Burma/Myanmar has seen almost constant conflict since independence from Britain in 1947. Military regimes have ruled the country for most of that time, justifying their role in politics by underlining the risks that the multiple ethnic conflicts might cause the country to disintegrate. The near permanent state of war has taken a terrible toll on the country with tens of thousands killed, millions displaced and decades lost in terms of development. Myanmar is now one of the poorest countries in Asia and its economy is moribund despite some reforms in the 1990s.
The State Peace and Development Council – a group of generals who run the country with an iron fist – say that they wish to return Myanmar to democracy but only when the risk of disintegration subsides. But there has been little progress in this direction since the military reasserted their control in 1990 by refusing to honour the results of an elections won by the National League for Democracy. Intermittent talks between the SPDC and the NLD leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have yet to bear fruit but there is some very cautious optimism of an eventual settlement.
ICG’s Myanmar Project aims to examine the policies of the SPDC and the international response to military rule. It also seeks to highlight ways in which the international community may be able to reduce the risks of conflict involved in any political transition, focusing on ethnic conflicts, economic and political reforms and international support.