Crisisweb
Projects  Africa
 Algeria
 Central Africa
 Sierra Leone
 Zimbabwe

 Asia
 Burma/Myanmar
 Cambodia
 Central Asia
 Indonesia

 Balkans
 Albania
 Bosnia
 Kosovo
 Macedonia
 Montenegro
 Serbia

 Issues
 EU
 HIV/AIDS
 Terrorism

 Latin America
 Colombia

Customise the Homepage
Subscribe to ICG newsletter

PRESS RELEASE
Myanmar: Civil society too weak to effect change

06 December 2001

BANGKOK/BRUSSELS, 6 December 2001: A new ICG report published today, Myanmar: The Role of Civil Society, examines the extent to which organisations independent of government can influence the country’s two key political struggles: the restoration of democracy and the resolution of ethnic minority rights. It analyses the role of political parties, students, religious groups, intellectuals and artists, media, business associations, trade unions and NGOs.

The findings are gloomy. Civil society in Myanmar is at its weakest state in decades. ICG President Gareth Evans said: “The military regime has worked systematically to prevent these groups from emerging and those that it tolerates are tightly controlled, repressed or coopted. Civil society as it exists today in Myanmar appears to offer very little threat to the regime and therefore holds out little prospect of playing a big role in fostering eventual democratisation.”

Because of harsh repression, most people leave it to the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi, to resolve the political crisis. However with weak civil society backing, it has little leverage. At the same time few independents in the centre of Myanmar have thought seriously about the demands of ethnic minorities, even though they make up 30 per cent of the population and many groups have been waging armed struggles for autonomy or independence for the best part of 40 years. Low levels of education and decades of military rule also means that even independent organisations tend to replicate the hierarchical structures and lack of tolerance for dissent which characterise the regime.

ICG Asia Program Director Robert Templer said: “Myanmar’s political parties and civil society organisations should encourage respect for diversity of opinions. Open minds and willingness to compromise must be redefined as positive attributes, not signs of weakness.”

Despite this discouraging picture, more can and should be done to support the expansion of civil society. The international community should not overlook independent groups in neighbouring Asian states in providing proxy aid. And if the regime’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the NLD reach an agreement on new political structures, civil society will play a vital role in gaining support for the deal. The military will need to be convinced that a political agreement will not bring instability – while NLD supporters will have to be persuaded to accept the inevitable political role of the military.

While civil society organisations will therefore be important in creating the backing for any solution, and in consolidating the democratisation process once it begins, they are not likely to be crucial players in achieving a momentum for change.

The full report can be downloaded here.

For further information, contact Katy Cronin or Sascha Pichler at ICG Brussels, tel: +32 2 536 00 64 or 70, email: media@intl-crisis-group.org



Home - About ICG - Publications - Press - Contacts - Site Guide - TOP - Credits



Back to the homepageBack to the Homepage
About ICG
 Overview
 Who's on ICG's Board
 Who's on ICG's Staff
 What they say about ICG
 Publications
 Comments/Op-Eds
 Latest Annual Report
 Press Office
 ICG Internal News
 ICG Vacancies
 ICG Funding:how to help
 How to contact ICG

ICG in other languages    
Search