 2006) is Visiting Fellow at ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. He previously taught comparative politics at Sciences Po Paris, France and the University of Hong Kong, and was a recipient of a 2015-2016 fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC. He recently authored Caretaking Democratization: The Military and Political Change in Myanmar (Oxford University Press and Hurst, 2016) and co-edited Metamorphosis: Studies in Social and Political Change in Myanmar [with Francois Robinne] (Singapore: NUS Press, 2015).
About the Seminar
With the opening up of the country’s economy in its development drive, reforms in post-2011 Myanmar have linked urbanization with development. In his speech inaugurating Myanmar’s Urban Research and Development Institute (URDI) in January 2012, then Union Minister of Construction Khin Maung Myint expressed his hope that the “URDI will assist the Government’s endeavours of building a new, modern and developed nation.” This fixation on modernization and development is not new for Myanmar, but it has taken on increased urgency since 2011. The country’s leaders have pursued economic integration with ASEAN and adopted a number of international standards, including the UN Millennium Development Goals, as near-term targets. In this drive to catch up with Myanmar’s neighbours and to reconnect with the global economy, these leaders see cities as the engines for economic development. But in the rush to make the country competitive there has been no discussion of what the urban is or what constitutes development. Other cities in the global South and postcolonial countries have encountered similar challenges, leading scholars to question the uncritical application of the tenets of development and neoliberal globalization to so-called developing nations. This seminar will focus on the making of the urban in Myanmar as a contingent and contested process that is increasingly subject to international circuits of authoritative knowledge. In particular, it asks, what is a city if it is not the production of space undertaken by its inhabitants? What are the roles and functions of cities in a reforming Myanmar? And what is Myanmar urbanism in a rapidly globalizing country?
About the Speaker
Jayde Lin Roberts is a spatial ethnographer and interdisciplinary scholar of the built environment. Her book, Mapping Chinese Rangoon: Place and Nation among the Sino-Burmese, was published by the University of Washington Press in June 2016. She is a tenured faculty member at the University of Tasmania and is currently in Myanmar as a Fulbright Scholar. Her ongoing research in Yangon examines discourses of development as presented by the British colonial government and the governments of independent Burma/Myanmar, as well as the current representation of development, which is strongly influenced by international standards and universalized expertise.
About the Seminar
The reforms of the past five years in Myanmar have often been described as surprising or insincere. Yet, by considering the nature of the military-led state that was established in the 1950-60s and has changed little since, we may discover that they are neither. The conceptualisation of the Myanmar state as a National Security State charts a middle ground in the highly polarized debates about Myanmar’s recent past, present and future by focusing sharply on the military core of the state and the significance of the Tatmadaw’s corporate interests, values and worldviews. Importantly, it offers both hope and some clear warnings for the country’s democrats and their well-wishers abroad.
About the Speaker
Dr Morten Pedersen is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of New South Wales Canberra (Australian Defence Force Academy). He previously spent six years in Myanmar with the International Crisis Group and has worked as a policy advisor also for the United Nations, the World Bank and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari. His major publications include Promoting Human Rights in Burma: A Critique of Western Sanctions Policies (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008); with Anna Magnusson, A Good Office: Twenty Years of UN Mediation in Myanmar (International Peace Institute, 2012); and Democratising Myanmar’s National Security State (East-West Center, forthcoming).