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Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

Unraveling Myanmar’s Transition

Progress, Retrenchment and Ambiguity Amidst Liberalization

The optimism provoked by Myanmar’s political reforms in 2011 and 2012 has now given way to a sense that the uneven nature of change in this nation of 54 million has led to instability and uncertainty. The liberalization of critical sectors and expansion of certain freedoms, such as political and legal opportunities for expression and mobilization, contrasts with the entrenchment of structural problems. It has become difficult to tackle ethnic marginalization and conflict, over-dependence on natural resource extraction, inadequate public services, and problems of under-capacity in the civilian bureaucracy. The result is the build-up of a toxic environment in which classism, racism, and bigotry threaten to rend Myanmar’s already delicate social fabric.

The contributors to this volume bring unique perspectives and methodologies to bear to unravel Myanmar’s tangled challenges. Whether it is through studying corruption by analyzing the country’s real-estate bubble, assessing civil society advocacy capacity against extractive industries, or gauging the strength—and surprising weakness—of Myanmar’s military, the volume employs unconventional approaches and analytical rigor to address a fundamental question: is Myanmar itself unraveling?

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“Variously wide-ranging and penetrating, the essays assembled in this volume examine Myanmar's short decade of dramatic political and social change in all its complexity. . . . Dense with original research and fresh interpretations of what is happening in Myanmar and why, they bode well for the future of scholarship on this no-longer overlooked country at the nexus of South and Southeast Asia.”

Nick Cheesman, Australian National University

“This collection of essays (completed in 2018) addresses some of the possibilities and the primary challenges to life and governance in an era of ambiguity. Among the most informative chapters are the final one about the Rohingya crisis, a chapter on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and environmental governance, and the opening chapter on the country’s political options going forward.”


“Nuanced critical insights into Myanmar’s democratic transition while charting potentially fruitful research directions for the future.”

Felix Tan Thiam Kim | Contemporary Southeast Asia

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