Of all countries in Southeast Asia, Burma has the unenviable reputation of having the largest number of armed ethnic insurgencies, as well as an entrenched civil opposition to the ruling military regime. The ethnic insurgencies began in 1948 while civil opposition has grown more open during the last decade. These conditions of protracted conflict raise a number of related questions: (1) Why has the conflict been so persistent and how is this related to “governance” in Burma? (2) Is it possible to distinguish non-traditional security issues in this conflict and, if so, what are the implications in relation to regional co-operation and stability? This paper seeks to address these questions through an examination of developments in Burma since 1988, a watershed year in domestic politico-military relations. It also seeks to establish a clear delineation of “governance” as an analytical concept and to set out non-traditional security issues arising from the conflict in Burma. The non-traditional security issues arise principally from the existence of approximately 120,000 refugees in Thailand, cross-border violations of Thailand’s territorial sovereignty, and the massive influx of narcotics from Burma into Thailand and China. These issues are situated in relation to developments in Burma and proximate inter-state interactions. Finally, the paper examines the implications of these issues in the broader context of regional co-operation and stability, and undertakes a re-assessment of the relationship between non-traditional security issues and traditional (politico-military) issues.
Last updated on 01/07/2014