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NTS Bulletin

NTS Bulletin March 2012

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NTS VIEWPOINT

Myanmar’s national reconciliation process: A positive for the region?

Since taking office in March 2011, Myanmar’s new government has implemented a host of reforms. These include the release of some political prisoners,a lifting of restrictions on media freedoms, the initiation of peace negotiations with ethnic armed groups and a declaration of a war on opium; all of which are intended to further democracy, promote national reconciliation and end international isolation. These efforts have impacted not only Myanmar but also its neighbours who have been negatively affected by Myanmar’s protracted ethnic conflict and political struggle.

The discriminatory ethnic policies of the military government and struggle of ethnic nationalities for equality have created massive humanitarian burdens for Myanmar’s neighbours. Thailand hosts over 140,000 refugees and asylum seekers along its border with Myanmar. Over 260,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh to escape the government’s military campaigns and widespread human rights abuses. In 2009, the fighting in the Kokang region forced 37,000 refugees to move across the border into China. The influx of refugees has aroused discontent, with tensions rising between the newcomers and local communities as they compete for resources and jobs. Moreover, Myanmar’s ethnic conflict has also caused casualties in its neighbouring countries. For instance, in the 2009 Kokang incident, two Chinese citizens were killed and fifteen were injured. Reports indicate that the recent political changes within Myanmar may spark refugee repatriation, and this is definitely welcomed by the refugee host countries as they can be freed from the burden to some extent.

Myanmar’s domestic instability has also posed other non-traditional security challenges to its neighbours, such as drug trafficking. The ethnic conflicts and weak governance have created a favourable environment for the growth of drug cultivation and trade in Myanmar. According to the World Drug Report 2010, Myanmar is now the second largest producer and primary regional supplier of various kinds of drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamine tablets. As Myanmar seeks national reconciliation and international legitimacy, it has strengthened its crackdown on drugs with its declaration to eradicate opium by 2014. However, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), this target is not realistic, even with foreign assistance.

The recent changes in Myanmar are encouraging, but these measures have just been implemented and have yet to produce any substantial effect on the overall situation. Fighting between government troops and ethnic armed groups continue to break out sporadically. Accusations of human rights abuses still persist.

Since Myanmar’s internal instability has spillover impacts, a democratic and stable Myanmar is in the interests of all stakeholders. All domestic parties should be more firmly and consistently committed to the transition process. In addition to domestic efforts, neighbouring countries can also contribute to the reconciliation process. For instance, China facilitated the process by hosting ceasefire talks between the government and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in the Chinese border town of Ruili in November 2011 and January 2012. More such efforts should be encouraged.

Contributed by Lina Gong.

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CLIMATE CHANGE, ENVIRONMENTAL SECURITY AND NATURAL DISASTERS

News & Commentaries

Selected Publications

This paper examines institutional dynamics in the Tonle Sap Lake area in Cambodia, and analyses three initiatives for establishing a coordinating organisation for the lake basin, an area significant to both Cambodia and the wider transboundary Mekong River Basin. While the discussion revolves around commonly accepted ideals of cooperation and sustainability, existing institutions, and their political rivalries and interests, have a strong influence on institutional reform. Thus, in order to realize the goal of a new basin organisation, existing institutions must be given greater attention

Given that one of the two main themes of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20) is ‘strengthening the institutional framework for sustainable development’, this discussion paper provides further details on how to operationalise this framework. Specifically it highlights ways in which the process of public participation can play an important role in enhancing the institutional framework.

Events & Announcements

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ENERGY AND HUMAN SECURITY

News & Commentaries

Selected Publications

This report consists of articles discussing legal challenges for maritime cooperation in contested waters in East and Southeast Asia, areas rich in living and non-living resources. The report is part of a project on maritime energy resources in Asia.

This article analyses major global energy risks through the lens of market failure. Market failure can be caused by imperfect competition, externalities, public goods and lack of information. To address the failure, governance should be strengthened with regard to information and planning security, spillover effects and collective actions.

Events & Announcements

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FOOD AND HEALTH SECURITY

News & Commentaries

Selected Publications

Access to a diet containing adequate nutrients is of fundamental importance to achieving global health and food security goals. There is room for improved collaboration between the agricultural, health and nutrition sectors in achieving these objectives. This book draws from expertise across the three sectors, identifies linkages and presents suggestions to improve related policies and programmes.

This briefing paper provides an overview of issues related to the rising interest of investment funds in farmland and the agricultural sector in developing countries. It identifies key stakeholders in the phenomenon, outlines investment processes and investigates the impact of these investments in recipient countries. In the interest of supporting food security goals for local populations, it suggests actions to promote collaborative investment models.

Events & Announcements

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INTERNAL AND CROSS-BORDER CONFLICT

News & Commentaries

Selected Publications

This report explores how Burmese people affected by cyclone Nargis in 2008 perceive and realise protection. Self-help has been the primary source of protection, especially in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Assistance from the unaffected-sectors of Myanmar society has also been crucial, while international involvement has been less significant due to the government’s restrictions on international assistance.

This article examines the Khmer Rouge trials through the lens of the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) as well as the regional utility of this emerging principle. It notes that civil society groups could serve as a champion to promote RtoP in the Asia-Pacific region.

Events & Announcements

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TRANSNATIONAL CRIME

News & Commentaries

Selected Publications

The Vienna Declaration reaffirms the commitment of Paris Pact partners to the fight against opiates originating in Afghanistan. It focuses on four main areas of cooperation: regional initiatives, financial flows linked to illicit traffic in opiates, preventing the diversion of precursor chemicals, and reducing drug abuse and dependence.

The report finds that economic factors play an important role in the evolution of crime trends. For instance, violent property crimes such as robbery appeared most affected during times of economic crisis, with up to twofold increases in some contexts. These findings are consistent with criminal motivation theory, which suggests that economic stress may increase the incentive for individuals to engage in illicit behaviours.

Events & Announcements

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You are free to publish this material in its entirety or only in part in your newspapers, wire services, internet-based information networks and newsletters and you may use the information in your radio-TV discussions or as a basis for discussion in different fora, provided full credit is given to the author(s) and the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). Kindly inform the publisher (NTS_Centre@ntu.edu.sg) and provide details of when and where the publication was used.

About the Centre:

The Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies was inaugurated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Dr Surin Pitsuwan in May 2008. The Centre maintains research in the fields of Food Security, Climate Change, Energy Security, Health Security as well as Internal and Cross-Border Conflict. It produces policy-relevant analyses aimed at furthering awareness and building capacity to address NTS issues and challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. The Centre also provides a platform for scholars and policymakers within and outside Asia to discuss and analyse NTS issues in the region.

In 2009, the Centre was chosen by the MacArthur Foundation as a lead institution for the MacArthur Asia Security Initiative, to develop policy research capacity and recommend policies on the critical security challenges facing the Asia-Pacific.

The Centre is also a founding member and the Secretariat for the Consortium of Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies in Asia (NTS-Asia). More information on the Centre can be found at www.rsis.edu.sg/nts.


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