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The Political Crisis in Myanmar: Nuanced Perspectives on the Nation's Past, Present & Future

Co-sponsored by Center for Asian Studies at University of Colorado Boulder

Feb 24 2021 | 9 am MT/ 10 am CST/ 11 am EST | Virtual

Number of people attended: 147

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Su Kyi, President Win Myint, and other senior politicians were detained by the Tatmadaw (military) on the early morning of Feb 1 2021. Following the military coup, the Commander-in-chief General Min Aung Hlaing has taken over the nation's leadership with a claim to restore order and declared one year state of emergency. Since this day, the use of social media and internet has been banned in the country's large cities. Activists and ordinary citizens have been participating in various efforts to voice their resistance and concerns.

Emerging scholars with Indigenous and heritage ties to Myanmar will discuss which events in the far and recent national pasts led to the current moment in Myanmar as well as what this historic moment will mean for the future of Myanmar from social, political, and cultural perspectives. There will be time for Q & A with the audience.

The panel will be in English.

Free & Open to public.


Poster design by André Barros


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Than Toe Aung is currently finishing his Masters in Critical Gender Studies at Central European University in Vienna, Austria. His thesis looks at the racist, sexist, and neo-colonial nature behinds sex tourism in the Global South. Interested in the intersection between activism, poetry, and writing, he started a poetry slam movement called “Slam Express” in his hometown Yangon in 2016. He writes about the marginalization and oppression of Muslim minorities in Buddhist Burma. His interests also lie in identity, belonging, borders, migration, race, ethnicity, decolonization, (trans)gender, non-binary, and queer politics.

Ashley Aye Aye Dun is a writer and PhD candidate in English at Brown University. She specializes in Asian American studies and literature and gender and sexuality studies. In the past, she has been involved in diasporic activism concerning the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities in Burma/Myanmar. She is currently writing a dissertation on political turmoil and the notion of excess in Southeast Asian American literature. In general, women of color feminisms serve as a guiding ethos for her work.

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Jangai Jap is a Ph.D. Candidate in the George Washington University’s Political Science Department. Her research interest includes ethnic politics, minority representation, public opinion, and Burma/Myanmar politics. Her dissertation aims to explain factors that shape ethnic minorities’ attachment to the state. Her research is supported by the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship and Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Judaic Studies from Yale University. She is originally from Kachin State and attended Burmese public school until 5th grade. 

Htet Thiha Zaw is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor. His research interests lie in historical political economy, education, and formal theory. Substantively, He is interested in understanding the development of education policy in colonial-era Southeast Asia and its relationship with anti-colonial resistance, focusing on British Burma. Another line of his research explores topics in international education policy, such as education efficiency and early-childhood education.

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Some of the questions discussed during the Q & A

  1. As to the 8 Army members of the State Administration Council, do you know their ranks?  Military culture is such that the rank of the individuals is everything.  In reality, one person could be telling all 8 what to say and how to vote.  Rather than having 8 individual opinions, it is possible that a dictator is controlling half of the council simply by virtue of rank?

  2. Thanks for bringing up NCG (National Coalition Government) after the 1990 election. It's helpful. Can you please say more about what were the major challenges for the NCG back in 1990? What could CRPH (Committee Representing Pyihtaungsu Hluttaw)  learn from the past institutionalized resistance?

  3. How has this affected tourism in Myanmar, like trips to Bagan?

  4. As I can see many similarities in terms of Ethnic youths’ demands if compared with Indigenous peoples in Nepal, I would be interested to know how the ruling state and its representatives are perceiving those demands?

  5. What has been the role of WhatsApp groups in the resistance as well as support for the coup? Specifically, how much misinformation/disinformation is being spread, and are there any coordinated efforts to counteract that?

  6. Is there any merit to the military's claims of election fraud? Or is it simply a ploy to seize power?

  7. What is the proportion of each class and occupation in the resistance movement? (approximate number) and what is the division of labor between them?

  8. If possible, please share what Ethnic minorities in Yangon can do to address demands of Muslim minorities, homophobia, racism and sexism within while opposing both militarism and perhaps imperialism?

  9. I’d like to ask for the panelists’ thoughts on the calls for [US] military intervention. I am personally wary of any military intervention but would like to hear some perspectives.
  10. I know that Facebook was utilized to stoke anti-Rohingya sentiment in the country. Is Facebook being used by either the protestors or the military in a similar way, i.e. to stoke up anti-military or pro-military sentiment in Myanmar?

  11. Indonesia has been getting a lot of criticism for meeting and talking with the junta's representative, but is it not practical for negotiations to take place and for a way forward to be found that finds a way for the junta to save face? Do the vast majority of Myanmar's protestors see a way forward to 'force' the junta to step down and is there a perception that the CDM and other protests is capable of doing that, and do you think it is?

  12. If possible, great if panelists could share what they think about Ethnic Federal Democratic system and its possibility which Ethnic *minorities are arguing for now? Other than militarism and NLD, what could be other factors?

Some feedback from the attendees

"I am very impressed by the collective capacity of the presenters."

"The mix of grad student presenters from across the US and beyond was excellent."

"that was a really fantastic event and I learned so much."

"I learned a lot appreciated all the panelists' thoughtful insights."

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