On 23 July 1997, junta-ruled Myanmar joined ASEAN to become the 9th member of the Association (together with Laos). Decades of military rule had put Myanmar in an isolated and internationally passive position, and ASEAN membership offered a way out. ASEAN was equally hoping that accepting Myanmar would progressively liberalise the country and integrate it into the eventual ASEAN-10.
Myanmar feels ASEAN membership in different ways: society and economy have certainly benefitted from being part of ASEAN, with increasing connectivity and increasing intra-regional trade. But with China having a large footprint in the country, Myanmar is also pulled in different directions. It is possibly the one ASEAN member that has experienced most interference by the others, such as after the 2008 Cyclone Nargis, or the more recent Rakhine State crisis. With the return of civilian rule, however, recent years marked a new chapter in the country’s history and when it is set to chair the association once again in 2024, Myanmar can hopefully push the ASEAN agenda in its own right.
Myanmar’s integration into ASEAN is certainly “work-in-progress” and this seminar will shed some light on obstacles and opportunities for Myanmar and ASEAN as the country slowly approaches its membership’s Silver Jubilee.
About the Speaker
Ms Moe Thuzar is Coordinator of the Myanmar Studies Programme at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. Previously, she was lead researcher at the Institute’s ASEAN Studies Centre. Before joining ISEAS in 2008, she headed the Human Development Unit at the ASEAN Secretariat. Moe has published and contributed extensively on ASEAN and on Myanmar. Under her ASEAN research, Moe monitored regional integration and governance issues, with focus on the areas under the ASEAN Socio- Cultural Community. For Myanmar, Moe monitors Myanmar’s ongoing transition issues, and was involved in advising Myanmar’s ASEAN chairmanship in 2014. From August 2019 to May 2020, Moe will be a Fox International Fellow at Yale University’s MacMillan Center after which she will return to ISEAS for her Myanmar Studies Programme responsibilities. She holds a Master in Public Policy from the National University of Singapore, a B. A. (hons) in English language and literature from Yangon University and a B.A (foreign equivalent) in French from Sorbonne-Paris IV. She is researching the socio-cultural internalisations of Burma/Myanmar’s Cold War foreign policy for her PhD dissertation.
About the RSIS Seminar Series on Multilateralism Studies: “ASEAN and the CLMV States”
In 2019, 20 years since the – for the time being – final Southeast Asian country joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Centre for Multilateralism Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) is hosting a series of four seminars assessing the impact of ASEAN membership expansion on a country specific case-by-case basis. The goal is to gauge the impact of ASEAN membership on each one of the CLMV countries and vice versa. In what multifaceted ways did ASEAN membership change the countries, and how did their accession change the Association, its development and future prospects – those are the questions we are trying to answer over the course of the Seminars.