Myanmar’s democratic backsliding in the struggle for national identity and independence

Jonathan T. Chow, Leif Eric Easley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Myanmar’s military regime transitioned to a nominally civilian government in 2011, raising hopes at home and abroad about the nation’s democratization. In 2015, the opposition National League for Democracy swept the general elections, and Aung San Suu Kyi established a power-sharing arrangement with the military. However, Myanmar still exhibited various human rights violations, especially with sectarian violence in Rakhine State that drove hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people into neighboring Bangladesh. Some foreign governments reapplied sanctions as a result. This chapter argues that Myanmar’s democratic backsliding stems from its unfinished nation-building. The national identity is torn between a vision of a civic polity inclusive of diversity and a cultural-ethnic polity centered on Buddhism and the Bamar majority. Minority and civil rights, as well as civil-military relations, remain mired in identity-based conflict. If democratization fails, Myanmar can expect more bloodshed, greater repression, and diminished international standing. It would also rely more on China, with implications for national autonomy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDemocratization, National Identity and Foreign Policy in Asia
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781000360141
ISBN (Print)9780367634339
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 selection and editorial matter, Gilbert Rozman; individual chapters, the contributors.


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